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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Fire Upon The Deep

A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought) by Vernor Vinge

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

June 14, 2001

Honestly, I don't know why I liked this book, but I did. For a 600 page book, it moved quickly, and for the most part I liked the characters from the dog-like "Tines" to the living-plant Skroderiders, to you average humans.

I guess the reason why I liked this book was because the two books I'd read before it were, while shorter, quite long and quite dull. Read my review of "Destiny's Road" by Larry Niven, and while I think my review was too nasty to be posted, The "Reality Dysfunction" by Peter Hamilton was not good either, in my opinion. Both those books were tediously slow, I hated the characters, and in Hamilton's case he had so many characters he just lost track of them during the story. Vinge, on the other hand, has a manageable number of characters, each with enough personality so that I, as the reader, can like the good guys and dislike the bad guys. The story starts a little slow, but gains speed until the conclusion.

Overall, I liked the book, but this whole "Zone" concept kept nagging at me. I can understand why closer to the center of a galaxy, faster-than-light travel might not work, since there are more stars producing gravity, more mass, etc., but why don't computers work as well? I guess I never took enough science classes to understand why technology becomes dumber the closer to the center one gets. It's like, if I put my computer and put it in a submarine and go to the bottom of the ocean it runs at 1/4 the speed and can only play Pong, why would that be the case? Is it just the way computers in the "Beyond" are designed, that the technology they use is disrupted by more mass, gravity, or whatever? I don't know, and the author never explained, which kind of ticked me off since it was so integral to the plot. I can hardly complain too much, though, as a writer I try to avoid scientific technobabble as much as I can because it doesn't interest me much, so I can't really fault Vinge if he's somewhat the same on that front.

There are a few other things I didn't like. For instance, the names used to reference characters sometimes changed, like in one sentence Pham Nuwen is referred to as Pham, the next he's "Nuwen", and the next he's "Pham Nuwen". It was the same for some of the other characters, especially the "Tines". Maybe that's not technically wrong, but it was kind of annoying to me. Most of all, I didn't like that Vinge cheats the readers of reading about the final climactic battles. Right after the heroic rescue of a captured human and Tine, the story picks up after the battle, which was a little disappointing to me, but I could see the necessity of it.

Overall, this is classic "space opera" (how I loathe that term as both a reader and writer!), but the end has a twist in that it doesn't end all Happily Ever After. It may be long, but it's worth the read, even if I can't fully explain what my fondness for this book was. This one is already a classic in its own right, and if you haven't read it, put it on your list.

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