My review of A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a masterpiece of a book, deservedly considered a classic. It starts with a group of human scientists re-awakening an AI, but everything goes pear-shaped very quickly. From there two plot lines proceed in parallel, one concerning a family from the group that worked on the AI, the other concerning a group of mixed human and alien beings that are trying to deal with the menace unleashed on the galaxy by this AI. The greatest fascination of this novel is the alien races. They are very disctinctly different, but Vinge makes them believable at the same time. The plot line of the escaped family takes them to a world inhabited by beings with group consciousness. They are like small mammals, but an individual of this species is not even conscious or intelligent. It is only when they they join together in groups of 5-8 that they become intelligent entities. This is a very interesting idea, and Vinge develops it beautifully and in great detail. In the other plot line, one of the alien races is derived from aquatic plants/animals that get around on motorized carts, and might be the dominant race of the galaxy. Then there is the idea that in this universe the closer you get to the core of the galaxy the slower you travel, creating concentric zones where the speed possible varies.

What ties the two plot lines together is the possibility that the ship that took the family away may have the answer to defeating the rogue AI, so the ship with the mixed human/alien crew has to get there ahead of the AI. This novel has an impressive set of ideas that are fascinating. This is a book you have to read if you are a fan of science fiction.

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