It's been a long time since a 600+ page book took that short a time to read. Vinge sucks you into his "Zone" world where we live in the "Slowness" and all the higher beings have "transcended." I know, it sounds a little dorky, but there is something about the beings he creates and how he allows them to interact that is unique to his storytelling.
I particularly like the Skroderiders-- frondy fern-like beings used to spending their time in the surf who now ride around on little stick-um wheeled carts. Besides, a major plot point (which you will not see coming) relies on how these beasties came to be.
I'm surprised no one has thought to make a movie about this. In my mind's eye, I could clearly see the light-year hopping, the angry butterflies, the gray-skinned hero, and the castles ruled by dog packs. See what I mean? This is why you need to read this book.