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The Witling

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  620 ratings  ·  35 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
Paperback, 220 pages
Published November 28th 2006 by Tor Books (first published 1976)
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Average rating 3.43  · 
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 ·  620 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Aug 01, 2010 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
Mar 15, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Leila P
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, in-english
A short first contact novel from the 70's, when PSI powers were "in". Here's a colony planet with people who have no need of high technology because they can teleport, kill with their thought etc. Except for a few unfortunates, who are called witlings. Then they get two visitors from neighbour colony planet who are regarded, naturally, as witlings. Very entertaining story, albeit a little weird (they have no doors between rooms because they teleport all the time??) and very male (the population ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This wasn't bad, wasn't great. Interesting concept, exotic local, just about the right length. I'm sure some of the physics stuff would get some readers excited and get their minds cranking along to prove or disprove the science, but I just took it for granted that Vinge knew what he was talking about.

Most of all I'm just glad I finally read it, this book (a 1976, 1st printing paperback) has been sitting on my shelf for probably more than 15 years.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
This novel is a stark departure from Vernor Vinge's usual technocratic style. The Witling tells of two marooned travelers from a technologically advanced world struggling to survive and make sense of a world full of scientifically constrained magic. The Witling is a light read, more a novella than a full novel. The ending gets rushed, and so feels rather anti-climatic, but overall I enjoyed this book

Violence: PG
Language: PG
Sexuality: PG
Rob Markley
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
Early Vinge novel before he really know how to put a story together. Has some early spark but not up with the later brilliance
Nikita Yurovski
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
A nice little story. Love how Vernor creates worlds and its creatures.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
An unusual mix of high-concept science and fairly juvenile space adventure. I enjoyed it.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simplistic writing and short, but the schtick is interesting enough.
K. Blaha
Aug 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, sf-and-f
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Palfrey
Feb 18, 2012 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
Jun 26, 2015 rated it liked it
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 rated it liked it
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
Martijn Heemels
Jul 28, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Helen Marsh
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
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!
Jim Mastro
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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.
May 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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).
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it
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 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
Jul 08, 2007 rated it liked it
It's a fun combination of fantasy and sci-fi, plus a plot that moves and some entertaining characters.
May 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Good, but not great

A fun read, but not up to the standard Vinge sets with A Fire Upon The Deep or Across Real-time.
Jul 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Not the best Vinge, but a good idea-based sci-fi adventure.
Jul 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
So far it's the usual awesomeness from Vinge. Another fantastic alien culture.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
This isn't bad, but not nearly as good as Vinge's other work.
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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 hi ...more

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