Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Witling” as Want to Read:
The Witling
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Witling

3.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  450 Ratings  ·  24 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Witling, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Witling

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 739)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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).
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
Peter Tillman
Feb 05, 2016 Peter Tillman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early work. Holds up well to rereading.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lisa Tansey
It's a fun combination of fantasy and sci-fi, plus a plot that moves and some entertaining characters.
Mar 23, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
So far it's the usual awesomeness from Vinge. Another fantastic alien culture.
Apr 24, 2013 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This isn't bad, but not nearly as good as Vinge's other work.
Jan 07, 2009 Jeffrey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Not as good as his later works, but still enjoyable.
Jul 30, 2009 Leon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best Vinge, but a good idea-based sci-fi adventure.
Jan 30, 2008 Luke marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
one of Richard Stallmans favorites
Jessica Herdina
Jessica Herdina marked it as to-read
Feb 03, 2016
Shirley Stenerson
Shirley Stenerson marked it as to-read
Feb 03, 2016
Jason Rolfe
Jason Rolfe rated it it was ok
Feb 03, 2016
Ryan Lackey
Ryan Lackey marked it as to-read
Jan 31, 2016
Don Stedman
Don Stedman rated it really liked it
Jan 31, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 24 25 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The War Against the Rull
  • Skeen's Leap (Skeen, #1)
  • The Lion Game
  • The Brave Free Men
  • Tunnel Through Time
  • The Outposter
  • Dark Star
  • The Dragon Lensman (Second Stage Lensman Trilogy, #1)
  • Pilgrimage to Earth
  • Maelstrom (Arthur C. Clarke's Venus Prime, Book 2)
  • Fuzzy Sapiens (Fuzzy Sapiens, #2)
  • Voyager in Night (Age of Exploration, #2)
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
More about Vernor Vinge...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »