Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

Author: Vernor Vinge
Pages: 613
ISBN: 9780812515282
Buy it from The Book Depository

While exploring a long forgotten data archive an expedition of archaeologist programmers, the Straumli Realm, unwittingly unleash an ancient menace with the potential of enslaving the whole galaxy.

In an effort to escape from this evil a small group of survivors flee on a cargo ship and get stranded on a medieval-level world inhabited by dog-like inhabitants (the Tines).  The Tines attack them shortly after their arrival leaving only two survivors, a pair of children.  Unbeknown to them their ship contains the only countermeasure against the Blight.

Responding to the stranded ship’s distress beacon, a rescue mission races against time to save the children and recover the countermeasure.

The Verdict
It’s seldom that I come across a novel that simply blows me away and in this case saying it blew me away would be an understatement.  There’s a reason that A Fire Upon The Deep won a Hugo Award for best novel in 1993.  It’s an amazing space opera that had me hooked from the start.  I couldn't put it down and blew through the 613 pages in less than two days.

Vernor Vinge offers a unique twist on physics.  In the universe of A Fire Upon The Deep the galaxy is separated into different Zones.  Each Zone allows for the existence of an increasingly complex level of technology and sentience.  Civilizations progress from the lowest level until they reach the outer Zones where they can finally Transcend.  I found this concept very interesting and it is used to great effect in the novel.

What really got me hooked though were the Tines and their pack-minds.  Somewhat like the Borg, a Tine consciousness consists of a pack of individual members sharing their thoughts using ultrahigh frequency sound.  These packs range in size and the number and disposition of the members influences the characteristics of the individual consciousness. 

The world is well thought-out and gripping.  The characters are vivid and endearing and will have you rooting for them.  The novel brings many captivating concepts together and meshes them into a riveting story that has it all.

I highly recommend A Fire Upon The Deep.  After reading it Vernor Vinge is now one of my favourite science fiction authors.  I will definitely be reading more of his work.

Rating 8.5/10

Buy it from the Book Depository

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