EPS Review #43 - Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep, 1992

A Deepness in the Sky, 1999

Two science fiction novels, loaned to me by a programming colleague. Vernor Vinge is a comp sci professor himself, and it shows in these books.

"A Fire Upon the Deep" has excellent aliens. The primary ones are networks of a half-dozen or so separate bodies, communicating thoughts via sound waves. This whole concept is well thought out. Some other aliens are like potted plants with wheels -- humans are minor, but of course the heroes of the story. There is also the idea of zones in the galaxy -- the further out you go, the more that is possible, like FTL travel, and godlike (or evil) AIs.

"A Deepness in the Sky" is the prequel (by 20,000 years or something), and also has good aliens, though they are basically just spiders, and otherwise normal. There are some fun references to Tolkien and Lovecraft. The concept of Focus is good. I like the first novel better, but my colleague would disagree. The use of kilo- and mega-seconds as time units gets annoying.

Both novels suffer from the same flaw: at nearly 800 pages each, they are too long. Both have bad guys that are purely evil. But I found them gripping, and will read more of his stuff.

Not many reviews lately because I am spending lots of time in NYC.

Neil wrote: These sound like slightly sad books to be reading. Are you spending too much time in New York City?