Let me open this Book Club of One entry by redundantly hammering on a thing: This is a long book! One thing i’ve learned in this process is that us nerdy-folk must be drawn to thick books! If books were fast-food, sci-fi and fantasy books would be the Hardee’s/Carl’s JR’s Thick-Burgers of the book world! If novels were toast… they’d be the Texas Toast of the toast-verse! If these tales were toilet paper… they’d be triple-ply!
Observations about the average length of sci-fi/fantasy reads aside, let’s move on.
i really enjoyed A Fire Upon the Deep. While i never really got my head around Vinge’s “Zones” i liked the concepts of them. They made for some very interesting Sci-Fi reading.
Probably what i enjoyed most about A Fire Upon the Deep was the exploration into the idea of sentience. Vinge pokes at our notions of sentience without falling into the same tired tropes of many sci-fi novels. Sure, there’s a program that “becomes” sentient (or was it always a sentient presence and just needed the program to manifest itself) but it comes off as fresh. Partly because of the way he introduces and then develops it with the reader, partly because it is a new take on the idea. There are also some very interesting races. The Skroderiders are a tree-like folk who biologically lack short-term memories, but gain them by attaching themselves to mechanical motorized bases, called Skrodes – hence “Skrode-riders”. Because their natural memories are long-term based-only they bring a distinct world-view with them into the universe of the story. Another interesting race are the Tines. Tines are a sort of canine race but a single “person” consists of 4-8 individuals that are sort of telepathically linked to one another. Fewer than 4 and they are lacking in intelligence, greater than 8 and they become a sort of mob, too many conflicting minds to really form a properly functioning “person”. There are also transcendent beings, capable of manipulating physical matter as easily as we can manipulate our thoughts.
The story-line is enjoyable itself, nicely tying together medieval level action with super-advanced technological challenges! Children stranded on a low tech planet are thrust into low-tech political intrigue in their fights for survival while rescue streaks across the galaxy!
Mixed in like a dash of salt into chocolate chip cookies (if you don’t put a dash of salt into your cookies, you’re not doing cookies right) is a sort of space-internet known as “The Net”. The Net is limited by transmission bandwidth over the vastness of space. It’s full of “trolls” and half-truths (just like our current analogue in the real-world). Vinge’s frighteningly accurate portrayal of net-life is even more amazing when you consider that the book was published in 1992!
Book Club of One Grade: B+ (would be a super solid A but there’s a sort of Deux ex Machina thing that goes on). Solidly on the “read this” list for me. So good i bought a copy to put in my own personal library (which is being parred down with our down-size in dwelling, and it STILL made the cut). Not since Perdido Street Station has a setting of a book been so engaging to me!