It's hinted that the spider chapters were written by human translators and this is the reason why everything sounds so "human". Was is Sherkaner writing through Trixia? How does that coincide with the rest of the book and with chapters were Human and Spider viewpoints are intermixed?

As a plot point, what is the reason that this is important (e.g is it just an excuse for writing the Spiders in way that makes them very human?)

1 Answer 1


The implication is that Trixia and the other translators are viewing Sherkaner and the rest of the Spiders and writing reports - this is important, it is why Sherkaner cannot reveal his plans to even Unnerby - of their activities.

The style Vinge uses is clearly something of a homage to Jules Verne and even moreso H.G. Wells. I think Vinge did this as part of a deliberate strategy, to make the reader identify with the Spiders as a race aspiring to technological progress, with the optimism often present in the early sci-fi works of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The writing deliberately lacks the sophistication one would expect of any sci-fi author after the nineteen-fifties. Since Vinge is a multiple-time Hugo winner - he won for that book, matter of fact - he clearly isn't the type to write Heinlein-style juvenile pulp from the 'fifties and 'sixties. Trixia's obsession with the "Dawn Age" - pre-interstellar flight Earth - gave Vinge an excellent excuse to use this style; this is what Trixia, and to a lesser extent the other translators, thinks of the Spiders.

As for the chapters in which the viewpoint shifts, this is usually just a case of Trixia writing - or orally translating, as in the case of the show Qwi organises - as things are also happening on the ships. Only in the very late stages of the book are the Spider chapters not being directly translated, as the Spiders have now become familiarised with humanity.

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    As an aside, the treatment of the spiders in the book is magnificent, particularly because for almost 500 pages the spiders are written from a familiar perspective, about bright colors and ornate buildings, and social cues, jokes, cute behaviour, etc. and then finally when the non-focused humans first encounter the spiders in video footage the writing style is from the human's perspective: the spiders are grotesque, predating and jerky with hands like knives living in (previously describes as ornate and colorful) dank and dull surroundings with flaps of dirty cloth for clothing. It's stunning. Jul 18, 2014 at 11:03
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    @ChristopherDone: I completely agree. Vinge deserved to have new Hugo Awards invented just so he could win more of them for that book. I would put it on par with Dune. I can't think of a single other book I would put on that level. And like Dune, it would be next-to-impossible to film, unfortunately for us sci-fi aficianados. Vinge's skill with language in that book is nothing short of incredible; it's better than most English-language Nobel Laureates. Jul 18, 2014 at 23:58

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