This is a prequel to Vernor Vinge's 1993 Hugo Award-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep. It takes place in the same Zones of Thought universe as Fire, but some 30,000 years earlier. In this era, humanity has colonized the stars, but the light-speed barrier has effectively isolated the various planetary systems from one another. Worse still, most civilizations reach a technological plateau and then fall back into barbarism, a vicious cycle that a man named Pham Nuwen would like to break.|
Pham is the legendary founder of the Qeng Ho, a group of intergalactic traders who use cryogenics and computer networks to maintain their society across interstellar distances. Pham's ultimate goal was to create a galactic government that would end the destructive rise and fall of civilizations, but that dream ended in failure and exile. Now Pham is back, disguised as a harmless old man who is part of a Qeng Ho mission to the OnOff star, a sun that takes its name from an unusual cycle of shining for 35 years and then going into dormancy for 215. A lone planet circles the OnOff star, and against all odds an alien civilization appears to live there.
Pham knows the aliens are likely the remnants of an age-old race that could hold technological secrets beyond imagination. But the Qeng Ho aren't the only ones headed to OnOff. A group of ships from a despotic human society calling itself the Emergents is also en route to the system, and it's clear that their goal is not a friendly trade accord...
Source: Craig E. Engler, Amazon.com