5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best Sci-Fi ever
I like my sci-fi to fill me with a sense of wonder and this book delivered. The vastness of space. Weird ideas. Completely different aliens.
Published 2 months ago by David Scrimshaw
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, exceedingly poor execution
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...
Published on Jan. 11 2004 by Daniel Roy
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5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best Sci-Fi ever,
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This review is from: A Fire Upon the Deep (School & Library Binding)I like my sci-fi to fill me with a sense of wonder and this book delivered. The vastness of space. Weird ideas. Completely different aliens.
5.0 out of 5 stars Galaxy Full of Big Ideas to Play With,
This review is from: A Fire Upon The Deep: Zones of Thought Series, Book 1 (Kindle Edition)The plot reads like standard space opera. A spaceship crashes on a pre-technological planet and the survivors encounter the natives, with their unique culture and physiology. Rescuers are on the way, but must find their way through hostile aliens and a galaxy-wide crisis of staggering import. Somehow, many pages later, it all works out.
The writing is good, the characters likeable and memorable. The action varies, alternating tense confrontations and wrenching surprises with restful, character-developing discussions. The real strengths of this book, however, are the cleverly-conceived big ideas. Three examples:
Big Idea #1 -- Our galaxy is somehow segregated into "zones of thought." In the central "unthinking depths," intelligence and technological complexity is limited by the very fabric of space. In the "Transcend" on the outer edges, whole societies have sublimed beyond our understanding and virtually disappeared. Except for when they revisit lower realms with devastating results. Imagine how space travel, technology and our humanity itself would subtly change as we traveled between these zones.
Big Idea #2 -- An alien that has one consciousness distributed across half a dozen or so physical bodies--a pack of wolves with one shared mind. The pack members communicate with short-range sonar. Imagine the confusion when two packs mingle together. Imagine the personality changes when a single member dies or two packs shuffle members. Imagine an entire culture of these aliens encountering human beings.
Big Idea #3 -- A galaxy-wide internet where an almost-unimaginable variety of alien cultures talk to and about each other. What information would be shared and how might it be misunderstood? Who can be believed? Trusted? And we thought we had scalability problems!
And there are more fascinating ideas, large and small. This entertaining and mind-expanding book is strongly recommended. Without reservation. Savor it and swallow it. Then move on to the prequel, A Deepness in the Sky.
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect,
The style is very similar: two different and initially completely distinct threads of action, one involving humans and one aliens, come together slowly to a common conclusion.
One thread involves two humans (well, one not-so-human: an 'evolved' Pham Nuwen from Deepness) and a pair of aliens on a desperate quest: an all-powerful evil force is rapidly taking over parts of the galaxy and the only possible solution is aboard a ship crashed on a medieval world at the other end of the known space.
The other thread takes place on the medieval world and involves two children survivors of the crashed ship and the local intelligent race, dog-like creatures who are only able to achieve consciousness in packs.
I found the ideas in this book to be wonderful.
The description of the pack intelligence of the dog race was completely new to me; perhaps it has been used before, but not to my knowledge (there is a short note somewhere on the first pages about a short story by somebody else who used the same idea). The possibilities deriving from this kind of civilizations are many, and the author explores them to the reader's complete satisfaction: partial awareness of one's self, what happens when only part of an individual survives, the nature of the soul, how the memories and personality of each individual play a distinct role. Also, the author explores the frigthful liberty this unique situation gives for the ones who want to create super beings, or packs with special characteristics.
Another idea I enjoyed was the 'Zones of Thought': the galaxy is divided into several concentric regions in which different rules of physics apply. Coming from the center of the galaxy ('The Unthinking Depths') and going outwards to the 'Transcend', FTL travel becomes possible. What functions in one zone doesn't in another. This separation ensures the protection of the under-evolved races, making it possible for them to build their own civilizations and expand outward at their own pace.
The minus of this book comes from the fact that this division is never explained in scientific terms; you just have to accept it as it is. Perhaps the author himself could not think of an explanation :).
Many reviewers have complained about the description of the Net, the communication network which unites all the worlds in the more evolved regions of the galaxy, saying that it was simplistic (being only text-based). Don't forget that this book was written in 1992, when the Internet wasn't what it is now. And the issue is not so important at all to the plot, it is just collateral.
The characters were nicely built; I have to admit that I cared more for the Tines (packs) than for the humans, though (the same as I cared more for the Spiders in A Deepness In The Sky).
The ending was very good and not rushed, even if a little 'forky'. True, no grand epic descriptions there, but in my opinion they were not necessary at that point.
What I would like now is a book that takes place before this one but after Deepness, finishing the quest suggested at the end of Deepnees and perhaps dwelling on the evolution of the human race towards the setting in Fire: how they reacted in discovering the Zone Thoughts and so on.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Galaxy Spanning Adventure,
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, exceedingly poor execution,
This review is from: A Fire upon the Deep (Hardcover)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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good SciFi,
4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of Imagination,
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than most,
Some of the ideas in the nove are extrapolations of today's computer systems and networks, including virus problems, networks, and bandwidth issues. An IT professional like myself will enjoy this stretching of the mental envelope.
The Tines, a race of individuals made up of groups, is an interesting concept. The author takes this idea and makes it believable, and in fact gives personalities to these alien minds.
All in all, this is a better than average hard sci-fi novel. A follow-up to it would be very interesting.
4.0 out of 5 stars Far out!,
What I really like is the far scope of the book, and the mind bending possibilities of the Transcend and the Beyond. I liked the character development, especially of the 'Riders. Overall, I recommend this book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good Book,
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A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge (Paperback - Aug. 1 2011)
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