Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: Children of the Sky

Anyone who knows me well knows that I consider Vernor Vinge to be one of the leading active writers of science fiction. The man is brilliant.

His best work in my opinion...and that of many the vibrant space opera 'A Fire Upon The Deep', which won a Hugo and a Nebula and stands out as Vinge's masterpiece and one of the best science fiction books ever. (Sure, it's all subjective, but...) In it, he created the fascinating Tines, the peculiar cosmology of the Zones of Thought and some marvelously detailed characters, both human and alien.

So, I was at once excited and wary to hear that he was finally producing a sequel. I finally got around to reading it.

First of all, this is a true sequel. If you have not read A Fire Upon The Deep you need to before reading this (actually, you just need to). If you have not read it for years, you need to read it again. Vinge does not waste time recapping and assumes everyone read the first book. Which is perfectly fine except...

Okay. Children of the Sky is a really, really good book. It might even be a great book. It is not as good as A Fire Upon The Deep. The problem is nothing more than even Vinge is having difficulty following himself on this one. Don't get me wrong, I loved it. It's just not quite its predecessor. It was great to see the Tines again.

(The Tines are pack people. No, they don't live in packs...each one is a pack...a gestalt mind. They are perhaps the most awesome aliens ever. They also, thank you cover artist, do not look a dang thing like wolves in jackets. Thank you again, cover artist. Yes, I do have a distinct peeve about cover artists who apparently did not read the book, or even the notes provided to them, or weren't provided with any notes, or...yeah. The Tines look like a cross between dogs and seals or, less charitably, 'giant rats with snake necks').

Also, be warned. The book's ending makes it clear that there will, or at least should, be a book three in the offing. Of course, three is the magic number. So...we'll see.

I still highly recommend this and give it four and a half stars.