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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.

Comments

andrewducker
Aug. 13th, 2010 11:35 am (UTC)
Steel Beach is probably my favourite Varley. And has one of the all-time best opening lines.
sbisson
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.)
andrewducker
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.

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