Vast, riveting far-future saga involving evil gods, interstellar war, and manipulative aliens, from the author of The Peace War and the splendid Marooned in Realtime. An unknown being or force has partitioned the universe into ""zones of thought"": at the bottom is the Slow Zone, where intelligence is modest and the speed of light a limiting factor; in the Beyond, where multi-light-speed ultradrive travel is possible, thousands of smart races flourish; and the Transcend is inhabited by godlike Powers, to which state many races of the Beyond aspire. A human colony of the High Beyond, the Straumli Realm, experiments with an ancient database, thereby unwittingly unleashing an unstoppable, enslaving predator, the Blight. The civilizations of the High Beyond realize their peril when even transcendent Powers prove no match for the Blight. One ship alone survives the Straumli disaster; fleeing into the Low Beyond, the ship crash-lands on a planet inhabited by Tines, multi-bodied, pack-minded aliens with a warlike medieval culture. Two human children, Johanna and Jefri, survive--only to become pawns in a Tine power struggle. Up in the Middle Beyond, meanwhile, the realization grows that the escaped Straumli ship may contain something that will help defeat the Blight. So a multi-species rescue mission is launched, led by human researcher Ravni and by Pham, a construct once part of a Power now eaten by the Blight; close behind the rescuers come the forces of the Blight. No summary can do justice to the depth and conviction of Vinge's ideas. The overall concept astonishes; the aliens are developed with memorable skill and insight; the plot twists and turns with unputdownable tension. A masterpiece of universe-building.