Thursday, December 01, 2011

SF/F: The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Fans who have been waiting for a follow-up to Vernor Vinge’s stellar A Fire Upon the Deep have been waiting a long time. A long, long time. Certainly longer than any marketing savvy publicist would tell an author to make readers wait because, let’s face it: no matter the universe, 20 years is a long time.

But, actually, it is only in our universe that 20 years have passed. There is only a single decade between the events in A Fire Upon the Deep and Vinge’s new book, The Children of the Sky (Tor).

I wonder if I would have liked The Children of the Sky better if I’d never read A Fire Upon the Deep. And I acknowledge the possibility that all of that waiting and anticipation set me up for something wonderful. It’s hard, coming from that headspace, not to be disappointed.

While the sequel is good, in some ways it’s only good enough. Fans will certainly enjoy the newer book. But will it amaze them with the majesty of the whole thing the way the first book did? I don’t think so. It certainly didn’t me. It will sound odd to those who haven’t read either book but, The Children of the Sky didn’t make me feel as small as did A Fire Upon the Deep. Didn’t make me feel as inconsequential. It’s good, sure. It’s interesting. But it didn’t blow me away as the first book did. Though, as I said, it’s possible I came to the book with impossible expectations.

Another element worth thinking about is that of completion. Those hoping that The Children of the Sky would, at long last, give us some resolution will be disappointed. There are several threads that are not resolved in the sequel. For example, we never find out what happened with Nevil’s settlement and the matter of the zone shifting is not dealt with in a conclusive way. What that might mean for readers I don’t dare say. If we have to wait another 20 years for a third book, the suspense may well kill us! ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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