Hot Best Seller

A Fire Upon the Deep Special Edition eBook

Availability: Ready to download

After a spaceship crashes on an unfamiliar world, a rescue ship races against time to rescue the downed ship's only survivors--two children--and retrieve the weapon required to prevent the destruction of the universe. This special eBook edition adds hundreds of annontations from Vinge which were written during the time of his original composition of this groundbreaking Hug After a spaceship crashes on an unfamiliar world, a rescue ship races against time to rescue the downed ship's only survivors--two children--and retrieve the weapon required to prevent the destruction of the universe. This special eBook edition adds hundreds of annontations from Vinge which were written during the time of his original composition of this groundbreaking Hugo Award winning novel.


Compare

After a spaceship crashes on an unfamiliar world, a rescue ship races against time to rescue the downed ship's only survivors--two children--and retrieve the weapon required to prevent the destruction of the universe. This special eBook edition adds hundreds of annontations from Vinge which were written during the time of his original composition of this groundbreaking Hug After a spaceship crashes on an unfamiliar world, a rescue ship races against time to rescue the downed ship's only survivors--two children--and retrieve the weapon required to prevent the destruction of the universe. This special eBook edition adds hundreds of annontations from Vinge which were written during the time of his original composition of this groundbreaking Hugo Award winning novel.

30 review for A Fire Upon the Deep Special Edition eBook

  1. 4 out of 5

    unknown

    Crypto: ◘ Syntax: 81 As received by: GR ServerFarm NW Language path: Stream of Consciousness Babble→Poorly Considered Argument→LOLcats→Goodreads In-jokes→Only Funny to Me→Irony→English From: Joeleoj [A known Goodreads reviewer of Midwesten US origin. Extensive priors before this review began. Appears aligned with the Hipster Coalition but has denied close ties. Program recommendation: Imagine this post being read in a tone of self-satisfied ironic detachment] Subject: Books to talk about with my wife when she can't fall/>/>/>Language/>As/> Crypto: ◘ Syntax: 81 As received by: GR ServerFarm NW Language path: Stream of Consciousness Babble→Poorly Considered Argument→LOLcats→Goodreads In-jokes→Only Funny to Me→Irony→English From: Joeleoj [A known Goodreads reviewer of Midwesten US origin. Extensive priors before this review began. Appears aligned with the Hipster Coalition but has denied close ties. Program recommendation: Imagine this post being read in a tone of self-satisfied ironic detachment] Subject: Books to talk about with my wife when she can't fall asleep Distribution: Space Opera, Worthwhile Neat Aliens BigNerds Special Interest Group Date: 4.5 days before the Fall of BookSwap Key phrases: Mind-Bending Galactic Scope, Smooth World-Building, Bogs Down in the Middle, Characters are kind of flat, Telepathic puppy aliens Text of message: Space is really, really, really big. You think you know this, but you don't. Like, you have probably heard before that something like one million Earths would fit inside the sun. Wow, you think. Big. Kind of makes you feel insignificant, right? But a million, that's not that many. Even Rebecca Black probably sold a million downloads of that terrible days of the week song for toddlers. How about VY Canis Majoris? It's what's called a hypergiant star. How big is that? About 1.7 trillion times larger than the Earth. My computer's calculator started showing me letters when I tried to figure out how many Earths would fit inside VY Canis Majoris. These incomprehensibly massive objects are just pinpricks in the overall vastness of space. I can't comprehend infinity, but I can't comprehend that either. Vernor Vinge has a fun time imagining it though, trying to divine what the interaction of sentient societies would look like when spread across such vast distances. (Answer: Kind of like newsgroups from 1993.) But this is just the account we're reading, which, it seems, comes from races as diverse as super-intelligent plants and floating magellanic clouds. It has all been translated into something resembling English, admittedly rough approximations at times. Because why would I have anything in common with someone from a billion light years away? I don't have anything in common with my co-workers. I also really dig the way Vinge divides the universe into "Zones of Thought," so technology gets more advanced (as do the beings that operate it) the further you get from the center (as you might guess, Earth is in the "Slow Zones"). Mostly this provides an engine for the plot, but it's one of those ideas so mind-burstingly big that you can't really get a grip on it. If the transcendent, godlike beings on the periphery of this system are beholden to it, then... what intelligence originally created it? And how do they get their computer network to operate so efficiently, because I keep having to unplug my modem? Cool ideas. Cool, cool, cool. I didn't even mention the race of hive-minded puppy people that play a key role in the narrative (one puppy alone is dumb, but four or six in a bunch can act as a single consciousness!). Is good, because it makes up for the ever-so-slightly leaden narrative, which is a bit thin for a 600-pager. Basically, a team of human scientists awaken a malevolent A.I. somewhere in space; it goes berserk and begins chowing down on entire star systems (star systems, people!). A few scientists escape and crash land on Planet Puppies. Word spreads that the crashed ship holds the only secret to stopping the vaguely-described villain thingy, so some stock-but-loveable heroes quest off to get it. Half the book elaborately sketches out what a society of hive-minds would look like (ADORABLE!); the other is a tense (and then for a while, not so tense, and then tense again) chase sequence. It's pretty fun. This is a densely written but still perfectly understandable SF novel, but it does presume a certain familiarity and comfort with the genre, so I wouldn't start my reading here. I know I tried it about five years ago and didn't even make it through the prologue. The book was too big to fit inside me head. Now it's bigger.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Hughes

    I want to make it clear that I don't lightly write rave reviews. Please read the following sentence twice: This is an absolutely fantastic book. On the outskirts of the Galaxy, far from the physical constraints of the Galactic core, faster-than-light travel is possible, and Transcended intelligences flourish to a complexity that dwarfs human comprehension. Scavenging for buried knowledge on a dead world, a party of humans awakes an ancient evil: an archive containing an entity so po I want to make it clear that I don't lightly write rave reviews. Please read the following sentence twice: This is an absolutely fantastic book. On the outskirts of the Galaxy, far from the physical constraints of the Galactic core, faster-than-light travel is possible, and Transcended intelligences flourish to a complexity that dwarfs human comprehension. Scavenging for buried knowledge on a dead world, a party of humans awakes an ancient evil: an archive containing an entity so powerful and so malign that it begins to sweep across the galaxy, overwhelming even the godlike Powers of the Transcend. Some of the humans escape towards the galactic plane, bearing a little-understood cargo that represents the galaxy's only possible weapon against the Blight. They crash-land on an alien world, leaving only two survivors, both of them children -- who are promptly snatched by opposing alien factions. But the aliens' low-tech society is promptly and drastically destabilised by the humans' technology, leaving the children struggling for survival while a rescue mission tears across the galaxy towards them, harried and pursued by everything the Blight can throw on their trail. This book has everything. Wild adventure, colossal scale, soaring imagination, searing insight, deep characterisation, brilliant plotting, profound suspense, complex and cunningly-realised aliens -- and, most of all, an astonishing richness of that special quality of science fiction, which is the speculative investigation of other worlds, other intelligences, whole other ways of being. It's not perfect. If you're a hard sci-fi buff like me, then it seems convenient not only that the alien biosphere will support human life, but that the aliens themselves are mentally compatible with humans. And for a Transcended being whose intelligence is to humans as humans are to microbes, the Blight seems remarkably... well, human in its motivations. But, frankly, Vinge is forgiven these devices to make his plot work. For a book this good, I could forgive just about anything.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    This is an impressive work of hard science fiction. I admire the author's creation and the writing is decent if not riveting. I enjoyed the story of the Tines, aliens with pack minds, and I came to like the concept of the "zones of thought", where different levels of technology are possible in different areas of the galaxy. But I found myself indifferent to the rest of the characters. The enemy they called the Blight seemed ominous only in the prologue - for the rest of the This is an impressive work of hard science fiction. I admire the author's creation and the writing is decent if not riveting. I enjoyed the story of the Tines, aliens with pack minds, and I came to like the concept of the "zones of thought", where different levels of technology are possible in different areas of the galaxy. But I found myself indifferent to the rest of the characters. The enemy they called the Blight seemed ominous only in the prologue - for the rest of the book it was kept at such a distance that I never felt truly worried about it. The Tines character Steel was a more sinister villain. The book was long, yet the plot seemed shallow and there was little character development except on the planet of the Tines. I'm already having trouble remembering why it took so many pages to tell this story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    A Fire Upon The Deep is Vernor Vinge’s magnum opus, a classic of the genre, one of the greats and deservedly most popular sci-fi novels ever. Google “The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time” and you will find this book included in many of these lists, sharing shelf space with Dune, Ender’s Game and the likes. I suppose if you are looking for a quick “yay or nay” recommendation you will already have your answer by this point. You may as well avoid exposure to my long-windedness and get started on the book. I firs A Fire Upon The Deep is Vernor Vinge’s magnum opus, a classic of the genre, one of the greats and deservedly most popular sci-fi novels ever. Google “The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time” and you will find this book included in many of these lists, sharing shelf space with Dune, Ender’s Game and the likes. I suppose if you are looking for a quick “yay or nay” recommendation you will already have your answer by this point. You may as well avoid exposure to my long-windedness and get started on the book. I first read this book seven years ago and I have just reread it, this review is a complete revamp of my 2011 review. On this reread I felt that the first chapter starts off a bit rough. The prologue (about 7 pages) is damn nigh incomprehensible, stuffed to the gills with neologism and tech terms, yet somehow quite intriguing. If you are a veteran sci-fi reader such initial difficulty should not faze you, if you are fairly new to this sci-fi lark then just be patient and let the narrative unfold, this book is actually very accessible. Set in a universe where the Milky Way galaxy is divided into “Zones of Thought”, where each zone has a different law of physic that determines the attainable level of intelligence of the occupants, and also the sophistication of AI and technology, including FTL travel. These are the Unthinking Depths, the Slow Zone, the Beyond, and the Transcend. To describe each zone in detail would be awfully longwinded, suffice it to say that in The Slow Zone the maximum level of intelligence is lower, AI does not work and there is no FTL travel or communication, in the Beyond the potential level of intelligence is much higher, AI and FTL are commonplace, in the Transcend superintelligence exists and the occupants are so advanced that, if they deign to communicate, the occupants of the lower zones would not be able to understand them. The Zones of Thought This is the epic scale of the setting. The plot concerned the accidental awakening of an evil entity of galactic proportions called “The Blight” by a group of humans. Some of them attempt to escape from the planet where this Blight is unleashed, most failed, except a single seemingly insignificant little spaceship transporting two children and many other children in suspended animation. This ship lands on a planet called “the Tines World” ruled by dog-like beings with hive-minds. Meanwhile, The Blight becomes aware that the little ship contains a threat to its existence and sends a fleet of warships in pursuit. The Tines by Itzcoatl34 A Fire Upon The Deep has everything a sci-fi fan could possibly want, thrilling adventure, strange aliens and their cultures, galactic and planetary scale world building. As a bonus, it actually has characters you can care about and root for, both humans and aliens. I am surprised at how charming some of these aliens are, the humans are not bad either! For me personally I love the design of the “Tines” aliens, I always enjoy the “hive-mind” sci-fi trope when it is cleverly done, Sturgeon’s More Than Human and Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos spring to mind. I believe what Vinge has done with the Tines here actually surpasses these two classic books. The coordination of the composites of each “pack” is so well thought out and described it is quite mind-blowing as a feat of imagination. There are other mind-boggling alien races also, not to mention as sort of galactic message board (or Usenet newsgroups). At the risk of belaboring the point I would just like to sum up that A Fire Upon The Deep is a stone cold classic of the sci-fi genre (and the space opera sub-genre). If you love sci-fi you will love this book. Note: Yes, the last paragraph is rather hyperbolic, perhaps you love sci-fi but hate this book, you can’t please everybody!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Epic science fiction at its best, this space opera novel shared the 1993 Hugo Award with Doomsday Book. This is incredibly imaginative, with a great, complex story and detailed, believable world-building, and some of the best alien species ever imagined. It's a long, sprawling story and the technological parts are rather dated, but I still loved it. A group of scientists investigating a five billion year old data archive accidentally unleashes the Blight, a malignant superintelligence that Epic science fiction at its best, this space opera novel shared the 1993 Hugo Award with Doomsday Book. This is incredibly imaginative, with a great, complex story and detailed, believable world-building, and some of the best alien species ever imagined. It's a long, sprawling story and the technological parts are rather dated, but I still loved it. A group of scientists investigating a five billion year old data archive accidentally unleashes the Blight, a malignant superintelligence that rapidly learns how to infiltrate and control computer systems and even living species. The scientists desperately send a couple of space ships fleeing away, with some of their people and some information that may stop the Blight from controlling--and destroying--galactic civilization. One of those ships lands and is stranded on a planet with a warlike, medieval-level society of intelligent doglike creatures called Tines. I loved the Tines so much: I picture them as looking a little like German shepherds with a very small, compact body. They're beings that are barely intelligent on their own, but they attach themselves together in small groups to create hive minds that can be highly intelligent. They have to remain within a few feet of each other or the mental connection, and their intelligence, is lost. They each have one-syllable names that they combine to create the name of the hive group. They can reform into new groups if necessary, or adopt new members, though the new combinations don't always work out. They can be devious or noble; friendly or murderous. Two of the young humans who survived are taken in by opposing forces of the Tines, which leads to a major conflict. Meanwhile, others are racing the Blight through space to get to the Tines' planet to find out if the stranded ship really holds the key to stopping the Blight. Really, it's impossible to describe this complex, thought-provoking book in a way that does it justice. It's definitely not a quick, easy read, but I think it's one of the best pure science fiction novels I've read in the past several years. Highly recommended for hard science fiction fans.

  6. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    children on the run. alien dogs that think as a group. power in numbers! powerful book. good dogs. although some bad dogs too. I guess fanatical is a bad personality trait, even for dogs. different flavors: adventure, medieval fantasy, comedy, hard science fiction, even horror. big ideas. thoughtful, exciting, highly original. fantastic book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    Sooo, I know this is a seminal classic of the Space Opera genre, so the fact I didn't LOVE it as much as everyone said I would makes me feel a bit inadequate in a way, but hey, everyone is entitled to their opinions, eh? I mean, from an intellectual standpoint, this is brilliant. The world-building is so convincing, I actually was frequently disturbed by it, which is kinda why I can't love it, which is actually a testament to it's brilliance. It's thought provoking and unbelievably well shaped. Sooo, I know this is a seminal classic of the Space Opera genre, so the fact I didn't LOVE it as much as everyone said I would makes me feel a bit inadequate in a way, but hey, everyone is entitled to their opinions, eh? I mean, from an intellectual standpoint, this is brilliant. The world-building is so convincing, I actually was frequently disturbed by it, which is kinda why I can't love it, which is actually a testament to it's brilliance. It's thought provoking and unbelievably well shaped. I got the e-book version for my Kindle, and the author's notes on the development process add a whole new level of admiration to my viewing of the book. I mean, the detail is STAGGERING. I guess the only thing that I didn't enjoy was the fact that the aliens were so animal-like. Hell, I can't read Watership Down without sobbing page one. Or Charlotte's Web. So, that's just my problem. Upshot, if you're looking for fantastic sci-fi, look no further. I just had to watch some kitten videos afterwards to lift my spirits back up, haah!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Maybe I'll come off as bi-polar when I start this five star review (my first of 2011) with an extensive list of why the book I'm applauding is utter garbage. But what the hell, I'm game if you are. Let's do it. Why "A Fire Upon the Deep" is Utter Garbage 1. Mr. Vinge's characters are only so-so, and the humans are the worst of the lot. Every once in a blue moon a character will shine, which makes it so hard to bear their poor treatment at other critical points. Vernor struggles, as most sci-fi/>Why Maybe I'll come off as bi-polar when I start this five star review (my first of 2011) with an extensive list of why the book I'm applauding is utter garbage. But what the hell, I'm game if you are. Let's do it. Why "A Fire Upon the Deep" is Utter Garbage 1. Mr. Vinge's characters are only so-so, and the humans are the worst of the lot. Every once in a blue moon a character will shine, which makes it so hard to bear their poor treatment at other critical points. Vernor struggles, as most sci-fi authors do, with creating believable characters of depth and dimension that readers can be bothered to care about or will retain in their memories. When someone loses everything they hold dear (e.g. their planet), I should be able to feel the emotional resonance pouring off them without trying to. Vinge simply can't do it - he doesn't make me care. His attempts are heavy-handed, crude, and impotent. 2. The plot is not paced appropriately, nor equally distributed between the different locations Vinge focuses on. Galactic in scope, yet there's 400 pages of one group of the protagonists voyaging across space with only one interesting pitstop. In truth, lots of interesting things are happening during this time, but its all conceptual. I noticed the plot takes a backseat while Vinge's (fantastic) ideas steal the limelight. If he had been more proficient as a writer, the conceptual elements at play might have been more tightly integrated with the plot, and that would have been a real treat. 3. Everything is an archetype. Okay, so you have some orphaned children alone on an alien world. Come on now, Vern, let's not make them the cutest, most innocent creatures in all of the Pack of Pack's Creation. You also have a sadistic sociopath for a villain, that's cool, but is that his defining (and only) characteristic? You aren't really going to name him Lord Steel, are you? Not when you have such great alternatives running through that brain of yours (*cough* Amdiranifani *cough* Ravna Bergsndot *cough* Scriber Jacqueramaphan *cough*). Part of what is so great about your book is that you are subverting our expectations about what is necessary for us to empathize with others. So why would you compromise the potency of that signal by resorting to tropes as worn-out and dualistic as "The Blessed Orphan Children of Destiny" and "The Unknowable, Evil Blight of Doom"? 4. Deus ex Machina. Well, I guess you can see it coming from about page 10, but in the end of the story, something we learn very little about and which has played almost no role in the story saves the day (sorta: a few trillion people who die might not be that enthusiastic). Not terribly satisfying. 5. Suspension of disbelief. Every once in a while, Vinge violates it, and it hurts him. I think some of the Tinish tool usage and everything Skroderider falls into this category. The book needed to be just a bit more Solaris and a tad less Star Wars. By that I mean that Vinge sometimes throws an image out there because it's super cool, but he doesn't justify its existence very well. This would be fine in a space opera where important questions were not being bothered with, but since Vinge does concern himself with major issues, the lack of attention to rationalizing the existence of implausible elements rips you out of the experience, and makes it harder for you to connect the (profound) speculations in the book with reality. So with all of these flaws, how can I award this one top marks? Can this really be a five star book? Fuck, period. Yeah, period. Why "A Fire Upon the Deep" is Utter Genius If you have ever lamented that books rarely seem to be bold, intensive explorations of idea spaces; if you have ever longed for a great tome that makes you rethink what was possible in literature on every single one of its 600+ pages; or if you love novels in which the author demonstrates the fun he/she had writing it through their word selection, choice of presentation, and manipulation of language - stop reading this review right now, go savor the experience of "A Fire Upon the Deep", and then name any children you bear from that point forward either Vernor or Vernina. Don't read the back cover, don't listen to more reviews. I'm telling you now that you need to approach this with no real concept of what is in store for you. Whether you're a neurologist at Mass General or an alfalfa farmer in rural Dakota, I can promise you that it will alter the way you see the universe. Yes, it is just a silly speculative fiction epic... but it that has more to say about the teleology of Man, the possible varieties of intelligence, and the magnitude of wonders in store for a space-faring civilization than dozens of the best books (sci-fi or otherwise) you've ever encountered. Seriously, I'm not going to give you any further idea of what's so great about this book. To do so would be criminal, because Vernor Vinge is just so damn good at what he does that talking about Tines or the Zones can't do them justice. Only the book can give you the proper context for discovering (and I mean discovering) one of the most expertly realized alien worlds and a cosmology so magnificent that it hurts. I'll say no more about the book (go read!), but I will ask: why in the name of all the Transcendent Powers has this not been made into a film? Yes, I'm aware of the ludicrous challenge it would be, the expenses involved, and the vanishingly small chances of getting it right. But damn! I mean the camera angles you could use to represent perspective! The voice-work for pack talk! The imagery and the music and the ..... argh! Go get your shovel. We're digging up Kubrick.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Roy

    I tried very hard to like A Fire Upon the Deep. The reviews for it are stellar, and it did won a Hugo. Also, I am a huge fan of SF, so I felt this book would be a sure-fire hit with me. Not so. As other reviewers pointed out, this book has some great ideas. Pack sentience is very nice, and the idea of zones is intriguing. Unfortunately, all these are wrapped in very shoddy writing. To tell the truth, the writing was barely above fan sci-fi in some places. The characterizati I tried very hard to like A Fire Upon the Deep. The reviews for it are stellar, and it did won a Hugo. Also, I am a huge fan of SF, so I felt this book would be a sure-fire hit with me. Not so. As other reviewers pointed out, this book has some great ideas. Pack sentience is very nice, and the idea of zones is intriguing. Unfortunately, all these are wrapped in very shoddy writing. To tell the truth, the writing was barely above fan sci-fi in some places. The characterization is also, most unfortunately, pretty bad. The Tine race is filled with potential, but the Tine characters are nothing more than stereotypes : the wanderer, the wise queen, the evil lord, the evil adviser, the betrayer. Human characters are predictable to the point of being boring, and their motivations serve the plot more than any sort of coherence. As a whole, the race is strangely 'Western european', despite their uniqueness. Also, as interesting as they were, I don't think they deserved that much of a treatment. One major source of disappointment for me, also, was the way the Galactic net was portrayed. I'm aware the novel was written in 1993, but Vinge's depiction lacks any kind of vision whatsoever. It's silly to see the whole Galaxy chattering on newsgroups and sending each other emails. Not once did it try to be something else than the 1993's Internet surimposed on a galactic scale, and it was more a gimmick than anything else. On a whole, the story has ambitions of grandeur, but fails at articulating it. The events are always portrayed vaguely and don't have resonance. In one scene, a character learns billions have died when her homeworld was devastated, yet this event only serves as a setup for the personal drama of the characters! Most of the story happens either among 5-6 individuals on the Tine world, or within the closed confines of the ship, and neither progress at a pace that would be satisfying. There are some great ideas in this book, but they're buried under a nonsensical plot that fails to impress. Because of this, it has neither the scope nor the emotional impact of, say, Frank Herbert's Dune or Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy. Finishing the book was a difficult endeavour, and I will NOT pick up the prequel. Phan Newen is far from being interesting enough a character to make me pick it up.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Clouds

    I love it when I give a book 5-stars! I knew practically nothing about this book when I started - except that I hadn't liked the only other Vernor Vinge book I'd read (Rainbow's End). This is about a gazillion times better! So here's the low down: This is a far future yarn, with three great 'big ideas'. 1) Space is not uniform. I'm probably going to explain this poorly (my wife looked somewhat unconvinced when I tried to explain it to her), but here goes: t I love it when I give a book 5-stars! I knew practically nothing about this book when I started - except that I hadn't liked the only other Vernor Vinge book I'd read (Rainbow's End). This is about a gazillion times better! So here's the low down: This is a far future yarn, with three great 'big ideas'. 1) Space is not uniform. I'm probably going to explain this poorly (my wife looked somewhat unconvinced when I tried to explain it to her), but here goes: there are zones of thought. Somewhere in the centre of the universe is the 'slow zone', where it's impossible to create sentient AI computers, and it's impossible for faster than light (FTL) travel to work. Then outside of that is the beyond, where all kinds of alien races with FTL travel are living and trading and warring and gossiping, etc. The beyond is broken loosely into the low, middle and high beyond, where gradually more advanced technology functions. If you try and fly a high-beyond spaceship down into the low-beyond, it's more advanced functions will gradually shut-down, etc. Then - out in the periphery - is the transcend, where species/beings/entities who have 'transcended' into god-like Powers dwell. They must remain in the transcend to function, and so the 'lower' lifeforms are protected from the wraph of their all-powerful whims. Think of it like a deep ocean - with humans in ships on the surface, lots of interesting life in the shallow seas, and weird things hidden in the depths. Earth is deep in the slow-zone. At some point in the ancient past we humans escaped into the beyond and joined the great party of alien society - but we can't go home easily, because that would involve century long trips back into the slow-zone. Plus, I think we've forgotten where Earth was. 2) There are lots of aliens out there. Out in the beyond there are thousands of different alien species and Vinge does a great job of capturing the vibrancy of that diversity. The skroderiders are centre stage here - little coral-esque talking plants that drive around on little intelligent carts and waggle their fronds at people. Awesome. Vinge uses these quirky 'net messages', sort of open web postings from different planets, as a narrative device to tie the plight of the humans, and our heroes in particular, into the big picture of the galactic civilization and the various opinions and factions therein. If you haven't read Joel's review, check it out - he's written in in the style of one of these transmissions (which went straight over my head when I first read it, but seems a lot funnier now I'm in on the joke). Vinge doesn't actually explore this idea a great deal in this book, it's sort of the background setting, but it adds a great deal in terms of tone/atmosphere. 3) The Tines! A large section of the story is set on one alien world. The Tines are without a doubt one of my favourite alien races. Think of wolves, with longer, pointier heads - like a seal/rat. Then think of a pack of these beasts, between four and eight creatures, acting as a hive-mind. Each animal can survive on its own as an animal level intelligent (like a very smart dog) but together, they become a sentient being. In practice, in the book, they're very cool and they're culture is a lot of fun to explore. Vinge did a great job of just dropping you into their story from one alien's POV, and letting you figure out what the hell it is from gradual clues. They're great - trust me! So those are the big ideas - and to tie them together we have an apocalypse story. Some humans meddling with an artefact in the low transcend, wake up an Evil Power. It takes over the humans, their home planet, and starts to spread through the beyond. No species can stand against The Blight and it absorbs all it touches into it's giant hive-mind of creepy possession type-thing. Standing against that, is the Great Hope, something a small gang of brave humans smuggled out the artefact right before it went all apocalyptic. The Great Hope is hidden on the planet of the Tines, where brother/sister humans are split on either side of a Tine warzone. Some skroderider plant aliens, a human woman and a human man who's been reconstructed from frozen human spare-parts by a Good Power are on a mission to travel from the high beyond all the way to the edge of the slow zone to grab the Great Hope. The Blight is chasing them. Great drama ensues. Got all that? This is big, fun, space opera adventure - my favourite kind of book. There were a couple of tiny issues with credibility - million to one chances occurring a little too often, etc. But I was more than happy to overlook them as I was gleefully swept away on the ride. I picked this up as a Hugo winner (from 1993). The Locus Sci-Fi award and the Nebula award for that year went to Willis' Doomsday Book, which is utterly different and broke my heart. In terms of emotional reaction, that's the superior novel, but in terms of escapist fun - this smashes it. I've jumped straight into the prequel following this (which is just as good so far, with some excellent spider-aliens), and my new book to read at work is Forever Peace (which has also started out excellent) so I'm definitely on a good run at the moment :-) After this I read: Forever Peace

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    A Fire Upon the Deep: Fascinating aliens but clunky plot and characters Originally posted at Fantasy Literature A Fire Upon the Deep was the big breakout novel from Vernor Vinge, winner of the 1993 Hugo Award and nominated for the Nebula. It features a unique premise I haven’t encountered before: the universe has been separated into four separate Zones of Thought: the Unthinking Depths, Slow Zone, Beyond, and Transcend. Starting from the galactic core, the Zones demarcate differing levels of technological and b A Fire Upon the Deep: Fascinating aliens but clunky plot and characters Originally posted at Fantasy Literature A Fire Upon the Deep was the big breakout novel from Vernor Vinge, winner of the 1993 Hugo Award and nominated for the Nebula. It features a unique premise I haven’t encountered before: the universe has been separated into four separate Zones of Thought: the Unthinking Depths, Slow Zone, Beyond, and Transcend. Starting from the galactic core, the Zones demarcate differing levels of technological and biological advancement - but this doesn’t simply mean different stages of development. Instead, more advanced technologies cease to function when taken into slower zones, since the laws of physics themselves are different. This include faster-than-light travel, so FTL ships that travel into slower zones need to also have ramjet drives to avoid losing power. Artificial intelligence also does not work, and in the Unthinking Depths near the galactic core only the most primitive biological life forms can survive. Conversely, in the Beyond thousands of advanced alien species reside, linked together by FTL and something called “The Net”, which must have been really cutting-edge back in 1992. Finally, the Transcend is where Beyond species go when they have reached a higher level of existence and become super-beings known as “Powers”. Humanity first began in the Slow Zone on Earth, but later established some civilizations in the Beyond. They are far from the most important species, as it’s a crowded space. One of their research teams ventures from Straumli Realm into the Transcend, where they discover an ancient archive that could grant untold knowledge and riches, or a hidden evil being of terrible power….stop me if you’ve heard this storyline before! This is the opening of a million SF/horror films and books - I just thought Vinge might be able to come up with something more original. But alas, that’s what we get. The evil super-being grows at tremendous pace, and chases down and destroys one of the two fleeing human ships, but somehow the remaining one miraculously escapes with a few plucky young survivors, and possibly the key to destroying the ancient super being dubbed the Blight. And then they crash-land on a primitive planet named Tine populated by….telepathic dog packs! The two young protagonists, Jefri and Johanna Olsndot, are captured by rival factions and must find their way back together amidst a struggle for supremacy, while learning the strange alien ways of their hosts. I know that even the best novel can sound a bit silly when reduced to a brief synopsis. But that’s a pretty accurate description of the opening. Meanwhile, Vinge does a little better with the next group of characters, as we meet Ravna Bergsndot, the only human worker at a galactic communications network hub named Relay. When Relay intercepts a distress signal from the escaped ship of Jefri and Johanna, this draws the attention of one of the Powers from the Transcend dubbed “Old One”. Ravna tracks the distress signal to Tine, and the “Old One” recreates an ancient human named Phan Nuwen to find a way to defeat the Blight. They commission a merchant vessel manned by a wise-cracking outlaw and his Wookie sidekick…just kidding. The vessel is piloted by the Skroderiders Blueshell and Greenstalk, two intelligent palm fronds that ride specialized wheelchairs to get around. There are some enjoyable interactions between Ravna, the ancient Pham, and the Skroderiders as they seek knowledge about the Blight, its intent (galactic mayhem and domination, of course), and how to potentially stop it. The Blight quickly grows in power, dragging in other races and annihilating worlds as it speeds toward Relay. But wait, let us recall that Tine is located in the Slow Zone, where advanced technologies don’t function. So despite the rapacious advance of the Blight, it cannot exert its full strength in the lower zones. Sadly, the book bogs down in the extended middle portion as we follow the lives of Jefri and Johanna. We learn a lot about the Tines, who form telepathic packs with high intelligence, but whose members are fairly helpless when separated from the group. Their rival factions operate in a medieval world contested by the Flenserists, Woodcarvers, and Lord Steel. I found the aliens’ social structure intriguing, but the rivalries and dialogue were fairly clunky, and the Tines were mostly stereotyped. This part of the book would have fit nicely with a YA SF tale, but really didn’t mesh well with the hard SF story set in space. Granted, this illustrated the vast gulf between the high and low zones, but it still made for an uneven tone. I found myself struggling to maintain interest, even though some other readers liked the Tines and their unusual telepathic pack minds. Inevitably the story picks up the pace as the separate storylines converge on Tine, and there is a drawn-out medieval battle between the Tine factions, while Ravna and Pham and crew rush to reach Tine and unleash a force to destroy the Blight, which is close on their heels. There is a suitably whiz-bang finale (no Ewoks, thank goodness), and the Deathstar is…nevermind. What is lacking is any explanation of why the the galaxy has been divided into Zones of Thought, though clearly this has been done by some force that exceed even the “Powers” of the Transcend, since they too are bound by its rules. Since this is the first book set in this universe, I can understand not wanting to reveal everything, but at least some tantalizing hints would whet the readers’ appetite for more. In the end, I thought the potential of Vinge’s world-building was vast, but the execution and writing left a lot to be desired. The plot is over-familiar, and the characters are weak despite the author’s best efforts. The audiobook is narrated by Peter Larkin, who has a very amiable reading tone, but felt relentlessly upbeat and would have benefitted from more emotional variation depending on the story tone. There is a follow-up called A Deepness in the Sky, which won the 2000 Hugo Award, but is actually a prequel according to chronology, so I can’t imagine it can shed much light on the origins or creators of the Zones of Thought. A third book called The Children of the Sky came out in 2011 and continues the story of Ravna on Tine, but the reviews I’ve read are fairly negative, so I am reluctant to try it. I’ll at least give A Deepness in the Sky a try.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nick T. Borrelli

    One of my favorite Hard SF novels of all-time. It's brilliant and you should definitely read it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Executive Summary: This book started out pretty strong for me, but lost steam as I went on. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped. Full Review My reading of this book was pretty uneven. I read about 25% on a plane, then several days with no reading. Then I read another 25% on a plane and several more days with no reading. After that it was a chapter or two here or there stretching the whole thing out over 2+ weeks. It's not a short book, but it was obvious to me as I went on that I was losing steam/> Executive Summary: This book started out pretty strong for me, but lost steam as I went on. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped. Full Review My reading of this book was pretty uneven. I read about 25% on a plane, then several days with no reading. Then I read another 25% on a plane and several more days with no reading. After that it was a chapter or two here or there stretching the whole thing out over 2+ weeks. It's not a short book, but it was obvious to me as I went on that I was losing steam. This book is largely space opera, which is generally my wheelhouse when it comes to Science Fiction. There is also a computer element with the Usenet like service that used by the entire galaxy to communicate. I really enjoyed the Tines. They were probably the most interesting part as they were unlike anything else I've read/watched before. I struggled with the start a bit, because I didn't really know what was going on, but that got better as the book went on. I still never felt like I had a complete understanding of certain aspects of the story. I mostly found by the end I didn't care. I was able to follow the story fine if I didn't let myself get too caught up in little details of the world Mr. Vinge created. By the end though, I was more interested in finishing to see how things worked out rather than being excited to learn what happens next. I'm glad I read it, but I didn't love it as much as I hoped.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lightreads

    This is the galaxy in the unimaginably distant future, populated with millions of species. The shape of civilizations is dictated by the shape of the galaxy: close in at the core is the “slowness,” the place where only sublight travel is possible. Farther out is the “beyond,” where FTL drives function and cross-system communication passes on great data pipelines, and very advanced technology can begin to be truly sentient. And above that is the “transcend,” where automation goes beyond sentience This is the galaxy in the unimaginably distant future, populated with millions of species. The shape of civilizations is dictated by the shape of the galaxy: close in at the core is the “slowness,” the place where only sublight travel is possible. Farther out is the “beyond,” where FTL drives function and cross-system communication passes on great data pipelines, and very advanced technology can begin to be truly sentient. And above that is the “transcend,” where automation goes beyond sentience into transcendence, where the great powers operate. A human expedition is exploring an ancient archive abandoned in the transcend, where they awaken a very old, very nasty power defeated billions of years ago. We begin with the destruction of the expedition, the few survivors fleeing down the galaxy to the very edge of the slowness with something that just might be able to save everyone. The malevolent power is hot on their trail, as is a rag-tag band of its other surviving victims – humans and aliens and the man who was possessed by a defeated opposing power. The book plays with ideas of sentience, of communication, of information systems. The awakened power begins to absorb civilizations by the hundreds above, and far below the survivors are caught up in the political struggles of primitive, doglike, group-minded aliens. My reactions to this book went something like this: Pp 1-200: Wow, that’s fabulous world building. And great ideas. But it is so very much a hard SF novel, and I don’t entirely care about these people. Pp 200-400: Take it back, the character work has gotten a lot better. And ooh, that was neat. Pp 400-600: Okay what? That was cheating. Also annoying. I chronicle this because the last reaction shouldn’t necessarily overpower the first two – this really is a fantastic hard SF novel in concept and execution. A big fucking idea book, and I do love those. But I never quite tipped over the edge from reading and enjoying into ravening need to continue. I think, partly, it’s that the book plays with the omniscient point of view as it cycles between the expedition survivors (two young children), their wood-be rescuers, and a cast of primitive aliens on the world they came to. And I have an increasingly allergic reaction to this particular style where the reader knows who the bad guys are but the heroes don’t. The style also allowed an ending which was reaching to say something profound about individual destiny and vast, multi-civilization communication/automation/group sentience. Instead, it felt lazy and unsatisfying, full of really disturbing implications that were barely even blinked at. I neither recommend nor anti-rec this book because there are people out there who will love bits of it so much that nothing else will matter. I just wasn’t one of them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Terran

    I seem to be one of the few geeks who was dramatically underwhelmed by this book. I guess that this is classic "hard SF", in the sense of being all ideas and not so much on the characterization. And maybe I've just passed the time in my life when that really excites me. But overall, it just didn't grab me. The notion of the zones of thought was interesting, albeit a real stretch to me. The tines were a kind-of interesting construction, though mass minds have been done before. And, for I seem to be one of the few geeks who was dramatically underwhelmed by this book. I guess that this is classic "hard SF", in the sense of being all ideas and not so much on the characterization. And maybe I've just passed the time in my life when that really excites me. But overall, it just didn't grab me. The notion of the zones of thought was interesting, albeit a real stretch to me. The tines were a kind-of interesting construction, though mass minds have been done before. And, for whatever reason, their story line just felt tedious to me. Maybe it's that I wanted to spend more time further out, in the Transcend or something. It was probably snide commentary by the author that the fabulously high-tech cultures of the Beyond have astoundingly advanced computer systems and FTL information networks, equipped with things like artificially intelligent network packets, yet they still spend most of their time having flame wars. Hmmm... I did have real trouble with the fact that their network protocols bore suspicious similarity to USENET message headers, c. 1990. Overall, some of the ideas were interesting, some much less so, but the story and the characters just didn't excite me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    I had high hopes for Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep because I love sci-fi set in space but, while it might make a decent fantasy novel, it is a poor excuse for science fiction. The novel takes place in Vinge's "Zones of Thought" universe in which the galaxy is separated into discrete zones, each of which is identified by its relative location to the galactic core and its ability to support advanced technology and faster-than-light travel. I initially found The Zones a silly and unnec I had high hopes for Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep because I love sci-fi set in space but, while it might make a decent fantasy novel, it is a poor excuse for science fiction. The novel takes place in Vinge's "Zones of Thought" universe in which the galaxy is separated into discrete zones, each of which is identified by its relative location to the galactic core and its ability to support advanced technology and faster-than-light travel. I initially found The Zones a silly and unnecessary creation. They are more akin to fantasy than to science fiction. Yet, after a while, the Zones bothered me less and, although I never found them to be a welcome addition to the story, they were an interesting plot device. The story centers around two groups of characters. The first group is a family that makes an emergency landing on an alien planet after barely escaping the hostile takeover of a research lab by a superhuman intelligence. After a hostile confrontation with the planet's inhabitants, the medieval Tines, brother and sister Jefri and Johanna Olsndot are separated between two groups of warring natives, each of which wants to exploit the visitors' knowledge of technology to defeat the other. The Tines are a play on the classic hive mind theme, but much smaller in scope. They are pack animals which, when in small groups, form one intelligent individual. In larger groups or as singletons, they are generally not intelligent. This certainly made for some difficult reading at first, as the concept takes a while to sink in. I think the Tines are Vinge's most interesting creation for this novel. Unfortunately, as with his human characters, the author fails to give most of the Tines anything more than minimal characterization which results in a Disney cartoonish effect. While Johanna and Jefri are struggling with the Tines, the superhuman intelligence wakened at the research lab, known as the "Blight" or the "Straumli Perversion," begins to spread, destroying worlds, enslaving their populations, and killing other Powers in the process. Ravna Bergsndot, along with Pham Nuwen, a man from the Slow Zone who was recreated and inhabited by a Power, and two Skroderiders, intelligent plants which ride on mechanical "skrodes" that support memory and mobility for their riders, take to rescuing Jefri Olsndot and recovering the suspected "countermeasure" to the Blight in Jefri's ship at the Tines' world at the bottom of the Beyond. It's all a very fantastical story that takes quite a bit of acclimation. I nearly abandoned the novel altogether due to the complexity. There were so many foreign concepts that much of it was nonsensical babble. I had re-read some sections multiple times before feeling that I had understood what was being explained. Eventually, after much patience, the universe Vinge has created started to make sense, even if it wasn't very sensible. For the most part, the story is rather boring. Thinking back on the novel, I can barely remember anything other than the major events. Much of it is merely filler designed to explore the concepts of Vinge's universe rather than move the plot forward. The novel is also dated. Vinge could have avoided this by not tying his "Known Net" concept to the early 90s Internet. I find it laughable that he couldn't think of anything more advanced than Usenet to model how messages moved through space. He also makes references to bandwidth in bits and kilobits. I bet he cringes now to know that contemporary cell phones achieve a higher bandwidth than the super-advanced technologies Vinge describes in his novel. He also regularly references people performing a task he refers to as "programming," as in computer programming, and this again shows that he did not forsee that computers would move beyond the command-line interface into something more usable. If this seems harsh, compare this to Dan Simmons's novel Hyperion which was published earlier than A Fire Upon the Deep, yet Simmons's work has none of these faults. Years later, Hyperion continues to feel as if it were set in the far future. Furthermore, Vinge's writing ability leaves much to be desired. His descriptions often lack metaphor, simile, or analogy. When he does use these techniques, they are rarely insightful. He seems to love the ellipsis, as he uses it quite frequently to indicate a character's apprehension. I can't count how many times I heard, "But now..." and "But then..." A Fire Upon the Deep is entertaining at times but it is far too long, too boring, and too mediocre for me to recommend it. But then...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jlawrence

    The first third of this book is some of the best science-fiction I have ever read: good writing, fast pace, some breathtaking action, excellent balance between narrative and explanation, and some really, REALLY cool ideas thoroughly thought-out and implemented. Several times my brain practically crackled and I said, "wow" out loud when certain ideas Vinge had been hinting at "clicked" and became clear. Vinge is also pretty skilled at keeping the vast hard-sci-fi-space-opera scope of the book fas The first third of this book is some of the best science-fiction I have ever read: good writing, fast pace, some breathtaking action, excellent balance between narrative and explanation, and some really, REALLY cool ideas thoroughly thought-out and implemented. Several times my brain practically crackled and I said, "wow" out loud when certain ideas Vinge had been hinting at "clicked" and became clear. Vinge is also pretty skilled at keeping the vast hard-sci-fi-space-opera scope of the book fascinating, but not letting that complexity overwhelm the characters or plot. Unfortunately, the pace in the middle of the book flags somewhat and the writing falters there a bit too, chunks of exposition becoming more prominent. But the last third redeems it, picking up the pace again and serving a very satisfying ending. This came very close to sitting next to Dune and Book of the New Sun in my top-tier of my favorite sci-fi books, so I recommend it to any science fiction fan.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trike

    This is sooo close to being a 5-star book for me. So, so close. A lot of TV series follow the basic "A Plot and B Plot" style of storytelling. Good TV shows manage to connect them thematically and then tie them together into one story by the end. Vinge does this here. On the macro scale we have the Blight, an ancient, malevolent virus that takes over everyone in its path, human and alien alike. On the smaller scale we have two kids stranded on an alien planet along with a b This is sooo close to being a 5-star book for me. So, so close. A lot of TV series follow the basic "A Plot and B Plot" style of storytelling. Good TV shows manage to connect them thematically and then tie them together into one story by the end. Vinge does this here. On the macro scale we have the Blight, an ancient, malevolent virus that takes over everyone in its path, human and alien alike. On the smaller scale we have two kids stranded on an alien planet along with a bunch of their friends in cryosleep. The kids are the offspring of some of the explorers who accidentally woke up the Blight and who ran from it once they realized what they'd inadvertently unleashed. Other reviewers go into more detail about the plot, but that's the gist. The Blight taking over the universe is the B plot, while the castaway kids are the A plot. This is pretty epic in scope. On the one hand we have classic Space Opera and on the other good old-fashioned Planetary Romance. So far, so good. For me, the real standout part of the book is the kids' adventure among the aliens they call the Tines. This is the sort of thing I read science fiction to encounter: aliens who are different from anything we have on Earth. The Tines are compared to wolves and dogs by the kids, but to me they seem like meerkats. They're run in small packs of 4 to 6 individuals who combine into a larger hive mind. They have vibratory tympanum on their heads, shoulders and haunches that allow them to communicate exactly what they're thinking to each other. Truly exceptional Tines can have 3 members or 8 members and still be a cohesive "person." But usually less than 4 means they're not very bright and more than 6 makes them an unruly mob pulling into too many directions at once. Vinge's introduction of the concept of these aliens should be taught in writing classes, because he reveals piece by piece how they work over the course of a chapter, and you slowly realize that the "person" you're following is made up of several distinct sub-sentient individuals. It's extremely cool, and one of the best introductions of an alien species I've encountered. He delves deeply into the benefits and detriments of how such a pack-based hive mind species would work but leaves plenty of unanswered (and unasked) questions so we can speculate on our own. That's great fun. One of the major detriments to how they link together is that when too many of them are within close proximity to each other, they literally can't hear themselves think. So in instances of battle or simple crowding, it's possible for individual members of a pack to get killed or lost or otherwise cut off from the rest, and it devolves into chaos. Then they become no brighter than an animal and resort to base instincts. A person who loses all but one or two members basically has a lobotomy, and if those individuals join into other packs, the new personality is substantially different than the original. That's not true in all cases, however, as some individuals are particularly bright or have a sure sense of themselves, which means a duo could merge with three or four others and essentially take over that new pack, reconstituting a facsimile of the original personality. These creatures tend to be dominant personalities, and given the medieval society they live in, become a combination of Genghis Khan or Napoleon, sometimes devolving into Hannibal Lecter, cruel geniuses who bully and destroy those around them. The bonus is that these strong personalities can basically live for hundreds of years as they assume control of new members who join the pack. Several generations of individual members later they would be different people, but at their core they would be the same. The way around this is via controlled inbreeding, either by using selective breeding of others to create a puppy with particular attributes or to have the members continually have sex among themselves. Which raises the interesting question: is it considered incest if the individuals of a pack have sex with each other generation after generation, or is that parthenogenesis? We'd probably need a new word to describe this activity. Unfortunately, while such inbreeding creates a centuries-old stable personality, it also results in sickly, infirm or deformed pack members. Who can then devolve into insanity... or worse. See Hannibal Lecter, above. And such creatures are at the heart of this story. It certainly gives a new spin on politics, as well as dynasties. I would have enjoyed reading an entire novel just examining the various permutations of this shared-mind pack species, but there is that pesky B plot to attend to. In and of itself, the B plot about the ancient Blight taking over the galaxy is pretty standard fare. We've seen this before in other books with epic scope. I'm pretty sure the guys at BioWare based a large part of the backstory for the Mass Effect videogames on this aspect of the book. There are too many similarities to ignore. I would say they mashed up the overarching idea of the Blight with the Force from Star Wars and created their own universe. Which doesn't bother me, because that's how we get new variations on a theme. After all, George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie but couldn't get the rights to it, so he combined the situations and characters of Flash Gordon with those in Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress and added a little sprinkling of pirate movies and Westerns for flavor. The other aspect of this book that's different from similar space operas is the idea of the Zones of Thought. Basically this is an artificially-imposed limitation to technology. There is a vast area of lower technology comprising the bulk of the galaxy, an area in a ring that allows for higher technology, and finally an area that allows for incredible technology on the outer rim, with no limitations beyond that. Near the core of the galaxy very little works for long. Errors are introduced and things start breaking. So while you can have anti-gravity and super-intelligent AI in the outer rim, the deeper you go toward the center of the galaxy the less reliable those things become until they quickly stop working. At first this seems like a pure Fantasy element in an otherwise solidly science fictional universe, but then Vinge reveals that this story takes place tens of thousands of years from now among civilizations which are millions or billions of years old, and basically what we're seeing is an entire galaxy that is living in a post-Singularity time. The implication being that we're currently living under the constraints of the Singularity, which is why we can't get AI to work. But beyond the rim civilizations can Transcend and become godlike. Too bad for them, the Blight is also godlike. Just not good. So we get battles in space as civilizations fight the Blight, and battles on the Tine world as these Napoleon and Hitlers battle for supremacy. Meanwhile, our main characters are swept up in both of these conflicts. As the stories converge it's clear that the solution to the Blight rests with the stranded kids. Unfortunately, this part of the story was telegraphed, becoming very anticlimactic. It means parts of the war against the Blight slow to a crawl because we know what has to happen to defeat it. The only thing I didn't see was the specific aspect of the Zones of Thought. I knew *something* was going to happen there with the various pieces, just not the exact solution, so there's that. But it was annoying waiting for it to occur for 300 pages. All in all, though, this book is terrific. Could be a bit shorter, but the ideas are so interesting and the Tines are so cool that I didn't mind so much. As I said, these sorts of things are why I read SF in the first place.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Zones of thought dictating space time, transcendent Power turned Perversion turned Blight, a benevolent vegetable race in long-term memory carts, a burning space station firefight, an epic chase at fluctuating speeds of light, medieval, pack minded, seal-rat-dog people and a seemingly classic struggle between good and evil. They are the perfect mix of Space Opera ingredients, which are baked into author Vernor Vinge's yummy loaf of sci-fi bread (forgive my cheesy metaphor, but I baked today) A F Zones of thought dictating space time, transcendent Power turned Perversion turned Blight, a benevolent vegetable race in long-term memory carts, a burning space station firefight, an epic chase at fluctuating speeds of light, medieval, pack minded, seal-rat-dog people and a seemingly classic struggle between good and evil. They are the perfect mix of Space Opera ingredients, which are baked into author Vernor Vinge's yummy loaf of sci-fi bread (forgive my cheesy metaphor, but I baked today) A Fire Upon the Deep. I’d been craving some good old fashioned Space Opera, something inconceivable, a little outrageous and eclectic, so when the Sci Fi and Fantasy Book Club picked A Fire Upon the Deep as their January book I really hoped I had found what I needed to satisfy my craving. A Fire Upon the Deep satisfied me in part. Vinge’s story, for all its welcome eclecticism, was a little too choppy in its ability to hold my interest. Some actions and characters riveted me, and others were like entering Vinge’s own Slowness -- a slip from light speed to a shocking crawl. The moments in light speed dominated A Fire Upon the Deep, however, and perhaps the finest moment was the completion of the OOB II’s action against the Blight. Pham, deeply affected by Godshatter, finally reaches the Countermeasure on Tines World, and the Godshatterman delivers one of those big, almost cinematic, totally inexplicable, bordering on fantasy moments of Space Opera glory. The image of Pham sitting in the cargo bay with threads of shining fungus linking to his body from the walls of the ship barely covers a page of Vinge’s big book, but it is the Vinge's single most powerful image. I can imagine how a film version’s entire aesthetic could be developed around that scene, and it’s a beautiful thing. A Fire Upon the Deep is just as entertaining when the galactic stakes are lower but the characters involved are multiplied. The war between Woodcarver and Mr.Steel & Flenser/Tyrathect has enough subterfuge, double dealing, betrayal, strategy, love and hate to fulfill anyone’s expectations of a technologically and socially medieval culture suddenly faced with first contact and an arms race beyond their reach. And the relationships that spring up between the human children and their Tinish counterparts feel just right. Vinge offers relationships that make sense based on the players’ personal, cultural and even genetic dispositions, so that we never find ourselves disbelieving the characters. We might want them to do things differently, but we know they can’t. Where A Fire Upon the Deep stutters into the Slowness is during the massive chase for the OOB II. Three fleets converge in the chase, and it begins to feel interminable very quickly. Vinge seemed to be trying to create old school, Saturday morning serial suspense, the cliffhanger -- another hallmark of Space Opera -- but the unanswered questions only made me want to get back to Tines World. Will Ravna, Pham, Greenstalk and Blueshell get caught? Will the Skroderiders betray the OOB II? Will the OOB II convince the Commercial Security fleet to help them? Will Pham implode under the weight of the Godshatter? Will Ravna stop sniveling? These and other questions were supposed to make us excited, but it is Vinge’s one big failure in A Fire Upon the Deep that they don’t. But entertaining or not, every element of A Fire Upon the Deep is trumped for me by Vinge’s masterfully subtle meditation on the nature of good and evil. He provides no answers about good or evil; he takes no sides that I can see; but Vinge quietly asks us to consider what is evil and what is not. He presents us with a transcendent Blight destroying Powers and civilizations, but doing so to preserve its life. He presents us with humans tipping the balance on an undeveloped world to save the life of a boy and kill the Blight, without ever really considering the ramifications of their actions for the denizens of that world. He presents us with an answer to the Blight that might or might not have caused more death and destruction in killing the Blight than the Blight itself caused. He presents us with a benevolent race, tailor made for betrayal. He presents us with “good” Tines who’ve engineered “evil” Tines who’ve engineered brilliant Tines who all must face the consequences of their actions. He presents us with an implied debate over the primacy of individualism or the group. And that’s what makes his meditation work so well: he presents. Any side he takes in the narrative, and these sides are only implied, is negated by an opposing side in the narrative, leaving us with our own thoughts, our own decisions to make. It may seem a small achievement, but it is brave, and it shows great faith, even if misplaced, in his readers. I appreciate that more than anything else Vinge offered in A Fire Upon the Deep. It may not have been the most fun I’ve ever had reading a Sci-Fi Space Opera, but it was definitely good enough to make me put A Fire Upon the Deep on my “to-read again” shelf. Vernor Vinge is worth a look.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    Vernor Vinge has become one of my favorite science fiction authors with this amazing novel. Filled with big, huge ideas and amazing technology. Plus the aliens are awesome. The alien Tines were so original and amazingly described that I was in heaven reading about them. I loved this from beginning to end. Make sure you read this slowly or you might miss a handful of neat ideas.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    4.5 stars. This was such an incredibly fascinating book and I wish I could have read it all straight through. It has one of the single coolest alien species I've ever seen and the story is really great. Part of the story is a race through space, including a space battle, and part of the story actually takes place on this planet. There are two groups of aliens, falling generally into "good guys" and "bad guys". The world is a medieval setting and it's interesting to see how each of the groups ben 4.5 stars. This was such an incredibly fascinating book and I wish I could have read it all straight through. It has one of the single coolest alien species I've ever seen and the story is really great. Part of the story is a race through space, including a space battle, and part of the story actually takes place on this planet. There are two groups of aliens, falling generally into "good guys" and "bad guys". The world is a medieval setting and it's interesting to see how each of the groups benefits from contact with one of the surviving humans. My one objection to the book is that both of the kids, who are aged 8-9 and 12-13 over the course of the book, are written in a simplistic style that is best suited to a 6 year old. But it's a pretty small complaint when you consider all of the awesome things packed in here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    This is one of the weirdest books I've ever read. It was amazingly creative and clever, and is easily one of the best sci-fi books I've ever laid hands on. The only problem is that it is written in such an extreme third-person viewpoint that people not experienced with sci-fi material will have trouble understanding what is going on; as such, I can only recommend it to experienced sci-fi readers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    4.5 to 5.0 stars. One of the most imaginative SF novels I have read in some time. Absolutely mind-bending. Highly recommended!! Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Nominee: John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Incredibly complex but thoroughly entertaining.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I don't know why but I don't think I had even heard of this author before I saw it added to the SF Masterworks series and I'm surprised; he really is quite an accomplished SF writer. This is an epic, sprawling space opera set in the distant future where a menacing blight is unleashed after an ancient artefact is discovered and it threatens to overwhelm the galaxy. A few people just manage to escape with the key to counteracting the blight but fall foul of the local inhabitants on a planet they c I don't know why but I don't think I had even heard of this author before I saw it added to the SF Masterworks series and I'm surprised; he really is quite an accomplished SF writer. This is an epic, sprawling space opera set in the distant future where a menacing blight is unleashed after an ancient artefact is discovered and it threatens to overwhelm the galaxy. A few people just manage to escape with the key to counteracting the blight but fall foul of the local inhabitants on a planet they crash land on. Only a couple of children survive and become embroiled in a power struggle whilst their would be rescuers attempt to get to the planet and find the secret before the blight triumphs over all. I'm usually quite wary of fat volumes like this but it proved entertaining and gripping enough to sustain my interest. The author is a deeply imaginative writer who packed fascinating ideas and concepts into the story. He quite effectively combines raw, unbridled imagination (of the golden age authors) with good writing (as one expects among contemporary authors). There is a Fascinating array of alien creatures described in the story and also the interesting idea of dividing the galaxy into zones such as the transcend (the outer most reaches), the beyond, the slowness and the unthinking depths (the inner most reaches) as the laws of physics becomes more restrictive and 'dumber' the closer you move towards the galactic core. So an enjoyable but long read from an author I definitely intend to investigate more in the future.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a hard science fiction story about a boy and his sister who are marooned on a distant planet in the far future. Their parents are killed by the inhabitants of the planet, and they and their space ship are taken hostage by two warring factions. They do not realize it, but their space ship holds the key to destroying an alien race that is destroying the civilizations of the galaxy. The most interesting aspect of the story is the remarkable race that inhabits the planet--intellig This is a hard science fiction story about a boy and his sister who are marooned on a distant planet in the far future. Their parents are killed by the inhabitants of the planet, and they and their space ship are taken hostage by two warring factions. They do not realize it, but their space ship holds the key to destroying an alien race that is destroying the civilizations of the galaxy. The most interesting aspect of the story is the remarkable race that inhabits the planet--intelligent beings that superficially resemble dogs, they live in packs of four to six, and communicate telepathically. The pack itself is a single unit that cannot lose a member without dire consequences. They are remarkably intelligent, but their civilization is still in a medieval stage in terms of social organization and technology. The most arresting image is of a space ship sitting outside a castle. Unfortunately, it took a long time--maybe a third of the book--before I understood the story well enough to get hooked. It was very confusing until then. It wasn't until near the end of the book that I could even begin to care for the characters. In addition, there was lots of tedious filler that seemed to rob the story of any momentum being built up. I listened to this book as an audiobook. Peter Larkin is the reader--he is fantastic. He brings a different voice to each character, which helps to avoid confusion in all the dialogues.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Vinge's high-water mark to date and his masterwork, I think. Splendid deep-space adventure. On my (ever-changing) 10-best-SF-ever list. Here's Jo Walton's fine retro-review, from 2009: http://www.tor.com/2009/06/11/the-net... "Any one of the ideas in A Fire Upon the Deep would have kept an ordinary writer going for years. For me it’s the book that does everything right, the example of what science fiction Vinge's high-water mark to date and his masterwork, I think. Splendid deep-space adventure. On my (ever-changing) 10-best-SF-ever list. Here's Jo Walton's fine retro-review, from 2009: http://www.tor.com/2009/06/11/the-net... "Any one of the ideas in A Fire Upon the Deep would have kept an ordinary writer going for years. For me it’s the book that does everything right, the example of what science fiction does when it works." I'm (mildly) surprised at the number of so-so reviews here. Which just goes to show, "different strokes for different folks"!

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    At last, an old-school space opera that blew me away and brought back my love of the genre. This definitely deserved its Hugo. A Fire Upon the Deep has everything -- vast galactic civilizations, a threat to the very cosmos, space battles and starfaring adventurers, truly alien aliens, enough of a hook into the characters to make the story personal, and an epic, hopeful finale that still leaves some threats out there to be resolved. I haven't loved a space opera this much since David Brin's Uplift Wars. At last, an old-school space opera that blew me away and brought back my love of the genre. This definitely deserved its Hugo. A Fire Upon the Deep has everything -- vast galactic civilizations, a threat to the very cosmos, space battles and starfaring adventurers, truly alien aliens, enough of a hook into the characters to make the story personal, and an epic, hopeful finale that still leaves some threats out there to be resolved. I haven't loved a space opera this much since David Brin's Uplift Wars. Vernor Vinge has created a galaxy in which the laws of physics actually differ by "zone" -- closest to the galactic core is the Slow Zone, where faster-than-light travel is impossible, and high technology and even intelligence itself is correspondingly limited. This is where Old Earth was located, once upon a time, before humans made their way out of the Slow Zone into the Lower Beyond, where computers becomes faster, civilizations become more sophisticated, and ships can begin to transcend lightspeed. High above is the Transcend, where only Powers dwell, superhuman intelligences that lower civilizations cannot even comprehend. In this galaxy, human "archeologists" from the High Beyond venture into the Low Transcend and unleash something that is a danger to the Powers themselves, and soon to the entire galaxy. The story alternates between what's going on out in the galaxy and what is going on on a primitive world in the Slow Zone occupied by a race of dog-like groupminds called the Tines. On the Tines' world, a ship carrying the survivors of the group that unleashed the threat in the Transcend crashes, and only a pair of children survive. On their ship is what might be the key to saving the galaxy. Each half of the story was equally thrilling, as slowly the two threads came together. I really, really liked Vernor Vinge's portrayal of the alien Tines and the equally alien Riders; these are not furry/latex-masked humans, but aliens, yet Vinge gave them distinct and understandable personalities. Some of the Tines are evil, some are extremely likeable, and you come to care about some of the alien characters as much as the humans. This was such a great story and such great worldbuilding, I am definitely putting the "prequel" novel A Deepness in the sky on my TBR list, and I can't wait until the sequel Vinge is writing (20 years later!) comes out later this year. This book comes with my highest recommendation for any SF/space opera fan.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    It seemed to me that this novel was an attempt by the author to have his cake and eat it too. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, an author generally chooses either a hard sci-fi technological setting or a medieval setting. A Fire Upon the Deep had both, and suffered a bit for it, at least for me, as I found the pacing uneven. I really enjoyed the universe that Vinge created here—regions of space where things moved faster or slower, where artificial intelligence could be raised to the statu It seemed to me that this novel was an attempt by the author to have his cake and eat it too. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, an author generally chooses either a hard sci-fi technological setting or a medieval setting. A Fire Upon the Deep had both, and suffered a bit for it, at least for me, as I found the pacing uneven. I really enjoyed the universe that Vinge created here—regions of space where things moved faster or slower, where artificial intelligence could be raised to the status of “Power,” which seems rather like godhood, and where many alien races compete and cooperate in economics and politics. But I found the back and forth between the high tech and medieval worlds to be jarring. While I looked forward to the space ship portions, I found the world of the Tines a bit tedious, with all its focus on planet level politics and warfare. I found the Tines to be intriguing aliens, resembling dogs and causing humans to relate to them in somewhat the same way, and requiring 4-6 bodies to make up one personality. That was an ingenious way to make up for their lack of primate hands to do things—several sets of doggy lips and teeth could manipulate objects well enough, if no humans were in evidence. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and the Tines are at the top of the food chain in their world. I do wonder about the author’s optimism concerning the human race. In this universe, humans have been traveling the stars for millions of years and are still recognizably human. I must say, I hope he’s right. Book number 286 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    We made it, preciousss, we finished this book after three weeks! O real life, why do you have to intervene while I am trying to finish this fantastic novel. The prologue was one of the strangest prologues ever, yet it is very intriguing. Lucky Tor released this for free a while ago for their ebookclub. I won't say much about the Zones of Thoughts (see below) because I am still digesting the concept. Let me tell you though, it is literally and figuratively mindblowing and thoughtprovoking. The aliens we We made it, preciousss, we finished this book after three weeks! O real life, why do you have to intervene while I am trying to finish this fantastic novel. The prologue was one of the strangest prologues ever, yet it is very intriguing. Lucky Tor released this for free a while ago for their ebookclub. I won't say much about the Zones of Thoughts (see below) because I am still digesting the concept. Let me tell you though, it is literally and figuratively mindblowing and thoughtprovoking. The aliens were fabulous - the Tines were my favorites, not just because they look like dogs (and their younglings were called puppies so there were some aww moments) but the way the POV characters were described and narrated, well, you will feel invested right away. And all were shades-of-grey characters, which made them even more realistic. The strangeness of having group minds also made the POVs very enjoyable to read. I believe I prefer the aliens and the children's chapters than the grownups. Ravna, oh Ravna. She might be my least favorite POV characters, I found her a bit annoying. The other adult POV character, Pham, was also irritating and pompous. I wished we were given the POVs of yet another weird aliens, the Riders. I'll read the next novels in the series just to meet them again. And the puppies. Overall, awesome worldbuilding and great, endearing aliens. A well-deserved four stars.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.