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A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought, #1)
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Group Reads 2018 > August 2018 Group Read - A Fire Upon the Deep

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message 1: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo | 1092 comments This is to discuss August 2018 group read - A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.


Marc-André | 298 comments A Fire Upon the Deep or when Space Opera meets Cyberpunk. At least this is how it feels so far.

I'm at 35% right now and I'm enjoying it a lot. This is definately a Space Opera, yet with all those systems connected by the Net and the nature of the Blight, Cyberpunk is not very far. The idea of a "Space Internet" certainly sounds like one of the inspirations for Charles Stross's Accelerando (which I also enjoy and highly recommand).

The story is face paced and Vinge has some good prose. The way we are introduced to the Tines is well done. You start off thinking they are humans and slowly bits are revealed to show something else entirely. Well done indeed.

The plot manages to keep me hooked, but I'm more interested in the macro (the Blight) than the micro (the conflict between Tine groupes).

I'm not sure I like the characters, especially the children, or they leave me mostly indifferent, except for Ravna and Pham. I want to know more about them and want to see them succeed. Whatever that means.

The idea of the Zone of Thoughts is a bit silly and certainly kills all pretences at hard-sci-fi, but at least it is internally consistent and my disbelief is still suspended.

I can't weight to see where this is going.


Buck (spectru) | 899 comments I read this too long ago to have any cogent memory of it. I gave it three stars. I wrote a brief review but it isn't particularly complimentary so I'll defer posting it until those who enjoyed the book more than I have had their say.

It is better than Stross's Accelerando, which I detested.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 668 comments I read this a few months back. Loved the various alien races especially the Tines. I loved the Zones of Thought idea, which I assumed was put in place by the Elders or whatever Vinge called the prior superintelligent race that left traces of itself. There were just a ton of interesting ideas in this book which I why I liked it, although it isn't great prose and the pacing drags at times.


Phil Jensen | 100 comments I read this a few years ago and loved it. I thought it was a really strong space opera. I've never thought of it as cyberpunk, but I admit that cyberpunk is a vaguely defined genre in my brain, kind of like magical realism.


Phil Jensen | 100 comments Because this group is about the evolution of science fiction, the obvious question seems to be wether Vinge's book does anything new or trendsetting in the space opera genre. I don't really know enough about space opera to say. Maybe a better than usual execution of alien races? Or a more modern approach to social media?


message 7: by Marc-André (last edited Aug 08, 2018 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc-André | 298 comments Phil wrote: "Because this group is about the evolution of science fiction, the obvious question seems to be wether Vinge's book does anything new or trendsetting in the space opera genre. I don't really know enough about space opera to say. Maybe a better than usual execution of alien races? Or a more modern approach to social media?"

By incorporating the equivalent of Usenet, post-singularity societies who are now group minds (the Powers like Old One) and AIs like the Blight into Space Opera, it looks like A Fire Upon The Deep opened Space Opera's door to Cyberpunk. Or at least the tropes and codes of the genre. I could be wrong and their could be earlier/better exemples of it.

I'm not sure it became a subgenre in itself, but it is a clear influence of Accelerando which also gleefuly mixes both genres. Altered Carbon does touch the matter a bit, with personalities downloaded even between planets. In Ancillary Justice the empress of the human empire has multiple-selfs ruling around the her galactic empire and they are connected between themselves somehow.


Marc-André | 298 comments I finished it and loved it. Gave it 4 stars. It is a mass of ideas that end up very entertaining. I like the end, the new status quo and how it opens up all sorts of possibilities, even if everyone arrives at the same place at the same time "by chance".


message 9: by Leo (last edited Aug 14, 2018 07:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leo | 605 comments Lucky to be on holiday so I could finish this one in a relative short time. What a load of ideas, great. Didn't like all of the story, the children could be left out for me too. Would have liked to know more about the blight. Liked the idea of a www in the galaxy. Don't think it is fast paced!


message 10: by Marc-André (last edited Aug 15, 2018 06:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc-André | 298 comments I asked Charles Stross on Goodreads if AFUtD was an influence on Accelerando. His answer was not a lot, but was a strong influence on his novels Singularity Sky/Iron Sunrise.

I have SS, so I'm starting it right after I finish Red Mars.


Oleksandr Zholud | 865 comments I just finished it. Liked it very much. I plan to post a review and more thought later today.


message 12: by Buck (last edited Aug 25, 2018 06:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Buck (spectru) | 899 comments Not a bad story, really, but so much time and effort is spent on gratuitous ersatz techno-mysticism. The Slowness, the Beyond, the Blight (especially the Blight), the Old One, the Surge, the Transcendence, etc. etc. etc. yadda yadda yadda. The story could have been well told in half its 600 and some odd pages. (actually, I heard its almost 22 hours of audio.) The story of the warring Tine packs and Jeffry and Joanna and long-coming rescue by Phan and Ravna is a good story but one has to wade through so much science fiction fictional science clutter.


message 13: by Marc-André (last edited Aug 25, 2018 10:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc-André | 298 comments I think the zones are necessary for the story to be told like the way Vinge wanted it. Like how the Beyond is needed because FTL is impossible with real world physics or how the Transcend is needed to limite the reach of post-Singularity entities. Singularity Sky by Charles Stross more or less uses the same paradigmes (Space Opera +Singularity), but without the zones of thought. Just real physics. Different stories can be told in that frame.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 668 comments Buck wrote: "Not a bad story, really, but so much time and effort is spent on gratuitous ersatz techno-mysticism. The Slowness, the Beyond, the Blight (especially the Blight), the Old One, the Surge, the Transc..."

Great point and I agree completely. It could have told the same story in half the pages. I enjoyed it though, especially the Zones of Thought. I've got the sequel around here (somewhere...) and I'm going to hopefully get to it in the next few months.


Marc-André | 298 comments It is true the novel could have been shorter, but everything happened so fast and often "off-screen" it felt fast pace to me. Like how the Blight attacks and they have to leave Relay in a hurry. Or when Scriber's last part dies away from our eyes when we might think it will last and spill the beans. Or how Flenser gains control of its pact "off-screen" when a long boring internal battle could have been shown to us.

It often felt that one things happens right after another. Many many things, but in a rapid succession.


message 16: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Jensen | 100 comments I enjoyed it and felt the pace was fine. I'm usually the first to cry foul over pacing issues, but I felt there was enough plot here to justify the page length. One of the things I liked was the feeling of scope that Vinge gave the book.

I thought the Zones of Thought concept was fun and wacky like something E.E. "Doc" Smith would come up with.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 668 comments Marc-André wrote: "It is true the novel could have been shorter, but everything happened so fast and often "off-screen" it felt fast pace to me. Like how the Blight attacks and they have to leave Relay in a hurry. Or..."

The fall of Relay was one of my favorite moments in any SF book I have ever read. I couldn't put the book down.


message 18: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John | 77 comments It really felt like a Space Opera/Cyber Punk/Fantasy novel mashup. The first couple of chapters I found to be tedious, especially with the Tines. It gave a sense of something was off about them being human. Although the Tines did eventually become one of the more endearing elements in the story. I truly want to see how the humans and Tines evolve together and venture into space.

The zones of space seemed like a necessary construct to make the story work, or at least the ending. Definitely fell into the soft science category, bordering on fantasy, for me. Overall an entertaining read, gave some good points to think about. Not sure of the implications for the development of the science fiction genre.


message 19: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo | 1092 comments I agree, it's a mildly entertaining book. I've still got a few pages left but i'm going to have to mark it down due to Ravna. As female characters go she is terrible and seems like she was written in the 1970's not in the 1990's.


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