I read this one probably about 15 years ago, but it was already somewhat older then. I would put it in the 1980s maybe?

There are some details I remember, but the thing I remember most is the meeting at the end, and it's a thing I've wanted to share with people a few times already... if only I could remember the title of the book.

From what I remember:

  • There is a planet which is sometimes warm and light, and sometimes goes into a dark, cold state (when it moves too far from the sun I think?).
  • Two factions of humans have a spacewar near the planet, which ends with both factions crippled.
  • Unknown to them, it turns out spider-like alien creatures live on the planet below. They hibernate during the cold periods and live during the warm ones. Throughout the book their society and civilization advances quite a bit.
  • One of the aliens sees "strange flashes of light", which is the battle happening overhead. He is one of the main drivers of progress on the alien planet if I remember well.
  • For most of the story, these aliens and the main characters on the derelict ship live separately, but at some point they start communicating.
  • When they communicate, it very much feels like two vaguely-humanoid species talking.
  • At the end of the book, the aliens rescue the main characters on the derelict from the bad guys (who are also there, I think the MCs were prisoners or something?)
  • And then they meet; and in that meeting it completely changes the way the aliens are described and you suddenly realize you've been subconsciously treating these completely alien things like humanoids and how weird that was (or at least; that's what it was like for me).

I hope someone can tell me the title of this book, so I can share how cool it is with more people.

  • From the title of this question my first thought was the very patchy film remake of Lost in Space. But evidently not. Sep 15, 2016 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


This is A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (1999), the prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep.

The plot begins with the discovery of an intelligent alien species on a planet orbiting an anomalous star, dubbed OnOff because for 215 of every 250 years it is dormant, releasing almost no energy. During this period, the planet freezes and its fauna go into hibernation. The planet's inhabitants, called "Spiders" by the humans for their resemblance to arachnids, have reached a stage of technological development very similar to that of Earth's humans in the early 20th century, although humans believe that they may once have been capable of space travel. If this is true, then whoever can establish ties with the aliens first could reap unimaginable rewards.


  • Don't forget to expand this a bit...
    – Mithical
    Sep 14, 2016 at 11:29
  • Grr... if my machine hadn't decided to lock up as I was posting my answer... :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 14, 2016 at 11:46
  • 3
    1999? Wow. Misjudged the age there. But this is the one, thanks.
    – Erik
    Sep 14, 2016 at 12:06
  • 2
    Weird, I had just read this answer and now the twist he describes is already spoiled!
    – Bort
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:20
  • 2
    A Fire Upon The Deep is excellent! One of my favorite books.
    – zeta-band
    Sep 14, 2016 at 20:25

I would like to point out this bears a strong resemblance to the plot of "children of time" by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

  • Given that this question already has an accepted answer, can you explain why you think this other story is relevant?
    – Buzz
    Jun 12, 2019 at 3:33
  • 1
    Indeed. I've read both and they have some similarities. The correct answer here is clearly A Deepness in the Sky, but both are great books. Children of Time describes a planet where the evolution of a spider-like species is accidentally accelerated by a retrovirus introduced by a scientist in an orbiting ship. She orbits the planet in hibernation for a long time while her spaceship slowly decays. The fast changes in the spiders' civ and tech remind me of Deepness, and there's a kind of twist where the main Spider characters are not quite who you expect. Sep 3, 2020 at 9:44

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