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The Children of the Sky
Vernor Vinge
Tor, 444 pages

The Children of the Sky
Vernor Vinge
Vernor Vinge was born in 1944 in Wisconsin. He is a mathematician at San Diego State University, specializing in distributed computing and computer architecture. His first publication "Apartness" appeared in New Worlds SF (June 1965). His novel, A Fire Upon the Deep, won the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Witling
SF Site Review: A Deepness in the Sky

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Marooned in the Slow Zone, the last surviving human population has a clear goal; rebuild their technological civilization in time to protect themselves from the Blight that is surely coming their way. Unfortunately, almost all of them are teenagers or young adults, and they're not sure they believe an official story that includes their parents as the villains who freed the Blight.

When those doubts break open and spur a rebellion, no one is more surprised than Ravna, the only adult human survivor from the story that Vernor Vinge began in A Fire Upon The Deep. Ravna is a librarian, an organizational genius with no social and political skills whatsoever, and her education in the ways of her fellow humans is both humbling and enlightening. Ravna is the one with personal knowledge of the danger the Blight represents. If she doesn't learn how to persuade, rather than order, the children who were left in her care, all could be lost.

That dilemma says a lot about what kind of novel The Children of the Sky is. While the story picks up almost immediately after the end of A Fire Upon The Deep, the setting and focus of the The Children of the Sky is much different. In addition to the approaching Blight, the humans on Tine's World have the problem of relating to the native inhabitants, the dog-like Tines and their pack mentality. With both human and Tine scheming and politics involved, The Children of the Sky more closely resembles one of C.J. Cherryh's many novels involving human and alien interactions and Vinge's own A Deepness In The Sky than it does the far-reaching sweep and cosmic setting of A Fire Upon The Deep.

While some may find that disappointing, it is a necessary development in the story. At the end of A Fire Upon The Deep, the Blight had been slowed down, but possibly not destroyed, while on Tine's World, one adult woman and a shipload of children were stranded amongst an alien civilization with medieval-level technology. If the Blight reaches them too fast, what's left of humanity is gone in an instant. The Children of the Sky, then, is a necessary chapter in the story, but one that leaves the big questions to be answered in a later volume.

That does mean The Children of the Sky is a bit of a place holder. There's also a structure that concentrates on the human issues, leaving the wish that more time had been spent on the Tines, who play at least a great a role in the outcome of the novel as the humans. Those faults make The Children of the Sky a bit less satisfying than its immediate predecessors.

Which is to say that it's not quite as good as two of the best science fiction novels of the last twenty years. The Children of the Sky may not rank that high, but it's still a good book with believable characters, a story that needed to be told, and a promise that there is a bigger story yet to come.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson regrets that he has but one life to live in the Slow Zone. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.


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