A Fire Upon The Deep Mass Market Paperback – Feb 15 1993
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In this Hugo-winning 1991 SF novel, Vernor Vinge gives us a wild new cosmology, a galaxy-spanning "Net of a Million Lies," some finely imagined aliens, and much nail-biting suspense.
Faster-than-light travel remains impossible near Earth, deep in the galaxy's Slow Zone--but physical laws relax in the surrounding Beyond. Outside that again is the Transcend, full of unguessable, godlike "Powers." When human meddling wakes an old Power, the Blight, this spreads like a wildfire mind virus that turns whole civilizations into its unthinking tools. And the half-mythical Countermeasure, if it exists, is lost with two human children on primitive Tines World.
Serious complications follow. One paranoid alien alliance blames humanity for the Blight and launches a genocidal strike. Pham Nuwen, the man who knows about Countermeasure, escapes this ruin in the spacecraft Out of Band--heading for more violence and treachery, with 500 warships soon in hot pursuit. On his destination world, the fascinating Tines are intelligent only in combination: named "individuals" are small packs of the doglike aliens. Primitive doesn't mean stupid, and opposed Tine leaders wheedle the young castaways for information about guns and radios. Low-tech war looms, with elaborately nested betrayals and schemes to seize Out of Band if it ever arrives. The tension becomes extreme... while half the Beyond debates the issues on galactic Usenet.
Vinge's climax is suitably mindboggling. This epic combines the flash and dazzle of old-style space opera with modern, polished thoughtfulness. Pham Nuwen also appears in the nifty prequel set 30,000 years earlier, A Deepness in the Sky. Both recommended. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
It has been six years since Vinge's last book ( Marooned in Realtime ), but the wait proves worthwhile in this stimulating tale filled with ideas, action and likable, believable characters, both alien and human. Vinge presents a galaxy divided into Zones--regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. Earth remains in the "Slowness" zone, where nothing can travel faster than light and minds are fairly limited. The action of the book is in the "Beyond," where translight travel and other marvels exist, and humans are one of many intelligent species. One human colony has been experimenting with ancient technology in order to find a path to the "Transcend," where intelligence and power are so great as to seem godlike. Instead they release the Blight, an evil power, from a billion-year captivity. As the Blight begins to spread, a few humans flee with a secret that might destroy it, but they are stranded in a primitive low-tech world barely in the Beyond. While the Blight destroys whole races and star systems, a team of two humans and two aliens races to rescue the others, pursued by the Blight's agents and other enemies. With uninterrupted pacing, suspense without contrivance, and deftly drawn aliens who can be pleasantly comical without becoming cute, Vinge offers heart-pounding, mind-expanding science fiction at its best.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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?Read more ›
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.Read more ›
In the Transcend live the Powers, transendental beings of great power, that are severely limited in other zones because of the time-lag in communication, etc. Many corporeal beings from the lower levels try to acheive transcendance, and therefore tinker in that level. Our story starts with a human colony trying to achieve transcendance, but they unwittingly release a Power of great malevolence and extreme strength. This Power destroys the colony and goes on a rampage through the rest of the galaxy, bent on universal dominance.
However.... Two children and their parents have escaped the holocaust with a vital piece of information - a Countermeasure that could damage/destroy the Power. The Power knows it's missing, but not where. When these refugees crash on a pre-industrial world, the race is on between the Power and a small group that have the key to using the Countermeasure.
The story is more complex than a simple outline can describe, and includes a number of extraterrestrial races, planets, and subplots. They are held together by a galaxy-straddling faster-than-light newsnet, much like the newsgroups of current internet technology.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 on Oct. 13 2013 by David Scrimshaw
I really ought to know better by now. It doesn't matter whether an award is given out by fans or by peers, critics or the general public, whether the criteria is ostensibly "best"... Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2012 by Geoffrey Dow
This novel is full of striking and original ideas. The pack minds, the transcend, the galaxy wide news net, etc. Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by Fx3
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2004
I tried very hard to like A Fire Upon the Deep. The reviews for it are stellar, and it did won a Hugo. Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2004 by Daniel Roy
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... Read morePublished on Oct. 20 2003 by D. C Smith
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... Read morePublished on Oct. 10 2003 by themarsman
This was a great book. The writing was clear, which I found surprising considering the size of the novel. Read morePublished on Sept. 22 2003 by C.W.
Vinge is probably best-known today for his early exploration into the idea of a technological "singularity". Read morePublished on July 16 2003 by Jack Boyce