The best thing about this novel are the Tine, a fascinating alien species, telepathic and with an individual existing as groups of individuals with a sense of immortality. Vinge explores the possibilities of such group minds quite well. Humans provide a foil which helps us understand the nature of the Tine. He does an adequate job, but throughout my read I kept wishing CJ Cherryh had written the work. She is The Master of alien/human interactions.
My main problem with the book was the plot or story. I just did not find it very interesting and derivative (same-o, same-o). It was not a page turner for me, but neither did I have to struggle to read the book. The political machinations were trivial and primarily human oriented.
One thing bothered me. Essentially, all the main character bad guys are male, the good guys female. An appropriate balance would have changed this sex discrimination.
It is obvious that a sequel is in the works. The main conflict other than Tinish vs Human sensibilities concerns those who believe in the Blight vs those who do not. Though the book can be read as a standalone, I strongly suggest reading the prior novels in the Zones of Thought series.
I am hoping this is a bridge work to the final novel(s) in this series. Given that the 1st 2 books won a Hugo for Vinge, the series in toto my be superior to this novel alone. We have much yet to learn about The Blight and about the Choir of Tine individuals.