A Fire Upon the Deep

28 Jan 1997

Comments on A Fire Upon the Deep -- lots of people on the Net have enjoyed this book, but I suspect that a lot of the raving is because of Vinge's Known Net, a close model of Usenet. I feel this is really the least part of the book. It's cute, and fun, and useful for conveying some information to us and giving us a different feel of what's going on, but it is (obviously!) the least imaginative thing in the book, given its direct origin in real life. It is the Tines, the Zones, and the Powers that are not only original with Vinge but characteristic, even gloriously so, of him and his imagination.

By the way, Twirlip of the Mists was not a bizarre, insane freak. Twirlip of the Mists was amazingly perceptive, or rather knowledgeable, although alas had nowhere near the eloquence of Sandor at the Zoo. Hint: look carefully at the first description of the Skroderiders.

Actually, one thing that bothers me about the Net: who the hell is on it? It often seems that entire races are posters -- Sandor's last posting refers to having been composed of twenty civilizations. But individual ships can be picked up as well. Are the main posters the Defense or State departments of planetary or interstellar civilizations?

Linkoping review. (Under the Tatja Grimm review.)

Spoilers for the end below:

This review of this book is decent, but the reviewer flubbed at the end. A casual reading of the last few pages makes it obvious that the Surge from Countermeasure engulfed not merely the local Beyond but the entire column of space above the Tines' world, even unto the Low Transcend. Thus the Blight was killed. The fleet was not the only part of the Blight affected; rather, the fleet was the only part of the Blight to survive in any way! It is also made probable that Countermeasure was calling upon "Powers beyond the Powers", perhaps in a different Zone, perhaps merely the High Transcend, and that the Zones themselves are artificial (which helps deal with the logical problem of the Unthinking Depths.)

And epics are supposed to have loose threads, without sequels. :)

Another review from Australia.

On the Zones:

At 01:56 PM 5/26/97 -0700, The Low Golden Willow wrote:

>Perhaps.  My take on the book, and the Skroderider legends, has been
>that the natural state of the universe corresponds to what I'll call the
>High Transcend, and that the entire system of the Zones is an artifact,
>partly to deal with the Blight, and partly to make sure that budding
>civlizations were protected in the future.  

I asked Vinge about this a few years ago, and he confirmed that it had been
his intention that the zones were artificial, created by something that is
to the Powers as the Powers are to us.  He added that there is nothing in
the book that depends on this assumption-- it was just one of those
background things writers come up with that don't make it into the book.


The universe of Fire was first tried out in "The Blabber" in Threats. I think the story can only be regarded as a prototype for the book, and not actually placed in the same universe. It could be placed after the events of Fire but a lot of stretching would have to be done. Vinge is working on a book about the Qeng Ho, though.

Back to Vinge.