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A Fire Upon the Deep

(Zones of Thought #1)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  45,104 Ratings  ·  2,060 Reviews
Alternate Cover Edition can be found here.

A Fire upon the Deep is the big, breakout book that fulfills the promise of Vinge's career to date: a gripping tale of galactic war told on a cosmic scale.

Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the
Mass Market Paperback, 613 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Tor Science Fiction (first published 1992)
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Sanjai Tripathi That bothered me for a sec too, until I remembered it was briefly mentioned that Steel had learned of Johanna's use of the term and liked it, so he…moreThat bothered me for a sec too, until I remembered it was briefly mentioned that Steel had learned of Johanna's use of the term and liked it, so he started calling his race that.(less)
Steven This one is fine. The prequel isn't really tied to this one by more than a single character, one that is quite different (for reasons explained in the…moreThis one is fine. The prequel isn't really tied to this one by more than a single character, one that is quite different (for reasons explained in the first book) between the two books. Nothing that happens there affects this story. It's more of a companion piece.(less)

Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Brian Halberg
Recommended to unknown by: Jo Walton
Shelves: 2011, sci-fi-fantasy
Syntax: 81
As received by: GR ServerFarm NW
Language path: Stream of Consciousness Babble→Poorly Considered Argument→LOLcats→Goodreads In-jokes→Only Funny to Me→Irony→English
From: Joeleoj
[A known Goodreads reviewer of Midwesten US origin. Extensive priors before this review began. Appears aligned with the Hipster Coalition but has denied close ties. Program recommendation: Imagine this post being read in a tone of self-satisfied ironic detachment]
Subject: Books to talk about with my wife
David Hughes
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who's ever thought they could possibly stomach science fiction
Shelves: scifi, fiction
I want to make it clear that I don't lightly write rave reviews. Please read the following sentence twice:

This is an absolutely fantastic book.

On the outskirts of the Galaxy, far from the physical constraints of the Galactic core, faster-than-light travel is possible, and Transcended intelligences flourish to a complexity that dwarfs human comprehension. Scavenging for buried knowledge on a dead world, a party of humans awakes an ancient evil: an archive containing an entity so powerful and so m
Jamie Collins
This is an impressive work of hard science fiction. I admire the author's creation and the writing is decent if not riveting.

I enjoyed the story of the Tines, aliens with pack minds, and I came to like the concept of the "zones of thought", where different levels of technology are possible in different areas of the galaxy.

But I found myself indifferent to the rest of the characters. The enemy they called the Blight seemed ominous only in the prologue - for the rest of the book it was kept at suc
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Epic science fiction at its best, this space opera novel shared the 1993 Hugo Award with Doomsday Book. This is incredibly imaginative, with a great, complex story and detailed, believable world-building, and some of the best alien species ever imagined. It's a long, sprawling story and the technological parts are rather dated, but I still loved it.

A group of scientists investigating a five billion year old data archive accidentally unleashes the Blight, a malignant superintelligence that rapidl
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book comes highly recommended by Redditors and several "best of sf" lists. However, seeing that Vinge is a scientist I did not expect much from this book, some cool, believable sf concepts at the most. The book did not start well for me with silly names like "Wickwrackrum" popping up and a confusing first chapter. However, once I begin to follow the book (about 30 pages in) Vinge really surprised me with his talented authorship. He has the ability to create characters worth caring about and ...more
mark monday
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: futuristic
children on the run. alien dogs that think as a group. power in numbers! powerful book. good dogs. although some bad dogs too. I guess fanatical is a bad personality trait, even for dogs.

different flavors: adventure, medieval fantasy, comedy, hard science fiction, even horror. big ideas.

thoughtful, exciting, highly original. fantastic book.
Jan 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Sooo, I know this is a seminal classic of the Space Opera genre, so the fact I didn't LOVE it as much as everyone said I would makes me feel a bit inadequate in a way, but hey, everyone is entitled to their opinions, eh?

I mean, from an intellectual standpoint, this is brilliant. The world-building is so convincing, I actually was frequently disturbed by it, which is kinda why I can't love it, which is actually a testament to it's brilliance. It's thought provoking and unbelievably well shaped.
Dec 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Maybe I'll come off as bi-polar when I start this five star review (my first of 2011) with an extensive list of why the book I'm applauding is utter garbage. But what the hell, I'm game if you are. Let's do it.

Why "A Fire Upon the Deep" is Utter Garbage
1. Mr. Vinge's characters are only so-so, and the humans are the worst of the lot. Every once in a blue moon a character will shine, which makes it so hard to bear their poor treatment at other critical points. Vernor struggles, as most sci-fi aut
I love it when I give a book 5-stars!

I knew practically nothing about this book when I started - except that I hadn't liked the only other Vernor Vinge book I'd read (Rainbow's End). This is about a gazillion times better!

So here's the low down:

This is a far future yarn, with three great 'big ideas'.

1) Space is not uniform. I'm probably going to explain this poorly (my wife looked somewhat unconvinced when I tried to explain it to her), but here goes: there are zones of thought. Somewhere in the
Daniel Roy
May 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sf
I tried very hard to like A Fire Upon the Deep. The reviews for it are stellar, and it did won a Hugo. Also, I am a huge fan of SF, so I felt this book would be a sure-fire hit with me. Not so.

As other reviewers pointed out, this book has some great ideas. Pack sentience is very nice, and the idea of zones is intriguing. Unfortunately, all these are wrapped in very shoddy writing. To tell the truth, the writing was barely above fan sci-fi in some places.

The characterization is also, most unfortu
A Fire Upon the Deep: Fascinating aliens but clunky plot and characters
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
A Fire Upon the Deep was the big breakout novel from Vernor Vinge, winner of the 1993 Hugo Award and nominated for the Nebula. It features a unique premise I haven’t encountered before: the universe has been separated into four separate Zones of Thought: the Unthinking Depths, Slow Zone, Beyond, and Transcend. Starting from the galactic core, the Zones demarcate differing levels of techn
Dec 28, 2008 rated it liked it
This is the galaxy in the unimaginably distant future, populated with millions of species. The shape of civilizations is dictated by the shape of the galaxy: close in at the core is the “slowness,” the place where only sublight travel is possible. Farther out is the “beyond,” where FTL drives function and cross-system communication passes on great data pipelines, and very advanced technology can begin to be truly sentient. And above that is the “transcend,” where automation goes beyond sentience ...more
Executive Summary: This book started out pretty strong for me, but lost steam as I went on. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped.

Full Review
My reading of this book was pretty uneven. I read about 25% on a plane, then several days with no reading. Then I read another 25% on a plane and several more days with no reading. After that it was a chapter or two here or there stretching the whole thing out over 2+ weeks. It's not a short book, but it was obvious to me as I went on that I was losing s
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
I seem to be one of the few geeks who was dramatically underwhelmed by this book. I guess that this is classic "hard SF", in the sense of being all ideas and not so much on the characterization. And maybe I've just passed the time in my life when that really excites me. But overall, it just didn't grab me.

The notion of the zones of thought was interesting, albeit a real stretch to me. The tines were a kind-of interesting construction, though mass minds have been done before. And, for whatever re
Nick T. Borrelli
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite Hard SF novels of all-time. It's brilliant and you should definitely read it.
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Brad by: SciFi & Fantasy Book Club Jan 2009 Space Opera
Shelves: sci-fi, to-read-again
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, overrated
I had high hopes for Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep because I love sci-fi set in space but, while it might make a decent fantasy novel, it is a poor excuse for science fiction.

The novel takes place in Vinge's "Zones of Thought" universe in which the galaxy is separated into discrete zones, each of which is identified by its relative location to the galactic core and its ability to support advanced technology and faster-than-light travel. I initially found The Zones a silly and unnecessary c
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any science-fiction fan
The first third of this book is some of the best science-fiction I have ever read: good writing, fast pace, some breathtaking action, excellent balance between narrative and explanation, and some really, REALLY cool ideas thoroughly thought-out and implemented. Several times my brain practically crackled and I said, "wow" out loud when certain ideas Vinge had been hinting at "clicked" and became clear. Vinge is also pretty skilled at keeping the vast hard-sci-fi-space-opera scope of the book fas ...more
This is sooo close to being a 5-star book for me. So, so close.

A lot of TV series follow the basic "A Plot and B Plot" style of storytelling. Good TV shows manage to connect them thematically and then tie them together into one story by the end. Vinge does this here.

On the macro scale we have the Blight, an ancient, malevolent virus that takes over everyone in its path, human and alien alike. On the smaller scale we have two kids stranded on an alien planet along with a bunch of their friends in
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Vernor Vinge has become one of my favorite science fiction authors with this amazing novel. Filled with big, huge ideas and amazing technology. Plus the aliens are awesome. The alien Tines were so original and amazingly described that I was in heaven reading about them. I loved this from beginning to end. Make sure you read this slowly or you might miss a handful of neat ideas.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sajfaj
Koliko se često desi da se „ne mogu ovo više“ na kraju promeni u „ovo je možda i najbolji sf roman koji sam pročitao“? Stvar je u ovome – Vindž baca čitaoca direktno u svet i ne drži mu ruku a ma nimalo. To inače ne bi bio problem, šta više, bila bi prednost, da me Vindž jednostavno pusti da lutam dok ne uhvatim priključak. Medjutim, on me hendikepira i baca me niz stepenice i uz sve to mi još ukrade kolica. I ugasi svetlo. Dok se ja popnem uz stepenice dobijem sede u kosi, ali sada imam mačje o ...more
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. This was such an incredibly fascinating book and I wish I could have read it all straight through. It has one of the single coolest alien species I've ever seen and the story is really great. Part of the story is a race through space, including a space battle, and part of the story actually takes place on this planet. There are two groups of aliens, falling generally into "good guys" and "bad guys". The world is a medieval setting and it's interesting to see how each of the groups ben ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sci-fi lovers
Shelves: sci-fi
This is one of the weirdest books I've ever read. It was amazingly creative and clever, and is easily one of the best sci-fi books I've ever laid hands on. The only problem is that it is written in such an extreme third-person viewpoint that people not experienced with sci-fi material will have trouble understanding what is going on; as such, I can only recommend it to experienced sci-fi readers.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Visiškai klasikinis saifajus, gal net galima kvalifikuoti kaip space opera. Svetimos planetos, milijonas protingų rasių, blasteriai ir FTL travel. Ko daugiau gali reikėti normaliam nerdui?

Pirmą dalį įvertinau 3, šią - 4 *, vidurkis turbūt ir gaunasi tiksliausias įvertinimas: 7/10. Labiau pasimėgauti sutrukdė itin ilga įžanga ir absoliučiai jokios legend - skaityai ir galvoji, KASPERŠ tos aukštosios aukštumos, kuo jos skiriasi nuo kokios Aukštosios Laboratorijos, etc etc etc.

Bet šiaip visi niek
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
So many ideas! Lovecraftian superintelligent ancient Powers. Unusual and interesting alien species like the warrior butterfly Aprahanti or the pack-minded Tines. Skroderide or Die! FTL drives and space weaponry, but everyone communicates through Usenet? The so-called Zones of Thought is a great concept, if you don't think about it too much. Pacing issues and Vinge's awkward prose at times can detract, but overall this is a wonderful mess of a sprawling space opera. Love the Boris Vallejo cover.
It seemed to me that this novel was an attempt by the author to have his cake and eat it too. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, an author generally chooses either a hard sci-fi technological setting or a medieval setting. A Fire Upon the Deep had both, and suffered a bit for it, at least for me, as I found the pacing uneven.

I really enjoyed the universe that Vinge created here—regions of space where things moved faster or slower, where artificial intelligence could be raised to the s
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, sf-masterworks
I don't know why but I don't think I had even heard of this author before I saw it added to the SF Masterworks series and I'm surprised; he really is quite an accomplished SF writer.

This is an epic, sprawling space opera set in the distant future where a menacing blight is unleashed after an ancient artefact is discovered and it threatens to overwhelm the galaxy. A few people just manage to escape with the key to counteracting the blight but fall foul of the local inhabitants on a planet they c
Peter Tillman
Vinge's high-water mark to date and his masterwork, I think. Splendid deep-space adventure. On my (ever-changing) 10-best-SF-ever list.

Here's Jo Walton's fine retro-review, from 2009:

"Any one of the ideas in A Fire Upon the Deep would have kept an ordinary writer going for years. For me it’s the book that does everything right, the example of what science fiction does when it works."

I'm (mildly) surprised at the number of so-so reviews here. Which just go
4.5 to 5.0 stars. One of the most imaginative SF novels I have read in some time. Absolutely mind-bending. Highly recommended!!

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Dec 27, 2008 added it
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi & Fantasy Book Club Jan 2009 Space Opera Theme Selection
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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

Other books in the series

Zones of Thought (3 books)
  • A Deepness in the Sky (Zones of Thought, #2)
  • The Children of the Sky  (Zones of Thought, #3)
“I never guessed I could cry so hard my face hurt.” 39 likes
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