Warning: Declaration of TarskiCommentWalker::start_lvl(&$output, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Comment::start_lvl(&$output, $depth = 0, $args = Array) in /var/www/snigel.nu/public_html/wp-content/themes/tarski/library/classes/comment_walker.php on line 0 Warning: Declaration of TarskiCommentWalker::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth, $args) should be compatible with Walker_Comment::start_el(&$output, $comment, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /var/www/snigel.nu/public_html/wp-content/themes/tarski/library/classes/comment_walker.php on line 0 Olle Linge - Languages, literature and the pursuit of dreams · Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge

You are currently browsing articles tagged Vernor Vinge.

Title: Rainbows End
Author: Vernor Vinge
Year: 2006

Rainbows End is probably among those books which, at the time of publication, feel credible and reasonable in their prediction of future technological development, but at which tomorrow’s audience will probably laugh. This is the third novel I have read by Vernor Vinge’s (reviewed earlier: A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky), but unlike his other two Hugo Award novels, the setting of Rainbows End is not a strange and distant universe, but our own society twenty years into the future. It might sound boring and it might seem like it has been done a million times before, but let me tell you, it has not. This is something new.

The merit of this novel is the authors extrapolation of present-day technology. It feels real, but not so real as to become dull. It sports many brilliant ideas only hinted at elsewhere in literature or reality. It feels embedded in society and with its human population. The author also manages to use key feautures of this technology to weave an intriguing story, focused on Robert Gu, a once famous poet lost to Alzheimer’s, but now recovering from the brink of death by modern technology. However, his longing for his lost mastery of words puts him in a weak position with regard to forces who want to use and manipulate him.

Unfortunately, there are downsides to most books and Rainbows End is not an exception. In earlier reviews of Vinge’s books (see links above), I have previously lamented that the language is adequate, but not masterful. This is also true for characters, who feel realistic, but not very interesting (the big exception is the mysterious rabbit, of course, because having a carrot-munching bunny as an avatar for a powerful, unknown force is inherently cool).

To summarise, I like Rainbows End a lot, but feel somewhat frustradet because of its shortcommings. It could have been a marvellous book, rising above the level of Vinge’s other Hugo Winners (both were awarded four snails as well), but instead he fails to induce that feeling of awe I so much yearn for in my reading. However, the book is still very good, make no mistake about that; it is just that I feel a bit disappointed that it was not even better.

Tags: , , ,

Title: A Deepness in the Sky
Author: Vernor Vinge
Narrotor: Gary Tipton
Year: 1999

Immediately after finishing A Fire upon the Deep, I continued with A Deepness in the Sky, also by Vernor Vinge. There are many similarities between the two books, apart from the obvious ones related to the fact that they are written by the same author. I have about the same comments on general things like language and style, so I will not bother you with repeating what has already been said.

The time is set to a long time before the events of A Fire upon the Deep, so the books are so loosely tied together that they can be read in any desired order without risk of spoiling something important. The story is again divided into two parallel threads which gradually coalesce. The first one depicts a merchant fleet approaching a star with mysterious astrophysical attributes, namely that it is only active in cycles. When they arrive, they find that they are not the only ones interested in acquiring the treasure that might reside in beyond the mystery of the star and conflict soon arise between the two fleets.

A single planet in orbit around this star has developed a peculiar form of arachnoid life and the second thread is focused on them and their existence (another parallel to A Fire upon the Deep, which also features aliens on a low-tech world). An extraordinary mind has sparked a furious technological development, tearing apart the traditions and values built up over millennia, by suggesting and introducing the means to survive the dark (i.e. when the star is inactive) without hibernation. This causes social as well as political upheaval for the spiders.

It should be mentioned that the focus of the novel is on characters involved in these stories, and even if the framework is important, it is still mostly there to provide a setting for the characters to interact with. However, the setting is not as interesting as in A Fire upon the Deep, which is a pity, because the other aspects of the novel are better than those of the previous book. In general, I relate much more to the characters and their problems and dilemmas seem more relevant. Also, the balance between the two story lines is much more delicately handled in a Deepness in the Sky.

To summarise, I like the characters and the structure of the story much better in A Deepness in the Sky. However, the setting is not as innovative and does not spark inspiration, which was one of the main reasons as to why I liked A Fire upon the Deep. These two aspects roughly cancels each other, meaning that I will give identical grades to both novels, i.e. four snails.

Tags: , , , ,

Title: A Fire upon the Deep
Author: Vernor Vinge
Narrotor: Gary Tipton
Year: 1992

Vernor Vinge has written two novels that have earned the Hugo Award for best novel, and A Fire upon the Deep is my first experience of the author. The epic scale of the novel is set right from the start, where a few humans awaken something immensely powerful from its millennia of slumbering within an old archive left off the net for several billions of years. The power thus awakened slowly increases its influence until it is clear that not only does it threaten its immediate neighbours, but the entire galaxy might be in danger.

However, the story line of the novel itself is not focused on the power, but is instead divided into two threads. First, there is a group trying to retain something which they hope will stop the power from spreading. The only problem is that the power has spread false rumours and innuendo, making the group the prime target for a grand-scale hunt. Second, a landfall on a medieval-level planet goes badly wrong and two children are the only survivors, separated from each other and captives of two rivalling tribes. Slowly, these two story lines become interlaced and finally merge together.

There are several really cool and original things about A Fire upon the Deep. First of all, the division of space into several zones of thought is interesting. Depending on which depth one is (deeper meaning closer to the galactic core), the properties of space change to allow different things. We would live what is called the Slow Zone, which works much as we are used to. Above us, there is The Beyond and The Transcend, in which entities are infinitely mighty powers having passed beyond mere technological advances and become something entirely enigmatic to the human mind.

Apart from this, the race that inhabits the medieval planet mentioned above, is truly fascinating. Being made up of loose packs, held together by some kind of weak telepathic communication, individuals (or singletons) are disregarded in general and only the pack counts. Except when the singletons happen to be from outer space, belonging to a civilisation with an abundance of technological advances beyond the dreams of those who scheme to use it for their personal advantage.

Sadly, I do think the novel lacks in other areas. The language is not bad, but not very extraordinary either. The characters are for the most part rather dull and uninteresting. Generally speaking, the thread focusing on the rescue mission is much weaker that the part on the medieval world, which is somewhat frustrating since much time is spent on the former. The story in large is intriguing, but rather slow and not exceptional in any way. I also feel that the ending is somewhat feeble and fails to add up all the epic currents initiated in the beginning.

For the first time, I will comment on the narration of a novel (yes, I listened to it). The narrator is an American gentleman called Gary Tipton, who performs his task adequately but without splendour. His voice is somewhat drawling and at times a bit disengaged, but on the whole he does what is expected of him. He uses basically the same voice for all characters, but the few changes he employ are fairly effective.

Conclusively, A Fire Upon the Deep contains a lot of good ideas, some of them truly original and inspiring. It was a long time ago I was inspired by this kind of science fiction, so kudos to Mr. Vinge. On the other hand, I feel that the book is really not my cup of tea, either when it comes to language or story. I have already begun with A Deepness in the Sky and hopefully he has evolved into a better author in the years separating the two novels.

Tags: , , , ,