“Space opera on an epic scale. Full or novel concepts and entertaining ideas. A real page-turner.”Lukas Vermeer wrote this review Wednesday, April 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I really enjoyed this book. The ideas of possible intllegence and tecgnological limits being liked to galactic geography was a great idea. Vinge also created some great charatures with the Tines beinga truely alien but relateable group.”Nick wrote this review Sunday, February 12, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“What I liked most about this is the notion of a far flung technic civilization existing for Millions of years, yet always churning.
And best was the thought that just because a civilization may be dead doesn't mean you should poke at it. Sometimes, old things need to be left where they are.
Some parts of the story kind of slow down when you shift from one section to another section of actors, and you may be tempted to skim until you reach the snappy parts again. But still, likable.
What I like Best of this story-- is the notion that The Outer Dark is not Empty-- It's Dangerous, especially when it's Quiet.”
“Visionary book, talking about how societies can evolve, the meaning of life, with an interesting adventure thrown in.”Eran Davidov wrote this review Friday, November 4, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“AWESOME! Awaiting the sequel...”Susan wrote this review Saturday, August 27, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Space opera on a grand scale. ”Adam wrote this review Wednesday, June 22, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
The tine part was great, the Ravna part was uninteresting. Also, usenet? In a thousand years? Oh please...”
I finished Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep" and let me tell you this monster book, clocking at nearly 600 pages, does have adventure, medieval civilizations, a bit of romance and has its dark side as well. Parts of the book do drag and the author might have been in need of an editor, but overall not a bad space tale.
Basic Premise, Some Comments:
In this universe we have 'zones of thought' that are linked through a subspace network, similar to our Internet which is colloquially called the "Net of a Million Lies." Would make a great advertisement for Wikipedia and the World Wide Web of today! The book was written in the 90s and so the pattern is of the Usenet groups of that time.
The book is broken down into several areas - the release of the "Blight", a malignant force that destroys all who oppose it, a family that discovers the "Countermeasure" but crash on a planet of dog-like aliens that only communicate in groups (a "pack" can think and respond only in a group, not singly), Ravna's planet, her job at "Relay" (as a librarian) and her relationship with a human (put together from parts by "The Old One," a superior being from "The Beyond", and their adventures together.
These parts don't always fit well. Each is expanded on (such as in the dog-like alien world, "Tine's World") and that's where the story tends to drag. We get involved in the intrigue, the castles, the battles and traitors of their race. The man and woman mentioned earlier crash-land and are immediately killed by this race. The brother and sister (Jefri and Joanna) are separated and each thinks the other is dead. The warring factions take advantage of this misunderstanding and slowly leech out technology that these children may know for their own advantages.
I did enjoy the clash between factions in this alien society and the imaginative way they built "packs" where you would take different skills from each "dog" and they would somehow think together. With the invention of radio, thanks to the humans, the Tines discovered that they could radio to each others' brains! This was interesting but never expanded upon to include the whole race, but just one pack.
Other aspects of the story: The warring factions clash near the last 100 pages of the book which I found fascinating, how each faction used the children as pawns and at one point wanting to kill them to gain advantage.
The part where each discovers that the other is alive is heartwarming but also comes with the price of a life. That was the best part of the book.
Romance: There is a bit of this, between Ravna and Pham (at least before she discovers he's not all man - oops!). Also camaraderie and loyalty between starship captains as they attempt to rescue Ravna from "the Blight." Great space battle here.
World Building and The Internet:
The author dwells too long on detail and I felt the reader spends a long, long time on the chatter of the 'Net, which can be annoying as you just want to story to move along, and the extraordinary time we spend on the Tines' World. There's not a lot of explanation of the "Beyond" and how and what that's all about - just hints of superior beings and we as humans or lesser aliens are their pawns, and only in the lower levels are we safe from them.
Finally, it's a tough book to put down and wait awhile and pick up again. You have to reread a few sections to refresh your memory on what's going on. As well, Vernor Vinge tends to make up words without explanation and leaves it up to the reader to figure out, as well as not fully explaining what's going on. For example it took quite awhile into the book before discovering that the alien "packs" communicated as groups not as individuals.
Overall, a decent read. Set aside some time and give Vinge your full cooperation. May not be as good as the amazing space operas of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but it is a worthy, if dragged-out read. Recommended.
Vernor Vinge's Other Novels:
The Children of the Sky
Marooned in Realtime
The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge
A Deepness in the Sky [Sequel to "Fire."]
“Loved the concept of the Pack minds..”Seeker wrote this review Wednesday, May 4, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“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...”