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Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Fire Upon The Deep

It's been a long time since I last delved into the realm of
Hard Science Fiction, so it took me a little while to get into this book. About 1/4th of the way through, I caught my momentum and immersed myself in Verner Vinge's Hugo Award winning novel.

A Fire Upon The Deep takes place in the extreme future where humanity is but a single race among millions of space faring civilizations. This is so far into the future that references to "Old Earth" are made very infrequently and even then, are shrouded in the myth.

An interesting characteristic of the galaxy in Vinge's work, is it's divided into different regions. Radiating outward from the center of the galaxy is the Slow Zone. This is the region of space where Earth is thought to reside in. Here, we are restricted by sub-light travel and only rudimentary technologies work. Further out from the Slow Zone is the Beyond. Once in the beyond, the laws of physics change allowing for amazing feats of engineering. The Beyond allows for the feasibility of interstellar travel. On the far side of the Beyond, you have the Transcend. Races who are able to move from the Beyond into the Transcend literally become god-like entities called "Powers". It is not known whether there are zones beyond the Transcend.

Our little drama takes place near the border between the Beyond and the Transcend. A group of humans looking to unlock the secrets of the next zone establish a base on a planet that houses an ancient technology archive; an archive older than reliably recorded history. The human meddlers manage to unleash an unmentionable evil that proceeds to spread its influence throughout known space.

I'm not going to get into spoilers, but from this setup, you get a wild ride from technology beyond imagining down to medieval knife wielding canines. I found the book to be both very original and extremely engaging. My only caution is, unless you're used to reading Hard Science Fiction, you might find yourself getting bogged down in what seems like weird asinine technology references. Thankfully, I speak fluent technobabble, so I waded through it just fine.

I'm giving this 4 sheep.


  1. This is one of those sci-fi classics (I think it won the Hugo?) that I need to eventually read.

  2. Well any story with medieval knife wielding canines is definitely worth looking at :) Thanks for sharing today.

  3. Sounds like a smut-free scifi winner! :P Great review Richard.

  4. @spaz Yup it totally won a Hugo.
    @Denise: Enjoy the hell out of it! I did :)
    @Katie: thanks!

  5. You forgot to mention a concept even more interesting than the Zones, and that is the society of hive-minds known as the Tines. A 'mind' that has semi-intelligent organisms that can bind together into an intelligent 'mind' that uses sound, with all of its inherent weaknesses, as the conduit for thought between each 'cell'.

  6. @Greg: Those are super cool. I was purposely leaving them out because I was concerned about giving away too much! There's so much about this book that's super unique...

  7. I think that's the most I have EVER heard Richard say "super" in one conversation. lol Must be a SUPER cool book ;)

  8. It's been a long time since I read "pure" sci-fi. This one has piqued my interest. Thanks for a great overview of the story.

  9. I enjoy Catherine Asaro, Heinlein and Asimov, so thank you for the review!

  10. @dani: Thanks! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!
    @kaisquared: Hmm. I just looked up Catherine Asaro. She's from Oakland! Bay Area Native! I'll have to check out her stuff.