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A Fire Upon The Deep (1993)

A Fire Upon the Deep (1993)

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4.13 of 5 Votes: 2
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0812515285 (ISBN13: 9780812515282)
tor science fiction

About book A Fire Upon The Deep (1993)

Maybe I'll come off as bi-polar when I start this five star review (my first of 2011) with an extensive list of why the book I'm applauding is utter garbage. But what the hell, I'm game if you are. Let's do it.Why "A Fire Upon the Deep" is Utter Garbage1. Mr. Vinge's characters are only so-so, and the humans are the worst of the lot. 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 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.g. their planet), I should be able to feel the emotional resonance pouring off them without trying to. Vinge simply can't do it - he doesn't make me care. His attempts are heavy-handed, crude, and impotent.2. The plot is not paced appropriately, nor equally distributed between the different locations Vinge focuses on. Galactic in scope, yet there's 400 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.3. 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? Not when you have such great alternatives running through that brain of yours (*cough* Amdiranifani *cough* Ravna Bergsndot *cough* Scriber Jacqueramaphan *cough*). 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"?4. Deus ex Machina. 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: a few trillion people who die might not be that enthusiastic). Not terribly satisfying. 5. Suspension of disbelief. 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?Fuck, period. Yeah, period.Why "A Fire Upon the Deep" is Utter GeniusIf you have ever lamented that books rarely seem to be bold, intensive explorations of idea spaces; if you have ever longed for a great tome that makes you rethink what was possible in literature on every single one of its 600+ pages; or if you love novels in which the author demonstrates the fun he/she had writing it through their word selection, choice of presentation, and manipulation of language - stop reading this review right now, go savor the experience of "A Fire Upon the Deep", and then name any children you bear from that point forward either Vernor or Vernina. 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... but it that has more to say about the teleology of Man, the possible varieties of intelligence, and the magnitude of wonders in store for a space-faring civilization than dozens of the best books (sci-fi or otherwise) you've ever encountered.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!), but I will ask: why in the name of all the Transcendent Powers has this not been made into a film? Yes, I'm aware of the ludicrous challenge it would be, the expenses involved, and the vanishingly small chances of getting it right. But damn! I mean the camera angles you could use to represent perspective! The voice-work for pack talk! The imagery and the music and the ..... argh!Go get your shovel. We're digging up Kubrick.

I had high hopes for Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep because I love sci-fi set in space but, while it might make a decent fantasy novel, it is a poor excuse for science fiction.The novel takes place in Vinge's "Zones of Thought" universe in which the galaxy is separated into discrete zones, each of which is identified by its relative location to the galactic core and its ability to support advanced technology and faster-than-light travel. I initially found The Zones a silly and unnecessary creation. They are more akin to fantasy than to science fiction. Yet, after a while, the Zones bothered me less and, although I never found them to be a welcome addition to the story, they were an interesting plot device.The story centers around two groups of characters. The first group is a family that makes an emergency landing on an alien planet after barely escaping the hostile takeover of a research lab by a superhuman intelligence. After a hostile confrontation with the planet's inhabitants, the medieval Tines, brother and sister Jefri and Johanna Olsndot are separated between two groups of warring natives, each of which wants to exploit the visitors' knowledge of technology to defeat the other.The Tines are a play on the classic hive mind theme, but much smaller in scope. They are pack animals which, when in small groups, form one intelligent individual. In larger groups or as singletons, they are generally not intelligent. This certainly made for some difficult reading at first, as the concept takes a while to sink in. I think the Tines are Vinge's most interesting creation for this novel. Unfortunately, as with his human characters, the author fails to give most of the Tines anything more than minimal characterization which results in a Disney cartoonish effect. While Johanna and Jefri are struggling with the Tines, the superhuman intelligence wakened at the research lab, known as the "Blight" or the "Straumli Perversion," begins to spread, destroying worlds, enslaving their populations, and killing other Powers in the process. Ravna Bergsndot, along with Pham Nuwen, a man from the Slow Zone who was recreated and inhabited by a Power, and two Skroderiders, intelligent plants which ride on mechanical "skrodes" that support memory and mobility for their riders, take to rescuing Jefri Olsndot and recovering the suspected "countermeasure" to the Blight in Jefri's ship at the Tines' world at the bottom of the Beyond.It's all a very fantastical story that takes quite a bit of acclimation. I nearly abandoned the novel altogether due to the complexity. There were so many foreign concepts that much of it was nonsensical babble. I had re-read some sections multiple times before feeling that I had understood what was being explained. Eventually, after much patience, the universe Vinge has created started to make sense, even if it wasn't very sensible.For the most part, the story is rather boring. Thinking back on the novel, I can barely remember anything other than the major events. Much of it is merely filler designed to explore the concepts of Vinge's universe rather than move the plot forward. The novel is also dated. Vinge could have avoided this by not tying his "Known Net" concept to the early 90s Internet. I find it laughable that he couldn't think of anything more advanced than Usenet to model how messages moved through space. He also makes references to bandwidth in bits and kilobits. I bet he cringes now to know that contemporary cell phones achieve a higher bandwidth than the super-advanced technologies Vinge describes in his novel. He also regularly references people performing a task he refers to as "programming," as in computer programming, and this again shows that he did not forsee that computers would move beyond the command-line interface into something more usable. If this seems harsh, compare this to Dan Simmons's novel Hyperion which was published earlier than A Fire Upon the Deep, yet Simmons's work has none of these faults. Years later, Hyperion continues to feel as if it were set in the far future.Furthermore, Vinge's writing ability leaves much to be desired. His descriptions often lack metaphor, simile, or analogy. When he does use these techniques, they are rarely insightful. He seems to love the ellipsis, as he uses it quite frequently to indicate a character's apprehension. I can't count how many times I heard, "But now..." and "But then..."A Fire Upon the Deep is entertaining at times but it is far too long, too boring, and too mediocre for me to recommend it. But then...

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Spoiler-free recenzija:TEORIJA ČOPORATIVNE INTELIGENCIJE U UTRCI ZA SPAS SVEMIRAKnjiga donosi svemir pun ideja poput Zona i Sila, koje su drugačije od nekih uvriježenih koncepata pa se može reći da u početku predstavlja izazov stvaranja cjelovite slike o pročitanome. Jednom kada čitatelj to učini, knjiga ga uvlači u napetu avanturu prepunu paralelnih radnji i zanimljivih vrsta poput mehaničko-biljnih jedinki i srednjovjekovno-čoporativno-psetolikih kolektivnih umova, koje postaju nositelji radnje dajući knjizi posebnu dimenziju. Zanimljivost vrsta i pažnja kojom ih autor donosi, vrlo lako potiskuju ljude kao pokretača priče. Koncept čopora, prednosti koje on nosi i paralela s ljudima koja se provlači u knjizi, fantastično su obrađeni i možda najbolji dio knjige.Jedna od najjačih strana knjige je karakterizacija zanimljivih i različitih likova, koji će svojim postupcima radnju uvijek pogurati u nepredvidivom smjeru. Dinamika knjige je gotovo uvijek na razini s paralelnim radnjama, a jedino što moram primijetiti je sporiji početak knjige. Ne bih ga okarakterizirao kao "dosadan", koliko je čitatelju možda teško „ući“ u knjigu. Mora se izboriti sa konceptom svemira koji mu autor predstavlja, ali dajući čitatelju taman dovoljno vremena da si stvori viziju prije nego krene najuzbudljivija utrka za spas galaksije. Uostalom, vjerujem da SF fanovi i očekuju svemir koji će ih intelektualno dodatno izazvati. Čitatelj u svakom trenutku ima osjećaj epske bitke koja je pred glavnim junacima, koja završava finalom koje donosi velike promjene za sve likove.Moram spomenuti zanimljiv detalj da se u knjizi često koristi termin Mreže te komunikacije preko nje. Iz današnje perspektive taj je element potpuno jasan i razumljiv, ali treba imati na umu da je knjiga objavljena 1991. godine. Za potvrdu koliko je autor bio vizionar, dovoljno je reći da u knjizi mrežu često naziva „mrežom milijuna laži“; kao da to negdje danas postoji. :)Da zaključim, iako ovo je SF roman, zapravo je u centru svega svaki lik, a svi likovi zajedno uz svoju snažnu karakterizaciju nose knjigu. Kada bi i maknuli na stranu sve SF elemente, ostali bi izuzetno snažno napisani likovi i odnos koji čitatelj stvari prema njima, a to je ono što u konačnici izdvaja ovu knjigu od sličnih. Jedino što mogu na kraju svima preporučiti knjigu uz veliku želju da pročitam i preostala dva nastavka trilogije. Apsolutno zaslužena maksimalna ocjena 5/5!
—Davor Petričević

Epic science fiction at its best, this space opera novel shared the 1993 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. 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 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 any science fiction fans.
—Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽

The first third of this book is some of the best science-fiction I have ever read: good writing, fast pace, some breathtaking action, excellent balance between narrative and explanation, and some really, REALLY cool ideas thoroughly thought-out and implemented. Several times my brain practically crackled and I said, "wow" out loud when certain ideas Vinge had been hinting at "clicked" and became clear. Vinge is also pretty skilled at keeping the vast hard-sci-fi-space-opera scope of the book fascinating, but not letting that complexity overwhelm the characters or plot.Unfortunately, the pace in the middle of the book flags somewhat and the writing falters there a bit too, chunks of exposition becoming more prominent. But the last third redeems it, picking up the pace again and serving a very satisfying ending. This came very close to sitting next to Dune and Book of the New Sun in my top-tier of my favorite sci-fi books, so I recommend it to any science fiction fan.

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