books A Fire Upon the Deep By Vernor Vinge –

Alternate Cover Edition Can Be Found HereA Fire Upon The Deep Is The Big, Breakout Book That Fulfills The Promise Of Vinge S Career To Date A Gripping Tale Of Galactic War Told On A Cosmic ScaleThousands Of Years Hence, Many Races Inhabit A Universe Where A Mind S Potential Is Determined By Its Location In Space, From Superintelligent Entities In The Transcend, To The Limited Minds Of The Unthinking Depths, Where Only Simple Creatures And Technology Can Function Nobody Knows What Strange Force Partitioned Space Into These Regions Of Thought, But When The Warring Straumli Realm Use An Ancient Transcendent Artifact As A Weapon, They Unwittingly Unleash An Awesome Power That Destroys Thousands Of Worlds And Enslaves All Natural And Artificial IntelligenceFleeing The Threat, A Family Of Scientists, Including Two Children, Are Taken Captive By The Tines, An Alien Race With A Harsh Medieval Culture, And Used As Pawns In A Ruthless Power Struggle A Rescue Mission, Not Entirely Composed Of Humans, Must Rescue The Children And A Secret That May Save The Rest Of Interstellar Civilization

10 thoughts on “A Fire Upon the Deep

  1. says:

    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, WorthwhileNeat AliensBigNerds 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 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. says:

    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. says:

    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 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. says:

    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 ThoughtThis 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. says:

    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. says:

    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. says:

    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. says:

    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 Garbage1 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 proficient as a writer, the conceptual elements at play might have been 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 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 GeniusIf 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 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 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 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. says:

    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 advanced technology functions If you try and fly a high beyond spaceship down into the low beyond, it s 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 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

  10. says:

    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 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 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 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.