In THE SUMMER QUEEN, as in Vinge’s earlier novel THE SNOW QUEEN (1980), the people of the planet Tiamat must make choices on which their survival depends. Unfortunately, they distrust their new queen, Moon Dawntreader. Although she is a Summer and thus of the appropriate tribe to rule Tiamat during this time period, the Summer queen closely resembles the late Winter ruler; she is bound to men who are not Summers, not even natives of Tiamat; and like the Winters, like the Hegemonic forces which periodically invade Tiamat, Moon believes that a properly regulated technology can help her people, rather than harming them. Convinced by contacts with the mystical sibylline network that her reforms are necessary to save the planet, this seventeen-year-old girl battles her own uncertainties, the frailties of her husband and her children, the suspicions of her followers, the betrayals of those closest to her, and the horrifying power of criminal lords and Hegemonic tyrants until she achieves a victory.
In addition to careful plotting and superb characterization, Vinge’s work includes thoughtful consideration of the conflicts which affect all planets, real or fictional, such as the need for human beings to respect nature, in the form of the dolphinlike mers, and their desire to use science and technology, which may threaten nature, for their own benefit. In the world of THE SUMMER QUEEN, as in the real world, there are no simple answers. It is profound vision, as well as her craftsmanship, which has placed Vinge in the first rank of science fiction writers.