I read this book about 10-Dec-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1992. This note was last modified Tuesday, 06-May-2014 13:00:02 PDT.
This is book 1 of the "Zones of Thought" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
In case anybody was wondering, this is one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written. It's totally stunning, brilliant, mind-bending. Fun, too, most of the time. I get a bit tetchy dealing with the religious politics on the Tine's world, though the creatures and their culture are certainly beautiful bits of intelligent design.
That was loads of fun. I wasn't as bothered by the Tine-world politics as before. I still prefer the science fiction parts, though.
As plots go, this one is a squeaker. The universe survives only by pure luck and the skin of its teeth. The freighter barely escapes from the High Lab to carry countermeasure to the Tine's world, and Old One barely survives long enough to prep Pham and send him down to activate it, and they barely survive the trip there, and the freighter comes very close to being destroyed by Steel. One little slip anywhere and the Blight takes over (at least, we see no signs of any backup plans).
While I've complained about the Tine politics, as an example of alien design, they're one of the very best ever, right up there with the Moties. A distributed intelligence using audio networking, in an evolved creature. And then to figure out how to make it more distributed with the radio cloaks -- the creatures themselves are brilliant, too.
The Skroderiders are also brilliant. A slow-moving plant that uses an external mobility and memory assist package (the skrode).
Then there's the Net of a Million Lies, otherwise known as Usenet in space. The cost of intergalactic links, plus the language and cultural translation issues, even make it make sense. Without those excuses, I wonder how we can justify some of the beings that post to our Usenet? The have all of cultures, governments, companies, and individuals posting. It's expensive, but some from many categories can afford the cost. And remember, "Death to vermin".