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Publisher's Summary

A Fire Upon the Deep is the big, breakout book that fulfills the promise of Vinge's career to date: a gripping tale of galactic war told on a cosmic scale. Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. 

Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these "regions of thought", but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.

Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.

A Fire upon the Deep, which began the Zones of Thought series, is the winner of the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Novel. 

©1992 Vernor Vinge (P)2010 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1993

What listeners say about A Fire Upon the Deep

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance
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Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Horrible narration

What would have made A Fire Upon the Deep better?

I honestly couldn't listen past the first hour. The narration is so annoying that I just couldn't take it. I'm looking forward to reading the paper version

What didn’t you like about Peter Larkin’s performance?

I felt like I was listening to an awful version of Nick at Night. The cartoonish voices he uses...high pitched and irritating, are bad enough, but he also seems to be telling the story like he is talking to 3 year olds. Very odd inflection

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

What a wild, wacky, awesome book!

A galaxy where faster-than-light communication is possible, but only at very low bandwidth...so the galaxy becomes a hangout for USENET trolls and forum spammers.

A sentient plague of fascist oppression that spreads like a virus throughout the galaxy.

Wolflike creatures with pack minds, so that each pack member is both a body appendage and a piece of the individual's personality...

This book has some of the wackiest, wildest ideas I've ever read in sci-fi, and I've read a LOT. The plot moves fast and the scenery is spectacular. The characters are a bit less fleshed-out than in some of Vinge's other books, but that's OK...to find out more about the dashing space-hero Pham Nuwen, just read the (even better) prequel, A Deepness in the Sky.

Overall, one of the best space opera books ever, right up there with David Brin's "Uplift" books and Dan Simmons' "Hyperion".

38 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good Story Torn apart by bad narration

The story and premise are really good, but god that narration. The cartoonish voices have been frequently mentioned but what really got me was how congested the narrator sounded. It's like he had a really bad cold or flu and they decided to record anyway. I couldn't finish i'll have to get a hard copy of the book.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Galactic war, librarian heroine

This is the story of what happens to humans and other residents of the galaxy when they encounter more ancient beings in the far beyond. The Internet (or whatever the Internet has become in this future time) plays an interesting role, in that various powers use it to spread information and disinformation in the growing war. I really liked that the heroine was a librarian, so her knowledge of how to find information and act on it made her critical to the humans' survival.

10 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Wow, didn't see that coming!

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I have never taken the time to write a review before this one. I know we all have different tastes and many have reviewed this book in a positive light (that is why I bought this in the first place). This is the first audio book where my mind would wander. My own thoughts about what to eat for dinner or which route to take home from work were more engaging than the story. Very disappointing. I have about 9 hours left and just can't finish it.

Would you ever listen to anything by Vernor Vinge again?

I do not know how narrators are chosen to read for an author, but if Vernor had some decision in the process, then NO, I would never listen to another book by him again. This book is probably better to have read physically than to listen too.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Peter Larkin?

I have read that people describe Peter Larkin as using a "cartoonish" voice for the aliens. Of course I read that after I purchased the book. I actually began to interpret the story through the lens of the animated "Heavy Metal" movie. I thought that might be ok; first audiobook that I saw as a cartoon in my mind. But it was the constant stuffed-up-nose-muppet voices that finally killed it for me. To answer the question, anyone who can keep the listener from visualizing cartoons would be better.

What character would you cut from A Fire Upon the Deep?

I was never invested enough to care about the characters. I thought the hive mind dog pack was an original concept, but not worth building a world around. I would also cut the syllable count for the characters. Listening to the 4 and 5 syllable names over and over became pretty sing-song like and whoops, there went my attention again.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved the universe and the aliens

Highly recommended. Overall, I liked "A Deepness in the Sky" better, but this book was great too. The first part of "Fire" was excellent, exploring a fascinating universe and a unique alien race. I *really* liked the way the race was introduced --- realization of its differences only slowly coming into focus. And the idea of the universe having slow and fast zones was really great. Unfortunately, once the universe was introduced, the second half was much weaker --- just a slow march to a predictable conclusion. (Ironically, "Deepness" was the opposite. It was so slow in the beginning, but ended on a high note.) Despite this minor weakness, Vernor Vinge is definitely on my list of favorite authors. I read this book before "Deepness" and recommend that order (even though this occurs later in time).

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A book that will leave you asking why

I am positive that there is an audience for this book. Perhaps I am not it. However if you like your Sci fi to have some logic behind it then give this one a pass. Too often I found myself asking the question of why. Why is the galaxy like this? Why would the characters do that? Why does the plot need so much finger waiving to explain things?

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Compartmentalized laws of physics

Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep is the initial installment in his Zone of Thought series. In this universe, different regions of space display distinct properties. A malevolent entity has been awakened inadvertently and begins to run roughshod over the region known as the Beyond. An eclectic group comes together to recover the only possibility means of stopping the entity while being pursued by various groups. The "weapon" has ended up on an offbeat planet of little consequence inhabited by intelligent canids who are absorbed with power struggles, now aided by the arrival of alien technology.

Vinge's universe offers a unique scenario where space possesses distinct, unique regions: close to the galactic core lies the unthinking depth where technology and intelligence do not work at all; immediately outward is the slow zone, where Earth lies along with the normal laws of physics, including light speed. After this, lies the Beyond where faster than light travel is possible and the bulk of space worthy intelligences reside, including a menagerie of alien races. Beyond the Beyond is the realm of the Transcend which is ill-defined, but suggests some form of post-human, non-biological based entities. Most of the action takes place in the Beyond with a gradient effect in place. There are also zone interface tsunamis that produce upwelling from one zone into the next. The alien species are well crafted, especially the canids that are a dog like creature, but with multiple, independent, intelligent, but disconnected units coming together to form a single person.

The narration is well done with good character distinction as well as children, especially alien juveniles. Pacing and tone are appropriate to the action.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Some of the best SF ever

There's a reason this and the followup (A Deepness in the Sky) are in any top 25 SF list. Fantastic books, and certainly worth the somewhat higher than normal price.

With that said though, you can't help but notice that the tone of the narrator often doesn't truly reflect the adult and serious nature of the story being read. It's good narration for sure, but often the content and narrator tone just don't seem to match. I almost regret not buying the paperback for this reason, so my minds voice could capture the suspense and all seriousness of the situations that often gets lost in elocution by Mr Larkin. But I'm not disappointed. Still 5 stars.

13 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A Critically Acclaimed Disappointment

This novel won the Hugo award and was nominated for the Nebula award as well so I went into it with relatively high expectations. Unfortunately, it turned out to be somewhat of a bore. A Fire Upon the Deep contains some original and fascinating ideas but the characterization is stiff and the novel really drags in the middle. Vinge seems more interested in exploring the medieval world on which he's stranded some of his characters than the complex and interesting galactic structure he's created, populated with numerous intelligent races and super intelligences so powerful they are impossible for lesser being like humans to comprehend.

Peter Larkin's reading contributed to my disappointment with the book as well. He used cartoony voices for a number of the alien characters that made it increasingly difficult to take the book seriously.

17 people found this helpful