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A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought) Mass Market Paperback – February 15, 1993
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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 unguessable, godlike "Powers." When human meddling wakes an old Power, the Blight, this spreads like a wildfire mind virus that turns whole civilizations 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 doglike 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 mindboggling. 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, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
It has been six years since Vinge's last book ( Marooned in Realtime ), but the wait proves worthwhile in this stimulating tale filled with ideas, action and likable, believable characters, both alien and human. Vinge presents a galaxy divided into Zones--regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. Earth remains in the "Slowness" zone, where nothing can travel faster than light and minds are fairly limited. The action of the book is in the "Beyond," where translight travel and other marvels exist, and humans are one of many intelligent species. One human colony has been experimenting with ancient technology in order to find a path to the "Transcend," where intelligence and power are so great as to seem godlike. Instead they release the Blight, an evil power, from a billion-year captivity. As the Blight begins to spread, a few humans flee with a secret that might destroy it, but they are stranded in a primitive low-tech world barely in the Beyond. While the Blight destroys whole races and star systems, a team of two humans and two aliens races to rescue the others, pursued by the Blight's agents and other enemies. With uninterrupted pacing, suspense without contrivance, and deftly drawn aliens who can be pleasantly comical without becoming cute, Vinge offers heart-pounding, mind-expanding science fiction at its best.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
One mind boggling idea that the galaxy has zones. The closer you get to the galaxy center, the dumber you are, and the slower you go, the longer you live. A fast, smart, malevolent force from the outermost region reaches into the lower zones spreading death and destruction.
Vinge depicts different types of non-human intelligence in a really thought provoking way.
example the Tines who are dog like animals who have human or greater than human intelligence when gathered in packs; they are intelligent, pack animals that live on a close-in feudal world. Many individuals make up a personality. They don’t have hands but use their jaws and paws together in a coordinated way to get things done.
The Skroderiders who are plant-like creatures who become intelligent when paired with carts that some being had created for them billions of years ago
and beings of nearly god-like intelligence created by evolving computer networks, and more.
He also comes up with interesting astronomy by splitting the galaxy up into zones in which physics is differentiated, so that it's possible for certain creatures to travel at beyond light speed and become advanced, and for others to be trapped in zones of slowness (like Earth).
The entertainment to cost ratio of this book is enormous. It is long, it is well written, it gets you thinking when you put it down, and it makes you want to re-read it.
One note: I found the "prolog" weak and (perhaps intentionally) confusing, and it put my younger son off the book. If you want to make sense of the book without this, you could skip it, or (possibly better) start with Chapter 8, in which some new characters are introduced to each other and brought up-to-speed on what's going on in the universe, and read until they leave The Wandering Company. Then go back and start in Chapter 1.
Also interesting is the technological juxtaposition which makes up the central story line. A medieval world set in a universe with limitless (and accessible) technology somehow made each setting seem more alive.
What truly sets this work apart are the "zones" of the galaxy and the variety of alien life forms present within. Breathtakingly original ideas that leave the mind reeling. Rarely does the scale of a novel reach the level that was created here. And maybe that is the key point, as the zones represented a major plot device, understanding and visualizing the scale of events throughout the novel was critical. Add in wolf-like pack animals with combined conscientiousness that are more clever than humans... tree-like creatures as old as history that use computers to store memories and a 4-wheeled cart to move around... yes please!
There is not much wrong with this work, and oddly the one detraction may also be considered a strong point. The focus of the novel is very narrow, at least from a character perspective. Many times, very interesting and critical events were given a few sentences. A billion lives lost... civilizations destroyed... etc. In the end, the narrow focus in an such an interesting setting makes this a great read that is not as daunting as some other sci-fi classics.
This book was a complicated read that pulled me into it. Not sure I can properly find words to describe it. I highly recommend it if you don't mind a long read. There are 4 books in the series.
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The aliens are great.Read more