Homer's Travels: Book: Vernor Vinge's "Fire Upon The Deep"

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Book: Vernor Vinge's "Fire Upon The Deep"

After reading a couple non-fiction books I figured it was time to get back to fiction which, for me, more often than not means science fiction.  After looking through Amazon, and at Amazon's recommendations, I decided to read a book by Vernor Vinge.  I'd heard a lot of good things about his writing and I figured if I liked him it would give me a good list of books to chose from moving forward.  I decided to start with one of his first books, "A Fire Upon The Deep", that had a four star Amazon rating.

The book started off like any typical science fiction-space opera which would have been fine with me except for one little detail.  A diagram in the front of the book hinted at a strange property of the galaxy.  The galaxy was divided into concentric zones.  The outer zones permitted faster than light travel and all manners of high tech.  The middle zone was limited to the speed of light and limited tech.  The central zone was a dead zone called the "unthinking depths".  I had a hard time accepting this premise.  It did get better near the end when it was suggested that the zones were an ancient artificial construct of some type but the book never went into much detail and the origin and nature of the zones were left a mystery.  I had trouble getting passed this zone concept.

The rest of the book, a typical quest novel where two or more parties are racing to get to something that will help one side save the day and the other side to become even more powerful.  This time it is humans versus an ancient evil transcendent artificial intelligence.  As I said it was typical and not extraordinary.

I kept hoping it would get better.  I struggled and managed to put the whole zones thing behind me and to just accept the concept but it didn't help much to improve my opinion of the book.  Every now and then an interesting concept would be explored but they often were fleetingly short lived resulting in a book I really found hard to get through.  So now I have to decide if I should explore the other two books of this series.  One book is often not enough to judge an author.  But do I want to re-immerse myself into a universe that frankly I don't like?

Not sure I can recommend this one.


  1. It's basically a gamble. I tried two books from William Gibson (Neuromancer & Count Zero) and didn't like either of them. I'm currently reading Asimov's Foundation and so far I've appreciated it. Nevertheless, I usually give myself two attempts at any author. And if the second try is fruitless, I move on to something else.

    1. Gany: It can be tough. I don't like wasting time/money on bad books. I've read the Foundation books in high school/college. I liked most of them. The later books were not as good as the original trilogy but they were OK. Generally I am fond of Azimov.