A Fire Upon the Deep ★★★☆½

afireuponthedeep (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: A Fire Upon the Deep
Series: Zones of Thought #1
Author: Vernor Vinge
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 624
Format: Digital Edition



Space is divided up into various Zones and in each Zone different levels of technology will work. As you descend Deeper, less and less tech will work.

An outpost of humanity has discovered some sort of hidden library, with all sorts of old, powerful information. Unfortunately for them, said tech is sentient and inimical to any concept of freedom. The humans are subverted or destroyed but one ship manages to get away. Inside this ship is 1 family, with 150 kids in cryo-sleep, along with a secret that could be the secret to stopping the Blight, what the sentient becomes known as.

The Blight, in an upper Zone, begins spreading and taking out Powers, other beings with potential to stop it. This spreads consternation among space faring civilizations across the universe but all assume that the Blight will be stuck in the upper Zones, unable to interfere with them in the middle Zone. This turns out not to be the case, as the Blight takes over its hosts and manipulates them like puppets. It destroys a space station, for lack of a better word, and sends one human, 1 created human and 2 plant aliens on a journey to find the ship that originally fled from the Blight.

The ship aformentioned, crashes on a pre-space tech world and they are immediately ambushed. The parents are killed and the 2 children are split up. The sentients of this world are packs and must be in groups of at leasat 4 to rationally think. Each child ends up in an opposing group and the groups leaders march on each other to take over the tech.

The ship from the Space Station has lots of misadventures and finally makes it to the world with the children. There the created human male sets loose the weapon on the crashed ship, which turns a huge area of space into a Deep Zone, one where faster than light travel is not physically possible. This puts an end to the Blight, as this Zone went up into the Transcendent Zone where the Blight resided and pretty much froze it into place.

The sibling are reunited and now the humans must live on a world where they are the interlopers and there is no chance of ever going back into Transcendant Space.


My Thoughts:

I went all over the place when reading this. First, I was just plain confused at the whole Zone thing. There was no reason given, no explanations, nothing. It was presented fait accompli and that type of attitude on the author’s part, unless done really well, usually pisses me off. It pissed me of this time.

I enjoyed the dichotomy of storylines. The lady and created human and plant aliens were all on a spaceship and were definitely a SF storyline. Then the kids on the planet was almost fantasy, as it was medieval tech level but with pack intelligence. I enjoyed reading about that, as the “being” would change over time as pack members would die and be replaced by pack members that weren’t the same. It would be like being able to change your arms and legs, etc, but to have those changes also affect your mental and emotional capabilities. It as the stuff of straight up fantasy. So to have both these storylines going on at once and then converge, I really enjoyed them.

However, a lot of the characters did some really stupid things and acted stupidly and acted irrationally and I hated that. No one character had the scoop on it and it got spread around. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to root for, as even the intelligent people were crippled by fear and paranioa and other internal struggles.

Overall, this was a decent and enjoyable read. There is a prequel and a sequel but I have no desire to read them or to seek out more by this author. Maybe if I was more into SF these days, but my bent is definitely towards Fantasy and the Heroic Character.




31 thoughts on “A Fire Upon the Deep ★★★☆½

    1. Well, I’ve been aware of this since the 90’s, as Vinge was really coming into his own then. I just never had enough interest to try him out before. Now that I’ve got my reading schedule a bit more under control, I can begin trying out some of these authors that I’m aware of but never had the desire to really dive into.

      And this book shows me I was right to pass.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. And I bet if I had read this as a teen, I’d be a lot more in love with it now. One of the reasons I haven’t gone back and re-read a lot of Clarke’s and Asimov’s stuff.

      Glad to know the others aren’t even at this level. That way I won’t be tempted to think about trying them out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t impressed with HOW the zones were explained, or not. The idea is really cool, but the ipso facto way it was used left me wanting a tiny bit more detail.

      I’m wondering if buys like Sanderson with their intricate world building, are ruining me in this regard…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As it’s a classic of some sort, I bought a second hand copy of this but sold it after reading the review on Speculiction. Your review confirms I did the right thing. These days I can’t het over characters behaving stupid anymore. I wonder if the people who praised this would still feel the same today?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “There was no reason given, no explanations, nothing. It was presented fait accompli and that type of attitude on the author’s part, unless done really well…” that’s the key, isn’t it? If you only pull off the intricate world building pretty well (like a Sanderson-wannabe), you’ll have a bored/moderately annoyed reader, but one who is still with you. But if you don’t pull off this kind of thing, you have a lost and annoyed reader.

    Alternatively, if a writer nails this kind of thing? I’m a fan and probably going to buy a few more books without question. Naturally, few nail this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sadly, few do this well. Of course, then you have others who fall into the other camp and who over-explain everything like I’m a brain dead moron.

      I wish that authors would get their collective acts together and start writing like “I” was their only audience. My life would be much better 😀

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I can’t even say that I’ve ever run into references to it, or ideas based off of it. So while authors like Clarke, Asimov, etc I consider foundational, Vinge, not so much…


    1. I can see a lot of people abandoning this and yet, I can understand why it got its cult status.
      But just like the Evil Dead movies, I’m not a fan and I have no interest in pursuing other Vinge books…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Vinge was my first attempt to get into sci-fi. I liked all three in this series, but it may very well have been because I wanted me to like sci-fi, you know? Got me to start reading Scalzi after, though. So for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about “wanting to…”
      And if it led you to read stuff that you like, then more power to it. You just won’t catch me gushing its praises 😉


  4. Some of the elements in the synopsis seem pretty savy, sounds like. I’d be interested to take a look just off the character elements you are referencing . . .

    Makes you wonder if the author was drinking on the job . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit, I don’t know if I gave the author that much thought. The sad thing is, I can barely remember reading this at all. So while I might have ranted a bit, it wasn’t bad enough to truly leave an impression in my mind :-/

      Liked by 1 person

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