Book Review: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vinge (3 Stars)

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

3 out of 5 stars

Read in January 2009

I read this for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club at GoodReads. It was the science fiction theme (space opera) selection for January 2009.

I must admit that only about a third or half of this story kept my interest. I was drawn in to the plight of Jefri and Johanna. And, by proximity, the inhabitants of the Tines world where Jefri and Johanna’s parents crash landed them and left them stranded and orphaned.

The rest of the tale, which most likely qualifies as the space opera epic, was confusing, sometimes appeared to be pointless, boring and just plain slow. As I approached the end, I admit I skimmed nearly all the parts that dealt with Ravna, Pham, the Skoderiders, the Blight and the chase to the Tines world.

If it weren’t for the uniqueness of the Tines world and the independent struggles of Jefri and Johanna, I probably would have given this a two star rating. But I love the resilience of Jefri and his ability to assimilate and adapt to Amdi, an eight-member pack of about the same maturity level as Jefri but extraordinarily gifted in mathematics. And Johanna was the rebellious teenager, convinced she was the only survivor of the crash and out to get revenge on the packs who had ambushed her family. Great drama, politics and manipulation, espionage and intrigue – all you could want to keep you riveted to the page.

The ending was a bit tragic and I was left with uncertainty as to the Blight and the Countermeasure’s struggle. I was never really given the chance to determine if the Blight or the Countermeasure were “evil” or “good” so I was ambivalent as to the Titanic struggle between the two. The only thing certain is that both the Blight and the Countermeasure destroyed billions upon billions of lives and whole swaths of civilizations in a large portion of the Galaxy. For that alone, neither of them are classified as “good” to me.