I can't begin to describe this complex but amazing novel. This is really good stuff, what science fiction should be.
I will describe a little bit of it, though. Intelligent dog packs, intelligent plants whose intellect is enhanced by the machines in which they live, the galaxy divided into different zones of intelligence (Vinge had to have gotten this from Poul Anderson's Brain Wave), killer alien butterflies (pretty but genocidal against humans)...I figure this is enough.
Theodore Sturgeon once commented that "90% of science fiction is crap." This novel falls intot he ten percent that isn't. Too bad Sturgeon wasn't around to read this; he would have praised it up one side and down the other.
Posted by Bob Wallace, who has a Skrode of his own, and if he want to know what that is, read the book.