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When I first read this I didn't know Vinge's work all that well, and now I've read a few more of his books I can spot some of the standard elements - viewpoint characters who are young or even children, dark ill-explained conspiracies in the background, slightly deus ex machina ending. But what makes this book special is the alien Tines, a lovely concept of packs of four to eight dog-like aliens with mini-hive minds, and the political economy of what happens to their pre-industrial culture when two different factions rescue children off a crashed earth ship and start developing human technology to try and defeat each other with. (This is in the context of a bigger galactic power game, whose details I really failed to grasp, affecting the rescue ship.) It goes on a bit for what is in it, but generally a good read; I much preferred it to the prequel, A Deepness in the Sky, which also won the Hugo several years later.

A Fire Upon The Deep shared the Hugo with Connie Willis' Doomsday Book (which I personally preferred) and beat KSR's Red Mars, which is on my current reading list, Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang, which is somewhere on the to-read shelves, and Steel Beach by John Varley, which I haven't otherwise heard of. More remarkable perhaps is the absence of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, surely at least as important a book as any of the above, from any of the short lists.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
My current reading matter is "Orphans of the Sky".

Due out early next year, it's a direct sequel to "A Fire Upon the Deep". And yes, there are Tines.
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:18 am (UTC)
Great news
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
Is the Heinlein ref deliberate?
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
Best news I've heard all week!
Aug. 13th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
I thought the title was slightly different when you mentioned it before. Is it actually duplicating RAH's title?
Aug. 13th, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia has it as Children of the Sky.
Aug. 13th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia is more accurate than my memory.
Aug. 13th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
Also, I was hoping for "A Sky Full Of Fire" to be the title of the next one, to bring the linkage all the way round :->
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)

Also, I think there's a short story set in an earlier iteration of the AFUD universe that features the Tines, "The Blabber".
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:27 am (UTC)
The way "A Fire Upon The Deep" used usenet for interstellar political discourse is classic :-)
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
Yeah, their usenet analog was fantastic.
Aug. 13th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
...but rather dated now.
Aug. 14th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC)
Oh, absolutely. Asychronous message passing systems are pretty much unnecessary nowadays. If you want to discuss a particular subject you just google for a forum.
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
What else would you use for a low-bandwidth store-and-forward communications system? FIDONET? :-)
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:35 am (UTC)
Steel Beach is probably my favourite Varley. And has one of the all-time best opening lines.
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:45 am (UTC)
It's a cracker of a line. The book itself is part of Varley's long-running argument against suicide, which makes it a lot darker than it originally seems.

(For the other bits of the argument see many of the Anna Louise Bach stories, as well as Press Enter. Life, Varley seems to argue, is always worth living, in whatever shape you find it. I suspect this is a debate he's had to have with himself.)
Aug. 13th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, on a personal level it is dark, which is something I liked about it.

I've not read Press Enter. I must pick up the Reade at some point.
Aug. 13th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
I really adored this book... one of my favorite of the Hugo winners. Loved nearly everything about it-- the ingenious Tines, the hilarious Usenet send-up, the conception of unchecked AIs as all-consuming dark gods. Good stuff.
Aug. 13th, 2010 12:33 pm (UTC)
I haven't read the Varley or the Willis, but just from the other four it was an incredibly good year for SF.
Aug. 13th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Many people think the Tines sections DRAG and are more interested in the adventures of the Out Of Band II.

I loved A Fire Upon the Deep, liked the prequel even more.
Aug. 16th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
When I reread the book (it is on my Pile Of Books I Reread Regularly) I often just read the Tines sections and the Usenet posts, they're much more interesting / original than the more standard SF sections. I do have a terrible soft spot for modern-knowledge-in-historical-society stories though, I'm also a terrible sucker for all of those 'modern humans get transported to Ye Ancient Tymes / Random Fantasy Universe' books...
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
Red Mars, Doomsday Book, A Fire Upon The Deep, Snow Crash and China Mountain Zhang were all shortlisted for the Clarke Award too, as was A Deepness in the Sky.

I loved the Tines and enjoyed A Fire Upon the Deep, but as an sf novel I preferred A Deepness in the Sky.

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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