Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought)Vernor Vinge
Awards: Hugo
Rating: ★ ★ - - -

As advertised on the cover, this certainly is grand-scope, universe-covering sci-fi. It is generally well crafted and many of the ideas are cool. But I found that I lost interest in most of the story lines.

Vinge divides the galaxy into concentric regions, from the core to the periphery: the Unthinking Depths, the Slow Zone, the Beyond. The regions’ names reflect the level of technology that will work in them; as you go out from the core, you are able to use progressively higher and higher levels of technology. (Faster-than-light propulsion won’t work in the Unthinking Depths, for example.)

Outside of the galaxy is a region called the Transcend which is the home of entities that are so unbelievably powerful that humans can’t even comprehend their abilities. A group of humans living at the farthest edge of the galaxy accidentally wakes up an evil entity in the Transcend, and the entity starts to take over the galaxy, turning more and more worlds to its thrall as it makes its way inwards.

One group of humans is able to escape with a space-bending tool that can stop the evil entity. Unfortunately, they end up crash-landing on a planet in the Slow Zone and all the adults are killed by the planet's medieval dog-like indigenous residents so it is up to the human children to save the galaxy.

I found the adult humans in this story generally annoying. The kids were okay and I liked the dog-creatures a lot. Each dog-creature is actually a “pack” made up of anywhere from four to six individual living “elements.” By themselves, the elements can’t think well and tend to run around randomly, but when several are combined into a pack, they can form a single highly intelligent being. The book picks up when it is focused on the dog world but it definitely slows down when it switches to the human story lines (which, unfortunately, take up most of the book).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Cthulhu,

Always look forward to your book reviews -- they must have a good library down underneath the Pole!

I also liked the ideas in Fire Upon the Deep more than the characters. (I actually liked the computer programs even better than the dogs, to be honest.)

But I **loved** Vinge's Peace War (and its sequel, too.) Give that a try -- it's a much shorter read than Fire.

Also, you need to kick it old school -- get some A. E. van Vogt up there for crying out loud!


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