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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.

©1992 Vernor Vinge (P)2010 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1993

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    705
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  • 3 Stars
    217
  • 2 Stars
    57
  • 1 Stars
    31

Performance

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    154
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Story

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Noah
  • New York, New York
  • 06-20-10

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".

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

As the Universe Turns

I am coming to the conclusion that Space Opera is not for me. This is about my fourth space opera by the fourth author and I have yet to really like any of them. This started out really great, through the first six chapters I thought I was really going to enjoy the book. It had a fast start with some really cool things happening. Then it went to drool slow moving, I don't care, I am confused, just like that. I stuck it out through 27 chapters. At about the 18th chapter I was looking for a gun to put myself out of my misery.

Space Opera seems to be like Soap Opera, watch on Monday and Friday, skip through the week cause nothing new is going to happen. There are too many good books out there for me to beating myself in the head waiting on something to happen that I care about.

Narrator was good, although he made all aliens sound cartoonish. I don't know if that was the right thing to do or not.

I liked the aliens. The pack people/animals reminded me of the aliens in Robert Reed's "Beyond the Veil of Stars" or the swamp like creature in Clarke's "The City and The Stars", both great books.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Pam
  • United States
  • 04-13-13

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

hard to follow, but in the end it makes sense

first thing is there are these "zones" that are not explained at all really but they are sections of the galaxy that are separated by the types of technology that would work there, Earth (old Earth since this is way far into the future) - Vinge first used the concepts of "Zones of Thought" in a 1988 novella, "The Blabber", which occurs after Fire. Vinge's next novel, A Deepness in the Sky (1999), is a prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep set 20,000 years earlier and featuring Pham Nuwen. As of 2009, Vinge was working on The Children of the Sky, "a near-term sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep", set approximately ten years later.

it starts with an imaginative description of the evolution of this super-intelligence through exponentially accelerating developmental stages, ending in a transcendent, nigh-omnipotent power that is something that normal Humans cant understand at all - then before its final "flowering", the changes in a single minute of the Blight's life are said to exceed those of 10,000 years of human civilization.

so at first this was really hard to follow, as someone was going into some kinda ancient archive and had "awaken" some type of programs that started to get sentient and they had to get out of there before it became a problem for them, it didnt work and they crash onto a planet with these "Tines" which are like dogs in packs but with long necks and smart as humans only when they are in groups of 3 or more - they are at the level of medieval Earth so just cross bows and axes and stuff like that

things get really hard to follow but in the end you will understand most if not all of it, I do feel that this could have been about 5-10 hours longer and told a story with more things explained but its ok


also get the other one "A Deepness in the Sky" if you want to know more about Pham Nuwen

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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

3 of 3 people found this review 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).

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Matthew
  • Eugene, OR, United States
  • 08-06-10

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Slow start Strong finish

Fairly good novel. I got lost quite a bit with the premise of the "beyond" but overall the story was fascinating.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jim N
  • Chicago, IL
  • 11-30-13

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.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful