The valley was isolated in time and space, a land of barbarous science and human sacrifice. Coatlice the Dreadful stalked the night, her twin serpent heads dealing death to taboo-breakers. Citallatonac the First Priest sacrificed anyone believed to be possessed by the gods. Chimal rebelled: he wanted to escape the atavistic confines of his lost civilisation, to venture into the unknown world beyond the valley, a world of hope, and nightmare, too.
Wolff-Jadawin, demigod in Earthman’s guise, and Lord of the Planet of Many Levels, opened his eyes to see the symbol of the Master Lord, Urizen, floating below the ceiling. The summons of the Cruellest of the Universe-makers was direct and urgent. Jadawin’s beautiful wife had been abducted and held captive by the satanic Urizen In this uniquely amazing adventure, contrived by Urizen, Jadawin was required to enter the many-levelled universe that had been purposely constructed for his torment and possible destruction. Only through crossing the Gates of Creation could Jadawin redeem his bride, as he ventured through world after brutal world in an attempt to outfox the Master Lord’s diabolically booby-trapped planets.
Earl Dumarest, now a vanquished and captive mercenary, is offered the choice of surrender to the fearsome Cyclan or the chance of freedom by the beautiful and ruthless Lady Delphine. The risks are terrifying – but has Dumarest a choice? Intent on finding the legendary world of Terra – Earth – the planet of his birth; pursued by the brilliant and ruthless megalomaniac race, the Cyclan, whose secret key to Galactic domination only he possesses; trapped on a plague ship hurtling through a universe determined to destroy it, and captained by a madman – Earl Dumarest is tempted by the irresistible but fatal promise of Delphine. The choice is simple – to abandon his dreams or perish by them, just as they promise fulfilment. (First published 1976)
When George Randolph first caught sight of Orena, he was astounded by its gleaming perfection. Here were hills and valleys, lakes and streams, glowing with the light of the most precious of metals. And, more astonishing than that, it was a world of miniature perfection -an infinitely tiny universe within a golden atom! But for Randolph it was also a world aglow with danger. Somewhere in its tiny vastness were the friends he had to rescue. Captives of a madman, they had been reduced to native Orena size; to return to Earth they needed the growth capsules Randolph was bringing them. It was up to Randolph to find them – and quickly – for the longer they stayed tiny, the closer they came to passing BEYOND THE VANISHING POINT!
Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space – from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these ‘zones of thought’, but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artefact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence. Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines – an alien race with a harsh medieval culture – and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue party, not entirely composed of humans, must free the children – and retrieve a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.
Vinge’s masterpieces together at last, in one epic volume The Hugo Award winning A FIRE UPON THE DEEP and its epic companion novel A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, set in the same universe but 20,000 years earlier, were benchmarks for SF in the last decade of the 20th century. In FIRE ‘Vinge presents a galaxy divided into Zones – regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. Earth remains in the “Slowness” zone, where nothing can travel faster than light and minds are fairly limited. The action of the book is in the “Beyond”, where translight travel and other marvels exist, and humans are one of many intelligent species. One human colony has been experimenting to find a path to the “Transcend”, where intelligence and power are so great as to seem godlike. Instead they release the Blight, an evil power, from a billion-year captivity.’ Publisher’s Weekly In DEEPNESS, ‘the story has the same sense of epic vastness despite happening mostly in one isolated solar system. Here there’s a world of intelligent spider creatures who traditionally hibernate through the “Deepest Darkness” of their strange variable sun’s long “off” periods, when even the atmosphere freezes. Now, science offers them an alternative. Meanwhile, attracted by spider radio transmissions, two human starfleets come exploring – merchants hoping for customers and tyrants who want slaves. Their inevitable clash leaves both fleets crippled, with the power in the wrong hands, which leads to a long wait in space until the spiders develop exploitable technology. Over the years Vinge builds palpable tension through multiple storylines and characters.’ Dave Langford