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A Fire Upon the Deep Paperback – 17 Sep 1992


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld Military (17 Sept. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857980034
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857980035
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.6 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 513,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

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 unpredictable, godlike "Powers". When human meddling wakes an old Power, the Blight, this spreads like a wildfire mind virus that turns whole civilisations 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 dog-like 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 mind-boggling. 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Fleeing a menace of galactic proportions, a spaceship crashes on an unfamiliar world, leaving the survivors--a pair of children--to the not-so-tender mercies of a medieval, lupine race. Responding to the crippled ship's distress signal, a rescue mission races against time to retrieve the children and recover the weapon they need to prevent the universe from being changed forever. Against a background depicting a space-time continuum stratified into 'zones of thought, ' the author has created a rarity--a unique blend of hard science, high drama, and superb storytelling." --"Library Journal" "A tale that burns with the brazen energy of the best space operas of the golden age. Vinge has created a galaxy for the readers of the '90s to believe in...immense, ancient, athrum with data webs, dotted with wonders." --John Clute, "Interzone" "Vernor Vinge's best novel yet."--Greg Bear, author of "Moving Mars" "Vast, riveting, far-future saga...The overall concept astonishes; the aliens are developed with memorable skill and insight, the plot twists and turns with unputdownable tension. A masterpiece of universe building." --"Kirkus Reviews" "The first grand SF I've read in ages...Vinge is one of the best visionary writers of SF today." --David Brin, author of "Earth" "Fiercely original...Compelling ideas in the book include problems and advantages of group mind, galactic communications turbidity, and the prospect of civilizations aspiring to godhood." --Stewart Brand, founder of the "Whole Earth Catalog" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Dec. 2002
Format: School & Library Binding
Vinge has often stated his problems with science fiction- the prospect of an impending Singularity, when human society becomes incomprehensible and unimaginable to us, and impossible for the author to describe. This book, and its companion, A Deepness in the Sky, are set in Vinge's solution to this problem: a universe where physical laws are graded in different regions of the Galaxy - here in the Slow Zone, faster than light travel and communications, and superhuman artificial intelligences are impossible; the Beyond, where FTL and strong AI are possible, and then the Transcend, where entire races can pass through the Singularity and become Powers, before vanishing in some fashion within a few years.
Most of the book takes place in the Beyond; glorious space opera, in a galaxy of interstellar empires, god-like Powers, and the newly rebooted ultimate computer virus/evil god, the Blight. The opening prologue itself is stunning, just for the amount of information compressed by implication into a handful of pages; and it gets better from there. There's an interstellar communications network, with just enough bandwidth for a Galactic Usenet, littered with misinformation and occasionally hilarious wacko speculation about current events ("Is it true that humans have six limbs? If so, there may be a simple explanation..."). Throw in fascist butterflies ("Death to Vermin!"), truly *strange* aliens and a frantic pursuit over thousands of light years, all the way into the Slow Zone, for possession of a Transcendent device that can possibly stop the Blight, and it's not surprising the book was voted a Hugo award winner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dave on 23 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was full of fascinating ideas from start to finish. The author brings in new ideas about the different cultures and tech's in true sci-fi style (imho) by letting you realise just before the full (and interesting) explanation is given what the core content is going to be. The ideas contained are both small and global and are still very strong in my mind at least 5 books and a couple of months later.
I could not recommend this book highly enough. Go and read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reader on 3 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
Dr Vinge is, in my opinion, one of the best sci fi authors alive. This is the first book I read of his, and I was hooked. The worlds Dr Vinge creates stay with you - a rare achievement. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Nov. 1998
Format: Paperback
I actually read this some years ago, when it first came out in the UK, so I can't make too many specific comments. However, I would certainly like to add my agreement to the previous reader's remarks. This is a real galaxy-spanning, "sense of wonder" type book. Intelligent space opera for the nineties. I'd also recommend any other Vinge book, especially the Peace War & Marooned in Realtime (sometimes published together as Across Realtime).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have not read something like this in a long time (something a student of mine recommended). The style is truly compelling, and the story fascinating, if a little confusing in parts: this has more to do with my limited notions space, I suspect, than with any fault on the part of the writer.

At first I was thrown by the alternation between Deep Space and sub-Arctic Tine World. I found the Tine-world episodes more enthralling, if more alien - though I have to say that Skrodes came across as pretty weird too.

The group-mind analysis was more than credible: I normally hate stories where animal are anthropomorphised - but here, there was a very skilled depiction of group function and Mr Vinge chose wolves for clear reasons, setting him apart from those endless sentimental trash fantasy writers. Phew!

The Deep Space parts were necessary, I suppose, and in parts just immense! demanding more than I could really handle at times (but the expert reader of this genre would be in his or her element, I have no doubt), but I did find the radio messages verging on the insufferable; that may also be because we live in a world of techno-spam, and some of the messages resembled what colleagues threaten me with - a Blight in itself.

So, I happily go along with people who call Mr Vinge a visionary. His style is rapid, accurate, and witty. Yes... I will read another of his books. Definitely a powerful introduction to his writing, and to a new type of Space Odyssey. Thank you for this baptism by fire.

Emmanuel Power
Geneva, Switzerland
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By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Jun. 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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?
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