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on 13 April 2017
Enjoyable, but nothing special. Some sections interesting, while others felt drawn-out and lacked weight.
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on 6 June 2012
I'll give Vinge his due, he has some great ideas. However, he appears to have a habit of presenting a whole boat-load of interesting ideas in a novel and only really working with a number of them. Frustrating for the reader if the ones you find the most interesting unexplored. There was one aspect of the novel which really grated to the point that I almost put it down half read - the sci-fantasy plotline. I thought this was a cop-out to an extent, as the world created here didn't really require much imagination (although it's inhabitants surely did). Having said that, I found some of the ideas presented engrossing and managed to suffer the fantasy aspects to reach the conclusion of the book. It does manage to ramp up into a bit of a page turner and I'm glad I've read it, but I won't be sticking this one on the bookshelf to enjoy again at a later date.
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on 3 March 2007
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 June 2011
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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on 15 December 2011
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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on 30 November 1998
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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VINE VOICEon 9 February 2002
I've read a lot of over-rated books recently - but this grabbed my imagination and attention. Can't put it down! A story across galaxies with brilliant extrapolation regarding the alieness of other living beings and inter-action between them.
Not a science fantasy book; but a science fiction masterpiece with the imagaination of the great Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle. Someone reccomend me more like these!
Marvellous- worth waiting for the re-print to come out. Thats a good hint in itself is it not!
CjW BSc.
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on 20 May 2008
A very satisfying book, combining grand themes, a strong narrative, and excellent and thoroughly well thought-out ideas for alien races, societies and technologies. I particularly liked the approach to the predicament of a starship's captain, forced to make unaided decisions which will change the course of history - this was in the tradition of the best naval historical fiction, as it should be, with a good dose of espionage and treachery thrown in. The closest comparable book, for me, is Iain Banks' The Algebraist - high praise.
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on 9 January 2002
Vinge takes all the best ideas from both Fantasy and Sci-fi and masterly crafts them into this book. Everything from epic galactic space battles, Inspired new technologies and mind bogglingly constucted aliens, to Medieval feuds, Makavelian plotting and amazingly in depth characters.
The plot doesnt just keep you guessing all the way to the end, but makes you re-evaluate that guess every chapter. Just as you think the good guys are finally gaining the upper hand, the bad guys pull out another trump card.
Not only does Vinge bring all this alive by going into extreme detail with character development but also the science behind it. Among other concepts like the "Ramscoop" and "Slow Zone", the Tines race is an inspired concoction by Vinge and he introduces and portrays them beyond reproach to provide a deeply rich and Wonderous backdrop for one half of the struggle against the Blight.
In summary A Fire Upon The Deep is a space opera of unsurpassed proportions and delving just as deep into the subtletes of human and alien psyche to produce, in short, the best book i have ever read.
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on 25 May 2000
I reckon this is the most interesting / exciting / thought-provoking scifi book I've ever read. Sure, it gets a bit wobbly on occasion but, overall its a corker.
The opening chapter is very powerful, as is the idea of the physics of the universe in which this story takes place. There is a strong feeling of the age and history and size and complexity of the universe and its assorted star-faring species.
No buts. Its a great book.
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