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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

scott_lynch
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.

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