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Faster-than-light travel remains impossible near Earth, deep in the galaxy's Slow Zone--but physical laws relax in the surrounding Beyond. Outside that again is the Transcend, full of unguessable, godlike "Powers." When human meddling wakes an old Power, the Blight, this spreads like a wildfire mind virus that turns whole civilizations into its unthinking tools. And the half-mythical Countermeasure, if it exists, is lost with two human children on primitive Tines World.
Serious complications follow. One paranoid alien alliance blames humanity for the Blight and launches a genocidal strike. Pham Nuwen, the man who knows about Countermeasure, escapes this ruin in the spacecraft Out of Band--heading for more violence and treachery, with 500 warships soon in hot pursuit. On his destination world, the fascinating Tines are intelligent only in combination: named "individuals" are small packs of the doglike aliens. Primitive doesn't mean stupid, and opposed Tine leaders wheedle the young castaways for information about guns and radios. Low-tech war looms, with elaborately nested betrayals and schemes to seize Out of Band if it ever arrives. The tension becomes extreme... while half the Beyond debates the issues on galactic Usenet.
Vinge's climax is suitably mindboggling. This epic combines the flash and dazzle of old-style space opera with modern, polished thoughtfulness. Pham Nuwen also appears in the nifty prequel set 30,000 years earlier, A Deepness in the Sky. Both recommended. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
"Fleeing a menace of galactic proportions, a spaceship crashes on an unfamiliar world, leaving the survivors--a pair of children--to the not-so-tender mercies of a medieval, lupine race. Responding to the crippled ship's distress signal, a rescue mission races against time to retrieve the children and recover the weapon they need to prevent the universe form being forever changed. Against a background depicting a space-time continuum stratified into 'zones of thought,' the author has created a rarity--a unique blend of hard science, high drama, and superb storytelling." --Library Journal
"A tale that burns with the brazen energy of the best space operas of the golden age. Vinge has created a galaxy for the readers of the 90s to believe in...immense, ancient, athrum with data webs, dotted with wonders." --John Clute, Interzone
"Vernor Vinge's best novel yet." --Greg Bear, author of Moving Mars
"Vast, riveting, far-future saga...The overall concept astonishes; the aliens are developed with memorable skill and insight, the plot twists and turns with unputdownable tension. A masterpiece of universe-building." --Kirkus Reviews
"The first grand SF I've read in ages...Vinge is one of the best visionary writers of SF today." --David Brin, author of Earth
"Fiercely original...Compelling ideas in the book include the problems and advantages of group mind, galactic communications turbidity, and the prospect of civilizations aspiring to godhood." --Steward Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
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