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The Witling

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  503 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
This second novel by multiple award-winner Vernor Vinge, from 1976, is a fast-paced adventure where galactic policies collide and different cultures clash as two scientists and their faith in technology are pitted against an elusive race of telekinetic beings.

Marooned on a distant world and slowly dying of food poisoning, two anthropologists are caught between warring alie
ebook, 224 pages
Published November 28th 2006 by Tor Books (first published 1976)
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Aug 23, 2010 Kiri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So, it turns out that Vernor Vinge once wrote pulp sci-fi! I saw this book with his name on it in a used bookstore and picked it up for $1. I can only imagine that this was how he was learning his craft. The central idea is mildly interesting: a planet where the population (and indigenous creatures) are able to teleport (with varying strength) and only those without this skill ("witlings") resort to things like "science" and "technology." The expected confusion ensues when more advanced but non- ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Jenne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There wasn't really a lot TO this book--it was entertaining enough, but it really suffers in comparison with his later books like A Deepness in the Sky and a Fire Upon the Deep, which I think are some of the most interesting alien books I've read.

I think someone mentioned this one on a mailing list I belong to, and it sounded kind of interesting: basically there's this planet where everyone has psychic powers, so they can teleport themselves and kill people at a distance and so on. People witho
Althea Ann
I started out giving this book 3 stars, as a perfectly serviceable sci-fi adventure; although certainly not up to the standards of Vernor Vinge’s later work (I absolutely love Fire Upon the Deep).

It’s a First Contact story, and the premise is a little familiar, but not bad: anthropologists from Earth arrive at a seemingly non-advanced alien planet and gradually figure out that the native people have highly-developed mental abilities (teleportation). Those who lack these abilities are generally
K. Blaha
Nov 17, 2016 K. Blaha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
As far as I can tell, “The Witling” is Vernor Vinge’s second novel, and to some extent, it shows. I enjoyed reading it, but it doesn’t have the depths of Vinge’s later works like “A Fire Upon the Deep” or less-known but also good “The Peace War”. The book is only about 175 pages long; I’m not the fastest reader and I finished in two pretty short sessions, also unlike Vinge’s other novels.

The story opens with two humans who have become marooned on an alien world with human-like inhabitants. Only
Oct 29, 2008 Stef rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-and-f, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Palfrey
May 13, 2015 Jonathan Palfrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a nice clear story with an unusual heroine, and a well-conceived and original scenario unlike any other I can think of. It makes use of teleportation and telekinesis; but the teleportation is not quite the same as Alfred Bester's jaunting, and the difference has interesting effects on the resulting society.

It's the story of two relatively normal humans marooned on an abnormal planet, so I'm reminded vaguely of Mission of Gravity and The Left Hand of Darkness.

As with Mission of Grav
Jul 24, 2015 Annise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea of teleportation has always appealed to me, so a world where this is an inherent natural ability is interesting. Vinge thinks it through to a rich degree, describing novel uses for the ability, and limitations that stop it being all powerful, while still making sense within the narrative. In addition, there's a good plot, as the two human explorers try to contact home, and find a way off a planet whose abundance of heavy metals will, in due course, kill them.

There's some interesting wo
Jan 19, 2013 Sam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Space travelers (from a human space colony) come to a new planet of humans with unusual mental powers.

The best thing about the book is the scientific discussions of the mental teleportation powers of the inhabitants of the planet. This includes even great speculations about the physics of teleportation. (Such as conservation of momentum and angular momentum. Of course this cannot work mathematically, but it still makes for fun speculation.)

The weak thing about the book is the plot which, althoug
Helen Marsh
Two people, apparently descendents of earth, get stranded on a planet where the inhabitants have an unusual talent that has caused their society to develop in an unusual way.

I felt Vinge was altogether to taken with exploring how this unusual talent would work so that much of the book required an understanding of maths and physics to appreciate it.

There was some human interest, but it felt rather shallow.

The writing style did not draw me in.
Martijn Heemels
Quite a short story, but entertaining. In typical Vinge style, the aliens' world is believable, although in this early book still a bit simplistic. Still, some entertaining ideas on how a race would develop when given extraordinary powers.

His really excellent later books do a much better job of imagining an alien civiliation that is utterly different from ours, but still make you feel part of it.
Thomson Kneeland
Vernor Vinge has written some great novels, but The Witling definitely does not live up to his other works. Premises were interesting enough, but the story is not too captivating, and in its short length, really offers nothing substantial. The ending involves a gratuitous 20 pages where everything is suddenly "resolved" without really having any kind of climactic plot. Vinge is a great writer, but look elsewhere!
Apr 25, 2015 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strong-women
Originally published in 1976, Vinge's carefully thought through science also addresses social issues like beauty and status. I particularly enjoyed that the "stocky" abrasive woman pilot was, essentially, the heroine and perceived as beautiful by the planet's inhabitants (who had evolved from humans).
Jim Mastro
A fun and interesting read, but not as good as Vinge's other books. No surprise there, as this was one of his first. Interesting to see this snapshot of his development as a writer. His skill with character development was very strong, even at this early stage, but the story structure was less polished than, say, A Deepness in the Sky, or A Fire Upon the Deep.
David Robins
Mar 26, 2011 David Robins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by Vinge, and definitely plan to read others. This book is more about "ingenious people use science to save themselves" (and the strange natural ability of the inhabitants of Gira, and how they navigate), and that was good as far as it went, but I'm expecting more political philosophy from his others.
Dec 06, 2012 Enno rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What this book taught me: Vernor Vinge is brilliant when he's writing great SciFi, but boring when he is writing pulp. This book is dated, and if you're hoping for more of what makes Across Realtime or Fire Upon The Deep so great, stay away from The Witling. I gave up in chapter 3, returning this to the friend I borrowed it from.
Sep 17, 2007 Jana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to believe that this book was written over 30 years ago. It was well written and a quick read. This is the story of two people stranded for some time on a foreign world, a world where teleportation is a "Talent" that most people have. The story tells of their quest to get back home.
Adam Graffunder
Dec 12, 2007 Adam Graffunder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simple yet kinda subtle. Vinge has been a serious science fictionist for a long time.

spoiler below:

This book is about physics and spherical geometry.
Lisa Tansey
It's a fun combination of fantasy and sci-fi, plus a plot that moves and some entertaining characters.
Dec 28, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good early pulp sci-fi. I enjoyed the character development and story. The hard science was a little much for me, but the concept was well described.
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Christopher Spring rated it liked it
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Jeffrey Shrader rated it liked it
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Mark Rafn rated it liked it
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Andrew rated it liked it
Aug 18, 2011
Tim Hyland
Tim Hyland rated it it was ok
Sep 02, 2012
Steve rated it it was ok
May 06, 2013
Tj Murphy
Tj Murphy rated it it was amazing
Jan 25, 2009
Wendy rated it it was ok
Nov 11, 2014
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Vernor Steffen Vinge is a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels A Fire Upon The Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999) and Rainbows End (2006), his Hugo Award-winning novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002) and The Cookie Monster (2004), as well as for his 1993 e ...more
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