Vinge is a real world, honest to goodness Computer Science professor. His books are accurately described as hard science fiction. This story describes a space faring group of merchants, the Qeng Ho, benefiting from the time dilation effect of interstellar travel. They are traveling to a stellar anomaly and encounter a rival group of travelers. Friction ensues.
The Qeng Ho see the universe through the long view. They visit customers (populated planets) and often when they return after a century or more they see the decline or the acceleration of a civilization. Their travel to the On/Off Star is predicated on scientific curiosity and the necessary profit motivation. They encounter a race that has recovered from a civilization decline and are on their way back up. Both space faring groups have different plans for the budding alien race on Arachna. The budding race, not surprisingly, has plans of it's own.
Conflict between competitors is not unusual but the conflict here is beyond the ken of business is just business. This is really a three way story with points of view from all three participants. Adding flavor is the Leonardo Da Vinci of Arachna,
. His drive and vision have a multiplier
impact on the story line. There are highlights and low lights of viciousness and
compassion for emotional counter play. Sherkaner Underhill
I highly recommend it.
Fan Based web site: http://mindstalk.net/vinge/ /