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A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon the Deep - Vernor Vinge Crypto: ◘Syntax: 81As received by: GR ServerFarm NWLanguage path: Stream of Consciousness Babble→Poorly Considered Argument→LOLcats→Goodreads In-jokes→Only Funny to Me→Irony→EnglishFrom: Joeleoj[A known Goodreads reviewer of Midwesten US origin. Extensive priors before this review began. Appears aligned with the Hipster Coalition but has denied close ties. Program recommendation: Imagine this post being read in a tone of self-satisfied ironic detachment]Subject: Books to talk about with my wife when she can't fall asleepDistribution:Space Opera, WorthwhileNeat AliensBigNerds Special Interest GroupDate: 4.5 days before the Fall of BookSwapKey phrases: Mind-Bending Galactic Scope, Smooth World-Building, Bogs Down in the Middle, Characters are kind of flat, Telepathic puppy aliensText of message: Space is really, really, really big. You think you know this, but you don't. Like, you have probably heard before that something like one million Earths would fit inside the sun. Wow, you think. Big. Kind of makes you feel insignificant, right? But a million, that's not that many. Even Rebecca Black probably sold a million downloads of that terrible days of the week song for toddlers.How about VY Canis Majoris? It's what's called a hypergiant star. How big is that? About 1.7 trillion times larger than the Earth. My computer's calculator started showing me letters when I tried to figure out how many Earths would fit inside VY Canis Majoris.These incomprehensibly massive objects are just pinpricks in the overall vastness of space. I can't comprehend infinity, but I can't comprehend that either.Vernor Vinge has a fun time imagining it though, trying to divine what the interaction of sentient societies would look like when spread across such vast distances. (Answer: Kind of like newsgroups from 1993.) But this is just the account we're reading, which, it seems, comes from races as diverse as super-intelligent plants and floating magellanic clouds. It has all been translated into something resembling English, admittedly rough approximations at times. Because why would I have anything in common with someone from a billion light years away? I don't have anything in common with my co-workers.I also really dig the way Vinge divides the universe into "Zones of Thought," so technology gets more advanced (as do the beings that operate it) the further you get from the center (as you might guess, Earth is in the "Slow Zones"). Mostly this provides an engine for the plot, but it's one of those ideas so mind-burstingly big that you can't really get a grip on it. If the transcendent, godlike beings on the periphery of this system are beholden to it, then... what intelligence originally created it? And how do they get their computer network to operate so efficiently, because I keep having to unplug my modem?Cool ideas. Cool, cool, cool. I didn't even mention the race of hive-minded puppy people that play a key role in the narrative (one puppy alone is dumb, but four or six in a bunch can act as a single consciousness!). Is good, because it makes up for the ever-so-slightly leaden narrative, which is a bit thin for a 600-pager. Basically, a team of human scientists awaken a malevolent A.I. somewhere in space; it goes berserk and begins chowing down on entire star systems (star systems, people!). A few scientists escape and crash land on Planet Puppies. Word spreads that the crashed ship holds the only secret to stopping the vaguely-described villain thingy, so some stock-but-loveable heroes quest off to get it. Half the book elaborately sketches out what a society of hive-minds would look like (ADORABLE!); the other is a tense (and then for a while, not so tense, and then tense again) chase sequence. It's pretty fun.This is a densely written but still perfectly understandable SF novel, but it does presume a certain familiarity and comfort with the genre, so I wouldn't start my reading here. I know I tried it about five years ago and didn't even make it through the prologue. The book was too big to fit inside me head. Now it's bigger.