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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

A Fire Upon The Deep

Copyright 1992 by Vernor Vinge

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this in April 2001.

The archaeologists from the Straumli Realm uncover a powerful but malignant intelligence. Shortly they are all but completely destroyed as they intelligence breaks free and begins to cop-opt and consume, first the Straumli Realm itself, and then vast reaches of the universe.

On an unknown planet, their parents killed, captured by strange aliens, separated and alone, Johanna and Jefri try to survive.

Ravna Bergsndot was a librarian but now she and resurrected Pham Nuwen search desperately for the single defense against the ravening malignance. Two mighty star fleets pursue their vessel into the slowness of the Deep.

Sounds pretty impressive and indeed it is. It's set against a backdrop of thousands of civilizations spread across the galaxies. It seems quite reasonable to accept entire solar systems being obliterated in the background while our little heroes are struggling with less grand events in a medieval alien nightmare.

Well I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of the Zones of Thought, where the sophisticated automation and technologies of the upper zones fail progressively if brought into the lower zones: the picture of once massive intelligences stumbling around with IQs of around 90 on some planet down at the bottom. It's classic space opera, but with real people in there. On the other hand, it can get a bit frustrating realizing that his metaphor for the entire Universe is the Internet - this was topical, and very new back in '92 but feels a little dated now. Still what a rollicking read, and a lot shorter (and size isn't everything) than Peter F. Hamilton's massive space operas.

Loaded on the 16th May 2001.
Cover of A Fire Upon The Deep
Cover art by Boris Vallejo and Carol Russo Design

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