It's just brimming with ideas--the whole notion of the galaxy being divided into "Zones" in which different levels of technology are possible(although similar to Jack L. Chalker's division of the Well World into hexes); the Tines, an alien race where each being is a pack of doglike beings who use sound to transmit thought from one to another; the Blight which threatens the entire galaxy, or at least a sizeable portion of it...and, as widely mentioned, the Net.
The Net in the book doesn't remind me heavily of Usenet, as some have been convinced; it does, certainly share some characteristics of Nets in general(the flame, with possible insults marked for those from different contexts, was hilarious), but doesn't remind of Usenet specifically.
The one problem I had with the book was this: The Blight is taking over huge chunks of space, and intends to take over the entire galaxy. Most of the action focuses on the Tine world, on which has crashed the ship with the clue to the Blight's defeat. In fact, it spends, IMHO, too much time there. The Tines are a fascinating race, sure, and their control over the eventual fate of the marooned ship(and the two young human survivors)is crucial to the fate of the rest of the galaxy. But I found myself getting bored with them, especially when the "rescue" ship kept getting more and more delayed in their arrival. As a result, most of the tension was defused, replaced only by curiosity about how they were going to defeat the Blight.
All in all, a great read, though. Highly recommended. But then, it won the Hugo, didn't it?
%A Vinge, Vernor
%T A Fire Upon The Deep
%C New York
%D April 1992
%G ISBN 0-312-85182-0
%P 391 pp.
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