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[from inside flaps] "In a lab at the edge of the galaxy, in search of an ancient archive, scientists unwittingly unleash the Blight: this vast, destructive entity rampages through the Zones of Thought, subverting digital intelligence and devastating countless worlds and races throughout the Beyond. One ship, carrying the children of the scientists, seeks haven on an obscure world in the Slow Zone, only to find medieval kingdoms of group-animals--the Tines--at war with one another. Another ship, itself fleeing the Blight, follows their ship's distress signal to Tines World and helps end the war, saving most of the Children. Ten years later, Ravna Bergsndot, the lone surviving human adult living among the Tines, has revived most of the hundred and fifty Children who remain in coldsleep. Under her protection, the Children have grown to adulthood and established a society with the Tines. Now, Tinish packs and human beings live together in peace in the Domain, one of the few remaining outposts of humans in the galaxy, while Ravna keeps watch against the approach of the Blight. Other than Ravna, only Johanna and Jefri Olsndot, whose parents piloted the desperate flight to Tines World, have direct knowledge of the events that brought them there, and Jefri was too young to truly understand. The other Children have memories only of life before the Blight. Now, old enough to shape their own future, they question Ravna's guidance, and seek to chart a new course ... heedless of the potential for disaster amid the Machiavellian politics of Tines World. As some in the Domain plot and scheme, far beyond their society's borders the legendary pack Tycoon is shaping the world's first industrial civilization. With dark alliances swirling in both human and Tinish circles, the survival of Tines World depends on Ravna. And Ravna has enemies, unseen ... awaiting their moment."
"Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit the far reaches of space, from the Transcend where dwell superintelligent entities to the Unthinking Depths where only simple creatures and technologies can function. These "regions of thought" are a mystery, but when scientists in the Straumli Realm discover and release an ancient Transcendent artifact, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence. Only a single ship escapes, aboard it a family of scientists with their two children. When they land on a planet in the Slowness the parents are killed and the children taken captive by the Tines: aliens of a medieval society locked in a bitter power struggle. The fate of races, worlds -- interstellar civilization -- depends on a rescue mounted by a crew of humans and aliens that is racing toward Tinesworld -- and a Countermeasure that, if they can trigger in time, may stop the Blight that will otherwise bring a new dark age to the galaxy."
Set in the near future, people use high-tech contact lenses to interface with computers in their clothes. But one poet, his mind restored from the ravages of Alzheimer's, has difficulty adjusting to his new world.
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