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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Galaxy Full of Big Ideas to Play With
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,...
Published 17 months ago by John M. Ford

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good SciFi
The overly enthusiastic hype for this book almost spoiled my enjoyment of it. It is not great, but great science fiction (i.e.- Hyperion by Dan Simmons) is very hard to come by these days. A Fire Upon the Deep is good, with enough thought provoking, creative aliens, new concepts in astrophysics and stimulating plot twists and dialogue to carry you into a few late night...
Published on Nov. 24 2003 by Tim Groves


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Galaxy Full of Big Ideas to Play With, Feb. 17 2013
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best Sci-Fi ever, Oct. 13 2013
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect, Jan. 7 2002
I read this shortly after "A Deepness In The Sky", its 'prequel'. (A note: except for the character of Pham Nuwen there is no connection between the two books; this is neither a praise, nor a critique; simply an information which might be useful if you are looking for any connection between the two.)
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Galaxy Spanning Adventure, Oct. 9 2000
By 
John D. Costanzo "johndc" (Bensalem, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This was a great science fiction novel. It is a story about a "virus" that infects the galaxy and the quest to retrieve the "antidote". But there is so much more to this epic. There is a deep space setting, and a setting on a primitive world inhabited by packs of sentient, dog like creatures. Vinge expertly plots the story and brings the two worlds together in grand style. It is a long book, but it is well paced and suspenseful most of the way. The characters, both human and alien, are convincing. An amazing trip through the deepest reaches of the galaxy, I consider this one of the top sci-fi novels of the past decade. Like all great science fiction, it stretches your imagination to the limit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good SciFi, Nov. 24 2003
By 
Tim Groves - See all my reviews
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The overly enthusiastic hype for this book almost spoiled my enjoyment of it. It is not great, but great science fiction (i.e.- Hyperion by Dan Simmons) is very hard to come by these days. A Fire Upon the Deep is good, with enough thought provoking, creative aliens, new concepts in astrophysics and stimulating plot twists and dialogue to carry you into a few late night reading sessions. Several glaring inconsistencies in the behavior of the main characters mar, but do not destroy the credibility of the plot. Some fundamental questions remain painfully unanswered. But, overall a fine read. Space opera lives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of Imagination, July 7 2004
By 
Fx3 (California, USA) - See all my reviews
This novel is full of striking and original ideas. The pack minds, the transcend, the galaxy wide news net, etc. provide a very entertaining background for a story that remains exciting throughout the entire book. "A Fire Upon The Deep" is a fine example of "light" science fiction that is well worth a read. However, bear in mind that the book is certainly not a masterpiece. Do not expect much depth in the characters, or a carefully crafted story that fully exploits the setup. If you do, this book will be a disappointment.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Better than most, Feb. 10 2004
By 
"danason2" (Boca Raton, FL USA) - See all my reviews
This book was well written, with interesting plot lines and characters. It blends computer sci, internet, space wars, feudal society, and aliens together in a fast moving, well tied together work.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Far out!, Oct. 20 2003
By 
D. C Smith (Orlando, FL) - See all my reviews
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It's a good read, much better than his "A Deepness in the Sky". It takes a while to get into the characters, especially the "Tines", but the concept of a group-mind species is quite interesting. I wish the Blight was described in more detail. The ending doesn't quite explain the very beginning where the Blight comes into being in the first place. The Countermeasure part in the end was over pretty quick and I wish it was explained better too. It seems kind of unrealistic what happens with the zone shifts in the end (i.e., no real "scientific" explanation), but then I guess that's the point of Sci-Fi.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good Book, Oct. 10 2003
By 
themarsman (Georgetown, TX) - See all my reviews
I don't remember why I picked up this book in my library...but I did...and it was certainly worth it. The characters are well drawn...and the Skroderiders and Tines are great aliens. In fact, the Tines are the reason I gave this book four stars instead of five...I found them extremely engrossing, so engrossing that when Vinge switches to his human characters I didn't seem to enjoy it as much...also, with the human characters Vinge shows his training as a computer scientist...he tends to focus a bit much on computer systems in the "human world". This doesn't mean the "human stuff" isn't good, it really is...Pham Nuwen is a great character, full of depth and well...character (which is probably why Vinge uses him in the prequel, A Deepness in the Sky). Overall, the book is definitely worth reading...and the prequel is even better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Really Liked this one, Sept. 22 2003
This was a great book. The writing was clear, which I found surprising considering the size of the novel. The pacing was good, it felt like an "epic" in that it slowly built the tension. I was surprised by how well he worked the unique idea of technology zones of the galaxy. I thought it would end up being hokey, but it was actually very well done. I thought about quibbling about the tines race and how I think parts of his creation of the pack mind were unplausible, but after I finished reading the book, I found this only a very minor thing....highly recommended book!
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A Fire Upon The Deep
A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge (Paperback - Aug. 1 2011)
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