A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought)
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A Deepness in the Sky takes place in the Slow Zone, next to a very peculiar star. Humanity ignored it for centuries, until possible alien radio signals prompt two nearby cultures to each send a fleet of ships: The book shares a single character with A Fire Upon the Deep , but is a distant Prequel with a drastically different setting. A Fire upon the Deep , which was written first, mostly takes place in the Beyond. A human expedition to the Transcend releases the Blight , a malignant artificial intelligence which has been dormant for five billion years. The only survivors of the expedition are one family, who flee to a backwater world, where both parents are immediately killed and the children sucked into the power struggles of the medieval-level alien natives.
Meanwhile, the Blight is rampaging across the galaxy, so a second expedition is sent in search of the children, on the off-chance that their parents might also have found a counter-measure. It primarily follows Ravna, one of the main protagonists of Fire , as she attempts to prepare Tines World for the arrival of the Blight despite opposition from some of those who were in coldsleep during the events of the first book, and who are beginning to doubt her account of the events.
It is clearly the start of a new series, as it ends in a cliff-hanger with multiple arcs truncated. The Blabber is set at at least millennia later, on a human-colonized planet near the top of the Slow Zone. A young man has grown up with a very strange pet who is suddenly an object of intense interest when a shipful of Beyonder sightseers arrive.
It was out of print for a long time but is now available in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge You need to login to do this. Get Known if you don't have an account.
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You don't believe me? Books to talk about with my wife Crypto: Books to talk about with my wife when she can't fall asleep Distribution: 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. 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? 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. Kind of like newsgroups from 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.
A Fire Upon the Deep
I also really dig the way Vinge divides the universe into "Zones of Thought," so technology gets more 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 And how do they get their computer network to operate so efficiently, because I keep having to unplug my modem?
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 pager. Basically, a team of human scientists awaken a malevolent A. 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. 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.
View all 43 comments. Apr 04, David Hughes rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: 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: 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.
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 But, frankly, Vinge is forgiven these devices to make his plot work. For a book this good, I could forgive just about anything. View all 3 comments. Dec 27, Jamie Collins rated it liked it Shelves: 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 suc This is an impressive work of hard science fiction. 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 more 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. Epic science fiction at its best, this space opera novel shared the 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 rapidl Epic science fiction at its best, this space opera novel shared the Hugo Award with Doomsday Book. 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. Jun 07, Apatt rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book comes highly recommended by Redditors and several "best of sf" lists. However, seeing that Vinge is a scientist I did not expect much from this book, some cool, believable sf concepts at the most. The book did not start well for me with silly names like "Wickwrackrum" popping up and a confusing first chapter. However, once I begin to follow the book about 30 pages in Vinge really surprised me with his talented authorship. He has the ability to create characters worth caring about and This book comes highly recommended by Redditors and several "best of sf" lists.
He has the ability to create characters worth caring about and rooting for, some of them are not even human love those Skroderiders. Then there is his wonderful world creation and general sf skills, he is so great at this I wonder if the author has transcended. The Tines are some of the most imaginative aliens I have ever read about, the details of their biology and culture are beautifully worked out; yet Vinge has managed to imbue these creatures with personalities.
I haven't even gone into the cosmic plot involving singularity and the god-like Powers yet and I'm not going to because I could spend all day extolling the virtues of this book and never get anything else done. This is a definite must-read for any connoisseur of quality sf! Aug 28, mark monday rated it really liked it Shelves: I guess fanatical is a bad personality trait, even for dogs. View all 4 comments. Jan 12, Felicia rated it really liked it Shelves: 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 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. 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! Dec 21, Brian rated it it was amazing Shelves: Maybe I'll come off as bi-polar when I start this five star review my first of with an extensive list of why the book I'm applauding is utter garbage.
But what the hell, I'm game if you are. Vinge's characters are only so-so, and the humans are the worst of the lot.
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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 aut Maybe I'll come off as bi-polar when I start this five star review my first of with an extensive list of why the book I'm applauding is utter garbage. 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.
Vinge simply can't do it - he doesn't make me care. His attempts are heavy-handed, crude, and impotent. The plot is not paced appropriately, nor equally distributed between the different locations Vinge focuses on. Galactic in scope, yet there's 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 more proficient as a writer, the conceptual elements at play might have been more tightly integrated with the plot, and that would have been a real treat. 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?
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"? 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: 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 more 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? Don't read the back cover, don't listen to more 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 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 more about the book go read! Yes, I'm aware of the ludicrous challenge it would be, the expenses involved, and the vanishingly small chances of getting it right.
A Fire Upon the Deep - Wikipedia
I mean the camera angles you could use to represent perspective! The voice-work for pack talk! The imagery and the music and the Go get your shovel.
We're digging up Kubrick. Jun 16, Clouds rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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'. I'm probably going to explain this poorly my wife looked somewhat unconvinced when I tried to explain it to her , but here goes: Somewhere in the I love it when I give a book 5-stars!
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 more advanced technology functions. If you try and fly a high-beyond spaceship down into the low-beyond, it's more advanced functions will gradually shut-down, etc.
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. 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. 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. A large section of the story is set on one alien world. The Tines are without a doubt one of my favourite alien races. 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. 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. 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 more than happy to overlook them as I was gleefully swept away on the ride. I picked this up as a Hugo winner from 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: May 03, Daniel Roy rated it did not like it Shelves: 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. 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: 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 , 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 '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 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. View all 11 comments. Apr 05, Stuart rated it liked it Shelves: A Fire Upon the Deep: Instead, more advanced technologies cease to function when taken into slower zones, since the laws of physics themselves are different.
This include faster-than-light travel, so FTL ships that travel into slower zones need to also have ramjet drives to avoid losing power. Artificial intelligence also does not work, and in the Unthinking Depths near the galactic core only the most primitive biological life forms can survive. Humanity first began in the Slow Zone on Earth, but later established some civilizations in the Beyond.
One of their research teams ventures from Straumli Realm into the Transcend, where they discover an ancient archive that could grant untold knowledge and riches, or a hidden evil being of terrible power….
The evil super-being grows at tremendous pace, and chases down and destroys one of the two fleeing human ships, but somehow the remaining one miraculously escapes with a few plucky young survivors, and possibly the key to destroying the ancient super being dubbed the Blight. And then they crash-land on a primitive planet named Tine populated by…. The two young protagonists, Jefri and Johanna Olsndot, are captured by rival factions and must find their way back together amidst a struggle for supremacy, while learning the strange alien ways of their hosts.
I know that even the best novel can sound a bit silly when reduced to a brief synopsis. Meanwhile, Vinge does a little better with the next group of characters, as we meet Ravna Bergsndot, the only human worker at a galactic communications network hub named Relay. They commission a merchant vessel manned by a wise-cracking outlaw and his Wookie sidekick…just kidding.
The vessel is piloted by the Skroderiders Blueshell and Greenstalk, two intelligent palm fronds that ride specialized wheelchairs to get around. There are some enjoyable interactions between Ravna, the ancient Pham, and the Skroderiders as they seek knowledge about the Blight, its intent galactic mayhem and domination, of course , and how to potentially stop it.
The Blight quickly grows in power, dragging in other races and annihilating worlds as it speeds toward Relay. So despite the rapacious advance of the Blight, it cannot exert its full strength in the lower zones. Sadly, the book bogs down in the extended middle portion as we follow the lives of Jefri and Johanna. We learn a lot about the Tines, who form telepathic packs with high intelligence, but whose members are fairly helpless when separated from the group.
Their rival factions operate in a medieval world contested by the Flenserists, Woodcarvers, and Lord Steel. Granted, this illustrated the vast gulf between the high and low zones, but it still made for an uneven tone. I found myself struggling to maintain interest, even though some other readers liked the Tines and their unusual telepathic pack minds. Inevitably the story picks up the pace as the separate storylines converge on Tine, and there is a drawn-out medieval battle between the Tine factions, while Ravna and Pham and crew rush to reach Tine and unleash a force to destroy the Blight, which is close on their heels.
There is a suitably whiz-bang finale no Ewoks, thank goodness , and the Deathstar is…nevermind. The audiobook is narrated by Peter Larkin, who has a very amiable reading tone, but felt relentlessly upbeat and would have benefitted from more emotional variation depending on the story tone. Nov 14, Nick T. Borrelli rated it it was amazing.
One of my favorite Hard SF novels of all-time. It's brilliant and you should definitely read it. Dec 28, Lightreads rated it liked it Shelves: This is the galaxy in the unimaginably distant future, populated with millions of species. The shape of civilizations is dictated by the shape of the galaxy: A human expedition is exploring an ancient archive abandoned in the transcend, where they awaken a very old, very nasty power defeated billions of years ago. We begin with the destruction of the expedition, the few survivors fleeing down the galaxy to the very edge of the slowness with something that just might be able to save everyone.
The malevolent power is hot on their trail, as is a rag-tag band of its other surviving victims — humans and aliens and the man who was possessed by a defeated opposing power. The book plays with ideas of sentience, of communication, of information systems. The awakened power begins to absorb civilizations by the hundreds above, and far below the survivors are caught up in the political struggles of primitive, doglike, group-minded aliens. My reactions to this book went something like this: Take it back, the character work has gotten a lot better.
And ooh, that was neat. A big fucking idea book, and I do love those. But I never quite tipped over the edge from reading and enjoying into ravening need to continue. Instead, it felt lazy and unsatisfying, full of really disturbing implications that were barely even blinked at.
I neither recommend nor anti-rec this book because there are people out there who will love bits of it so much that nothing else will matter. Sep 18, Rob rated it liked it Shelves: This book started out pretty strong for me, but lost steam as I went on. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped. Full Review My reading of this book was pretty uneven. It's not a short book, but it was obvious to me as I went on that I was losing s Executive Summary: It's not a short book, but it was obvious to me as I went on that I was losing steam.