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A Fire Upon the Deep

by Vernor Vinge

Kirkus Vast, riveting far-future saga involving evil gods, interstellar war, and manipulative aliens, from the author of The Peace War and the splendid Marooned in Realtime. An unknown being or force has partitioned the universe into ``zones of thought'': at the bottom is the Slow Zone, where intelligence is modest and the speed of light a limiting factor; in the Beyond, where multi-light-speed ultradrive travel is possible, thousands of smart races flourish; and the Transcend is inhabited by godlike Powers, to which state many races of the Beyond aspire. A human colony of the High Beyond, the Straumli Realm, experiments with an ancient database, thereby unwittingly unleashing an unstoppable, enslaving predator, the Blight. The civilizations of the High Beyond realize their peril when even transcendent Powers prove no match for the Blight. One ship alone survives the Straumli disaster; fleeing into the Low Beyond, the ship crash-lands on a planet inhabited by Tines, multi-bodied, pack-minded aliens with a warlike medieval culture. Two human children, Johanna and Jefri, survive--only to become pawns in a Tine power struggle. Up in the Middle Beyond, meanwhile, the realization grows that the escaped Straumli ship may contain something that will help defeat the Blight. So a multi-species rescue mission is launched, led by human researcher Ravni and by Pham, a construct once part of a Power now eaten by the Blight; close behind the rescuers come the forces of the Blight. No summary can do justice to the depth and conviction of Vinge's ideas. The overall concept astonishes; the aliens are developed with memorable skill and insight; the plot twists and turns with unputdownable tension. A masterpiece of universe- building.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list Vinge follows in the footsteps of Carver, Benford, Brin, and Bear in combining hard science and the science fiction epic in this, his most ambitious novel. In a far future interstellar society, intelligence is limited by a mind's location in the universe. A scientific experiment gone awry disrupts this situation, causing widespread destruction and chaos. Refugees who may have the secret to saving civilization fall into the hands of a medieval race of aliens, and the quest is on for an oddly assorted band of rescuers to save the refugees and their knowledge. Its epic aspects are stronger than the science, but overall, the book is as successful as it is ambitious and should have wide appeal. ~--Roland Green

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly It has been six years since Vinge's last book ( Marooned in Realtime ), but the wait proves worthwhile in this stimulating tale filled with ideas, action and likable, believable characters, both alien and human. Vinge presents a galaxy divided into Zones--regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. Earth remains in the ``Slowness'' zone, where nothing can travel faster than light and minds are fairly limited. The action of the book is in the ``Beyond,'' where translight travel and other marvels exist, and humans are one of many intelligent species. One human colony has been experimenting with ancient technology in order to find a path to the ``Transcend,'' where intelligence and power are so great as to seem godlike. Instead they release the Blight, an evil power, from a billion-year captivity. As the Blight begins to spread, a few humans flee with a secret that might destroy it, but they are stranded in a primitive low-tech world barely in the Beyond. While the Blight destroys whole races and star systems, a team of two humans and two aliens races to rescue the others, pursued by the Blight's agents and other enemies. With uninterrupted pacing, suspense without contrivance, and deftly drawn aliens who can be pleasantly comical without becoming cute, Vinge offers heart-pounding, mind-expanding science fiction at its best. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved