Synopsis: Several thousand years in the future humanity has colonized large parts of the galaxy, but has never encountered another sentient, starfaring race. Now two civilizations race to explore a galactic anomaly, a mysterious star that shuts itself off for every 215 out of 250 years, and to make first contact with the inhabitants of the lone planet orbiting it.
But these two groups have very different goals and reasons for making first contact...
I felt like this book had a lot of potential, but that some of it was ultimately a let down. Instead of a story filled with action gratifying the more obvious plot paths, we're given something much more subtle and deep, but also a lot slower.
On one side of the story we're given a slow, methodical, revolution centered on subterfuge. The other plot line revolves around the planet's inhabitants as the book introduces alien characters and sits with them for generations.
While I don't think it's 4 star material, Vinge obviously put a lot of thought into character development here, as many of them are sincerely likeable, while others are very effective villains. While she isn't seen much in the book Honoured Pedure in particular struck me as a great embodiment of rightwing conservative villainy.
One other thing to note, Vinge appears to be making a very, very subtle play at...something. In the context of the novel inhabitants of the planet spend most of their time in a kind of biological cryostasis, only being awake an involved with the world around them for the 35 years out 250 that their sun is active. Conservative members of the population dominate the planet, and believe that their young should be born and raised in a rigid alignment with that cycle. There's some stuff about souls and what not.
The human characters in the book regard these notions as bizarre, the same way an alien race looking at Earth might say "Half of you get your panties in a knot over gay people? Wtf" or "You believe in souls ahahahahahaha".
All in all an enjoyable read, but the ending dragged on and on.
General rating: 3 1/2
Epic rating: 3 1/2