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Title: A Fire Upon the Deep
Series: Zones of Thought #1
Author: Vernor Vinge
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
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.
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.