I’ve read several of the Hugo winning novels (not a lot) and I find that generally they baffle me. I usually find them boring or just plain stupid or uninteresting. This book, however, is quite deserving of the award.
It features one of the most imaginative environments that I’ve ever seen in science fiction, combined with some of the most unique aliens and a powerful time bomb that could destroy the entire galaxy (and it makes sense in the physics of the universe as established in the pages of the book).
Things are on a huge scale here but told in a very small way, with two children and a woman desperate to find them and the tool that is on their crashed ship to stop the wrath of an angry god from swallowing the entire galaxy. There is humor and tragedy and loss and pain and great soaring moments of believable heroism. There is also a great deal of realism that makes this universe feel like it probably exists out there somewhere.
Vernor Vinge is a powerful storyteller who tells a grand historical epic from the point of view of a small group of normal people.