Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep: Special Edition

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the deeply-deep-deepness dept.

Books 142

Robotech_Master writes "For a long time, A Fire Upon the Deep has been one of my favorite books. Combining interesting technological prognostication, fascinating concepts, amusing characters, and an enthralling story, this novel brings together science fiction and present-day science fact in a deeply compelling read. For a long time, this book had been available in electronic form from Palm Digital Media, and it was the first e-book I ever bought for my Palm PDA. Recently a new 'special edition' of the book was published electronically, containing the annotations that had previously only been available on the 1993 Hugo/Nebula CDROM, and I knew I had to make the purchase--and then, since I couldn't dig up any other mention of it on Slashdot, review it." Robotech Master warns that his (lengthy) review below of the updated version "contains some minor spoilers for plot, but not for ending."

The Novel

It would not be exaggeration to call A Fire Upon the Deep one of the seminal SF novels of the digital age. While there had been many other books that depicted computer networks of the future, Fire was one of the first to present such a network in terms of its resemblance to USENET of the then-present-day.

A Fire Upon the Deep is set 38,000 years in the future on the outskirts of the galactic rim of the Milky Way. The galaxy is divided into several Zones of Thought, ranging from the Transcend on the farthest outskirts of the galaxy to the High and Low Beyond, the Slow Zone, and the Unthinking Depths at the galactic core.

Outside the galaxy, in the Transcend, lurk the superintelligent beings who have, well, Transcended--passed beyond normal mortal intelligence and become as unfathomable to normal humanity as we must be to animals. As one moves toward the center of the galaxy, the efficiency of thought--both biological and mechanical--decreases, as does the ability to travel faster than light. In the Slow Zone, FTL travel and data transmission is impossible, and the laws of physics limit travel to ramscoop speeds--and in the Unthinking Depths, even rational thought itself fades away. As one might imagine, most of the "civilized" races of the galaxy are found in the Beyond, between the Slow Zone and the Transcend. Here is where one small branch of humanity has found its way out of the Slow Zone and settled worlds named Sjandra Kei and the Straumli Realm.

And here is also where our story is set. In the opening pages of A Fire Upon the Deep, an ancient horror is revived by an incautious expedition of Straumli archaeologist-programmers investigating a long-lost treasure-trove just over the border of the Transcend. As the horror reaches out to take over civilization after civilization within the Beyond, it soon becomes clear that the only hope for the survival of independent thought in the Beyond lies with a makeshift space vessel that fled to a small uncharted planet in the low Beyond. This vessel, carrying a family of archaeologist-programmers and a cargo of cryogenically-hibernating children who were the only survivors of the Straumli catastrophe, holds the key to defeating the mysterious Blight.

Unfortunately, the parents of the family died soon after their arrival, and the two children ended up in the custody of rival barbarian forces: 14-year-old Johanna Olsndot with Woodcarver, a benevolent queen of a realm of learning and freedom; 7-year-old Jefri with the murderous tyrant Steel. And the expedition to rescue them, consisting of humans Ravna Bergsndot and Pham Nuwen, and Skrode Riders Blueshell and Greenstalk, has problems of its own. The story unfolds from multiple viewpoints and multiple settings which grow closer together as the story draws to its inevitable conclusion.

One of the primary features of the Zones of Thought setting is the Known Net, the data network that connects all the civilized races of the Beyond and the Transcend. Although information technology out in these realms has progressed into true artificial intelligence, with all the technological advancement that implies, the nature of the FTL transmission method means that the network itself operates at bandwidth rates similar to those found in USENET circa 1990--meaning that, for most forms of long-distance communication, text (or its equivalent) is the order of the day for the transmission of the message--but then language transmission and filtration can be performed on the receiving end. (And when hundreds of civilizations are sharing the same data network, posting hundreds of millions of messages a day, both translation and filtration suddenly become very necessary.)

Setting this hard bandwidth limit was one of Vinge's ways of future-proofing the story, as well as making necessary the sort of USENET-like communication upon which a large part of the story depends--stripping the speed of communication down to the bare bones so that every bit counts. "Somewhere should make clear to the undiscerning reader that we can't have gosh-wow 1990 LAN stuff on the Known Net because of bandwidth and transmission delay problems," reads note 1160. With a USENET-style network in place, Vinge is free to homage the USENET of today (or, rather, of 1990) in subtle ways.

For example, one of the commonly-recurring themes throughout the book is that of identity and truth. One of the ways this theme is explored should be only too familiar to most Slashdot readers: the net is often called the Net of a Million Lies. Just as "on the Internet, no one can tell if you're a dog," on the Known Net nobody can tell what race you really are--only the one you say you are. Interspersed through the story are about a dozen USENET-style netnews posts, from sources considered reliable, questionable, or outright mysterious, asking (and trying to answer) many questions: are humans tools of the ravening Blight? Are they innocent dupes? Should they be wiped out? Who is the Blight? What does it want? What is really going on? Many conflicting and unexplained viewpoints are presented, and sorting out the truth is an important part of the story. (I have heard rumors that some of these posts were written based on the posting styles of well-known USENET kooks of the day, but the annotations failed to provide any proof of this.)

Vinge also makes a few cute little digs that only a net-user might get--such as when he refers to "chronic theorizers [as being] the sort of civilizations that get surcharged by newsgroup automation," when he names the starship in which our heroes travel the Out of Band II, or when he implies, via having translation programs work less efficiently the closer to the Slow Zone the starship approaches, that some of those strange, semi-intelligible posts that show up on USENET today might simply be the fault of a faulty translator. (The notes reveal that he considered using some even more familiar net slang, such as "IMHO," but decided against it.)

One of the other interesting elements of the story is the alien race, the Tines, with whom Johanna and Jefri are stranded. The Tines are pack creatures, something like a cross between a wolf and a seal, who communicate among themselves using ultrasonic frequencies. Instead of being a personality in a single body, the personality of these Tines is spread across multiple members, and can change when members die or join. The concept behind these beings is fascinating to me, and I would like to read more stories involving them.

The story of A Fire Upon the Deep is told from multiple viewpoints, switching back and forth from Tines' World to Out of Band II at a rapid enough pace to keep tensions high and prevent things from getting too confusing (though there are still subtleties that didn't come out for me until several rereads). At the root, it's a rollicking USENET-informed space opera crossed with a bit of Swiss Family Robinson and a dogs-and-their-boy story. If I have one minor complaint about it, it is that most of the alien races seen in the story -- whether it's the group-mind Tines, the Transcended Powers, or even the Blight -- seem, with one or two exceptions, to have altogether too human a viewpoint. (Though Vinge does point out in the notes that the ones who don't have that kind of viewpoint probably wouldn't have much to do with those who did anyway.) But as quibbles go, that one is so low on the scale that it hardly even registers. If you haven't read this book, go out and get it right away--or stay right where you are and order it from Palm Digital Media (see my comments on format below). You won't be disappointed.

Introduction and Annotations

The annotations in the back of the book are not the only reason to buy this book, of course. There is also a fairly lengthy introduction that goes into the history of the annotated version of the book, and into prognostications about what the future of prose might be. Since A Fire Upon the Deep was written several years before the wide advent of HTML, the story itself centers on USENET as the galactic communication medium...but the introduction was written just as HTML and hypertext were starting to get wider exposure, and Vinge seemed to think that hypertext was the future of fiction. "I believe hypertext fiction will ultimately be a new art form," Vinge wrote, "as different from novels as motion pictures are from oil paintings." Vinge has left this 1993 introduction much the same as when he originally wrote it, even though his predictions have not yet shown much sign of coming to pass.

Calling this special edition of A Fire Upon the Deep "annotated" is really a slight misnomer; for a book to be "annotated" (as in The Annotated Alice) usually means that someone has gone through it after the fact, adding clarifying comments that expand the reader's understanding. That is mostly not the case here.

These annotations are not notes to add explanations (save for a very few that Vinge added in after the fact for that purpose); they are short, often cryptic notes from Vinge to himself (just as a programmer comments his code to remind himself what he's written and why), or from some of the consultants who helped Vinge thrash out the story, pointing out awkward phrases, words that should be (or have been) spell-checked, mathematical and astronomical calculations (how large and close the Tines' moon needs to be to provide months of a certain length, for instance), inconsistencies, problems that need clarification, possibilities for sequels, text fragments that did not make the final cut, and story ideas. And there are quite a few of them--going by the progress bar on the reader, the notes section is about 150% of the length of the story section.

Because these notes were made at different points during the drafting process, it is not unusual for them to refer to entirely different parts of the book--a note several chapters in talking about the ending, or a note 3/4 of the way through the book suggesting that it might be a great idea if Ravna actually came from Sjandra Kei (which was revealed as soon as we first met her in the story itself). And some of the notes cryptically refer to characters or events no longer even present in the text. This being the case, readers new to this story are strongly advised to read the book straight through at least once before venturing into the annotations at all, because otherwise some major revelations will be spoiled.

If you're expecting great insights in these notes...well, there are some--into how Vinge writes, as well as into the story itself. But the notes are far more often cryptic or even meaningless, so don't be disappointed if they aren't all you'd hoped for.

Some of the notes are quite funny, such as one of Vinge's consultants' complaint about the use of the term "member" for an individual animal in Tine packs. "Except for what the Victorians did with 'member,' this term seems perfect," Vinge replied. "Suggestions?" The consultant backed down and said, "It's okay as long as you don't use it for anything else."

There is also a noteworthy footnote from Vinge regarding a cascade failure of interconnected computer systems:

"Ug. Unfortunately, in 1992 how many people would believe that such apparently unconnected failures are reasonable? There'll be a period of time where this may seem incredible. (And then after 1996 or so, maybe it'll just be a cliche of the everyday news.)"

He might have been off by a year or two, but an argument could still be made that he nearly predicted the Y2K scare.

The Format

The annotated version of A Fire Upon the Deep has an interesting history. The annotations were, of course, created by Vinge as part of the process of writing the book itself. In 1993, Brad Templeton of ClariNet suggested including them on a special Hugo/Nebula Award CD-ROM he was preparing--and so they were, along with a couple of illustrations and a low-resolution Quicktime or AVI movie. The movie was a brief recording of Vernor Vinge himself saying hello (and revealing in so doing that his name actually rhymes with "Benji," not "hinge"), and that he wondered what future entities would think when they viewed this time capsule from the dawn of the digital age. (However, because the CD-ROM has since become as rare as hen's teeth, the likeliest answer is "not much.") What's more, since this CD was made while HTML was still catching on as a hypertext format, the novel and annotations were made available in the form of separate rich text files for each chapter and each chapter's worth of annotations, a Hypercard stack, or--get this--a Windows 3.1 Help file. Imagine reading a 1.5 megabyte book in Windows Help.

Ten years later, the Hugo/Nebula CD-ROM has vanished into near-total obscurity. Meanwhile, HTML has become the pre-eminent form of hypertext, and the e-book has come into its own as the reading format of choice for many technophiles. In fact, the un-annotated A Fire Upon the Deep was one of the first titles offered by Palm Digital Media, back when it was known as Peanut Press. And now that the technology has evolved, Vernor Vinge has re-released the annotated version of the novel as a Palm Digital Media format e-book.

It would have been nice to have A Fire Upon the Deep in open HTML like Baen's e-books, but it is understandable that Dr. Vinge (or his publisher) might have preferred for the book to be digitally protected. Since that is unlikely to change anytime soon, there is little point to letting the perfect be the enemy of the good; as digitally-protected e-book formats go, the PDM format is actually quite decent. Free reader software is available for the Palm, PocketPC, Macintosh, and Windows platforms (and the Windows version also runs flawlessly under WINE on Linux).

A Palm Digital Media e-book is a hypertext document that supports text formatting (as with bold, italics, and differently-sized fonts), low-resolution images, and links from one part of the document to another (most often used for footnotes or annotations). DRM is simple and nonintrusive, consisting of entering name and credit card number into the reader software the first time the book is loaded. Thereafter, the book can be loaded immediately, and always opens to the page on which it was closed. The DRM is not tied to any particular device, so a book can be unlocked on as many different computers or PDAs as its purchaser desires to use simultaneously.

For the most part, A Fire Upon the Deep is easy enough to read in this Palm Reader format. However, there are some small things that take away from the reading experience. The most obvious comes from the way the links to the annotations are provided. In the text, these links are essentially centered between two paragraphs, separated by paragraph breaks, like so:

Note 423

Sometimes there are two or three or more of these links in a row. When reading from a computer screen, this is not too distracting--and it is certainly easier than looking for the link inside a paragraph--but on the much smaller screen of a PDA, it can substantially cut down on the amount of actual story text on the screen at one time (especially at larger font sizes).

The other thing is that flipping back and forth from footnotes to text can be extremely distracting to following the thread of the story, especially when reading from a PDA (and particularly when many of those footnotes turn out to be things like "Checked spelling of 'worldwide'"). After a while, I started reading a whole chapter or two at a time, then flipping to the footnote section and reading its annotations -- flipping back to the text if I was confused about how a note applied. (The bookmarking function of the Palm Reader helped in this, too.) On my computer, I also experimented with opening two different Palm Reader windows, one for the text and one for the annotations, and placing them side by side -- but in order to do this, I had to make and rename another copy of the e-book because one e-book can only be opened in one Palm Reader window at a time. It was a bit awkward ... but then again, so is watching a movie with director commentary on, sometimes.

Aside from the annotations, there are a couple of minor differences between print and e-editions that do not affect the reading experience quite so much. For example, the Palm e-books do not include the map of the Zones of Thought and the Out of Band II's course that is in the tree-book editions, nor do they have the Vinge-drawn sketch of Jefri Olsndot and Flenser that was on the Hugo/Nebula CDROM. While regrettable, this is also understandable; line art does not reproduce well at lower resolutions, and would also make an already large file even larger.

Another departure from the print book has to do with fonts. At several points in the book, USENET-style netnews posts appear. As noted in the annotations, Vinge requested that they be printed in a courier-style monospace font to set them apart from the rest of the story. In the print version, this was done; however, in the e-versions they are simply block indented. Although the Palm Reader does have a monospace font that could have been used here, presumably it would have been hard enough to read on a small PDA screen that the formatter decided to go with indentation instead. While this is also an understandable decision, the slight indentation and the interspersed footnote links sometimes make it hard to tell whether one is still reading netnews post or story text.

Conclusion

A Fire Upon the Deep is one of the best works of net-related science fiction ever written, in either its annotated or unannotated versions. Either edition would be worth buying from Palm Digital Media (or Fictionwise, who also carries it), or from your favorite print bookseller if you don't care about the annotations. (For a number of reasons, I don't expect the annotated version to be published as a tree-book any time soon.)

At PDM, the annotated version costs $8.96, whereas the non-annotated version is $4.49. The question is whether the annotations justify spending an extra $4.47.

In my opinion, for someone who just wants to read an excellent science-fiction story and doesn't care about what went on behind the curtain, the less-expensive version would be sufficient. But for the reader who is interested in the background material, the annotated version is well worth the extra money.


If reading on a palm isn't appealing, you can also purchase the paper version of A Fire Upon the Deep from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Wow. (3, Funny)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | about 11 years ago | (#7065207)

That review is almost as long as the book. THis has been on my reading list for a while, and it just moved up to the top.

Re:Wow. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065246)

what a cynic you are! man, you need a hug you dumb motherfucking faggot. it's friday, settle down with the bullshit. go buy yourself some friends and some tequila and some whining about how books are too long for you to read. yeah, books are fucking long. the authors know that you whack off in your room every night because you have yet to iniciate a conversation with a girl. they feel sorry for you. i feel sorry for you. for fuck's sake, your mother feels sorry for you. YOUR MOTHER ACTUALLY WANTS YOU TO GET LAID! i mean, come on - cut the shit out and get a fucking life you cumquat. i feel very sorry for you but at the same time, i want to punch you in your fat head, you fucking tool. what the fuck? fuck you, don't be a douche. it's time to stop whining about this shit and start doing something about it. like, next time you see a broad at the coffee shop where you have to go because you're a pseudo-intellectual liberal that believes in affirmative action and women's rights and welfare and shorter books because liberals are fucking stupid, talk to the broad. ask her what she does. tell her you'd like to take her out on a date sometime. and if she actually says yes, go on a fucking date. and don't talk about the berenstein bears. and if she says no, for fuck's sake, go to a gym and get into shape. you're a fat shit and it needs to change soon. even if you still can't get broads when you're in shape due to your faggy personality, at least you won't die at the age of 25 from a heart attack - how embarASSing that would be, YOU FUCKING CUMQUAT! god, you piss me off with your bullshit. just shut the fuck up. read your short books and ride the short bus and continue to wear your gay blinders - go ahead. who gives a fuck if you spend all your weekends reading short books? WHO FUCKING CARES?!?! no one. that's who. go out, get away from your computer, touch a woman's vagina with your tongue, shut the fuck up, eat shit. FUCK YOU.

What do you have against cumquats? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065330)

They are tasty and nutritious.

Watch out! Little Timmy is BACK! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065273)

And he's after you for a good, deep, COCK SUCKING!

Man, that Timothy LOVES the DICK! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065895)

And he's after you for a good, deep, COCK SUCKING!!

I HAVE A GREASED UP YODA DOLL SH..... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065211)

nuts, man! It's the pisty frosty.

A Journey To UIUC.Test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065532)

It's getting late, and the last rays of the daytime sun are dissipating through the thick trees which line the road. You haven't seen a building for hours; the only signs of civilization you can discern are the solitary power and phone lines. A faint howl of wolves echoes in the distance, and with a shudder you wrap your cape tightly around your shoulders.

Over the course of the past few miles, the road has degenerated from concrete to gravel to dirt, but the horse pulling your cart continues to amble along slowly. Finally you come to a stop, the driver explaining he will take you no further. You hop off the cart and give him a few gold pieces before he makes a hasty retreat. Lighting your torch, you are able to make out a rotting wooden sign, labeled "uiuc.test" and pointing further into the darkness. You start walking...

Finally, after negotiating several hundred yards of thicket, you stumble into a clearing and are suprised to see the mouth of a cave. 'This must be the place,' you think to yourself. Ignoring the various skeletons scattered about the entrance, you proceed unfazed into the cavern.

Immediately inside the entrance is a dank alcove, which opens into a larger walkway into the earth. It may just be your imagination, but you seem to perceive a faint cackling coming from deep within the cave. Checking your equipment, you start down the path.

Just as you reach the first room, several small green creatures scurry past you, but they move too quickly for you to get a good look. To your surprise, the room is equipped with power and ethernet jacks, and several old computers are set up around the perimeter, each running Unix. A figure hunched over one screen mutters something, then starts laughing evilly.

The next hallway is littered with shiny green metallic cylinders, and a sticky yellow-green substance covers the floor. You reach down and take a sample with your finger; it tastes sugary. As you are about to continue, a deep belch rings out from somewhere within, and the gust of air knocks your hat off your head. You pick it up and hurry down the hallway.

You enter a much smaller room, with much older computers. This room is considerably more crowded than the last; dozens of pale-skinned creatures are typing away on command lines. They seem to work with fervent speed, their fingers leaving the keyboard only to stretch or pick their noses. Disgusted, you hastily make for the opposite side of the room, but your eye catches one machine in the corner. As you approach it, you begin to hear a faint clicking noise. You realize, to your horror, that this machine is running a prototype mechanical microprocessor, and is manned by the smelliest, wartiest, most vile troll you have ever seen. In panic, you enter the door and continue further into the cave.

After stumbling down a particularly narrow and dreary hallway, you enter what appears to be a central chamber. Hundreds of creatures are dancing in a circle around a pillar in the center of the room, chanting the phrase "netiquette" over and over. On this pillar is a bronze plaque, with two horizontal lines etched in the metal to form dashes. You peer quizically at the plaque, and notice it seems to have a little extra space on the right side. You approach one seemingly friendly-looking creature and start to ask about it, when the room suddenly becomes eerily silent. Gulping, you realize the trolls have all stopped dancing and are all staring straight at you. You stand completely still as one of the leaders of the dance sneers and approaches you. He inspects you carefully for a few moments, and jeers "Your sig is broken." Before you can answer, he suddenly rips off your cape. The crowd of trolls lets out a collective gasp as they see that underneath the cape, you are wearing a shirt embroidered with the name "Microsoft."

You turn around and start running faster than you have ever run before, but despite your efforts the maniacal cackling you hear behind you only intensifies. Flames lick your back as the trolls-in-pursuit swing their torches at you. You make it through the the two main rooms, and with a faint glimmer of hope, you see the mouth of the cave approaching. Just as you reach the alcove and get a faint whiff of the outside air, you trip over a large boulder in the path, and violently meet the ground. You land next to a stone plaque on the floor which you hadn't noticed before. Reading its words is the last action you will ever make, "Abandon all sanity, ye who enter here."

FIRE UPON MY ANUS: SPECIAL EDITION (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065216)

__________________..._______________
___________.'"___________"'.________
__________/____.--._.--.____\_______
_________/____/_________\____\______
________/_____| / \ / \ |_____\_____
_______;____.-' \o/ \o/ '-.____;____
_______|___|_()_.-"""-._()_|___|____
_______;___|____\_____/____|___;____
_______\___;_____\___/____;__/_____
________\__\______\_/_______/__/____
________.->""--.___V___.--""<-.
_______/_______________________\____
______/__________LINUX__________\___
_____/___________________________\__
____/______/_____COCKS_____\______\_
___;______|_________________|______:
___|______|_________________|______|
___|_______\_____.-v-._____/_______|
____\_______'.__/_____\__.'_______/_
_____;._______`--|___|--'_______.;__
_____|_`-.________)_(________.-'_|
_____|___|_```___|___|___```_|___|__
_____;___\_______|___|_______/___;__
______\___\____(___Y___)____/___/__
_______\___'.___"-----"___.'___/____
________\____`-._______.-'____/_____
_________'._______```_______.'______
jgs/Sexii_/`-.___________.-'\______
_________/__,__``;---;``__,__\______
________|__/__|__|___|__|__\__|_____
________'-'|__/\_/___\_/\__|'-'_____
mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. mportant Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.

What about the fire (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065222)

in my loins?

By the way, I believe I have posted THR0D!

Offtopic (-1, Offtopic)

stratjakt (596332) | about 11 years ago | (#7065240)

When I submit a post with mozilla firebird, the submitted page comes up blank. It's all formatted with slashdots ugly bars and whatnot, but there's no text. I cant tell if my post got through or not.

It did work up until a day or two or three ago, I haven't changed firebird, so I can only assume CowboyKneel has his propellor hat on again, fixin' somethin' that ain't broke.

Noone else has mentioned it. I assume everyone else, despite their rhetoric, uses IE.

Re:Offtopic (1)

WTFmonkey (652603) | about 11 years ago | (#7065254)

I use firebird; that happens to me (and has since the beginning) maybe once in twenty or thirty posts. Don't know what to tell ya, though.

Re:Offtopic (0, Flamebait)

stratjakt (596332) | about 11 years ago | (#7065272)

/. is the only site that firebird or even regular mozilla does not render correctly.

In fact, the only browser to render /. correctly is IE.

Irony or incompetence? YOU BE TEH JUDEG!

Re:Offtopic (1)

Zeriel (670422) | about 11 years ago | (#7065927)

I think it must be an error in your configuration. I have had zero rpt zero errors using Mozilla 1.2 and Mozilla 1.4 viewing Slashdot. And believe me, I post a lot and read a lot.

Re:Offtopic (1)

altek (119814) | about 11 years ago | (#7065263)

This happens to me in Mozilla 1.4 also, and happens after submitting moderations as well.

Re:Offtopic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065270)

I get the same problem (Firebird 0.6.1, and Mozilla 1.4). It only happens sometimes, but it's a fucking pain in the rectum.

Well, that's why FIREBIRD SUCK! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065335)

So, suck it up or get a REAL browser.

OH YA YOU DIRTY COCKSUCKER (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065351)

Firebird is Free

And in case you didn't notice, that's a fucking capital F!

Dirty MS buttFUDder!

Old Joke (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065242)

hehehe, reminds me of an old joke:

What do timothy and 'A Fire Upon the Deep' have in common?

That is what timothy calls the pain he has after a round of anal sex with all the slashdot editors!

What's the fucking point (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065248)

of all these crap book reviews? Nobody reads books anymore. Books are crap. Book reviews are crap.

Re:What's the fucking point (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065502)

Books are crap.

This message brought to you by your local chapter of the NEA.

meow? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065258)

passed beyond normal mortal intelligence and become as unfathomable to normal humanity as we must be to animals.

My cat wants to have a chat with you.

Re:meow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065344)

My cat wants to have a chat with you.

En francais, my chat wants to fuck your chat.

Re:meow? (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#7065671)

My cat and I post collaboratively.

She thinks people ought to be able to moderate our posts +1 Transcend.

If you don't think that's funny. . .

Q.E.D.

KFG

Re:meow? (1)

Ella the Cat (133841) | about 11 years ago | (#7065773)

Woof!

Re:meow? (1)

ckd (72611) | about 11 years ago | (#7066023)

She thinks people ought to be able to moderate our posts +1 Transcend.

Only if we also get -1, Ronzelle to go with it.

Re:meow? (1)

kfg (145172) | about 11 years ago | (#7066057)

Works for us.

KFG

heart attack in Paris (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065266)

Robert Palmer was even second rate in death, Jim Morrison was not worth emulating. I wonder what Robert is addicted to now?

I just heard the sad news from Natalie Portman... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065320)

What the fuck are you talking about?!!! George Plimpton never had an Elvis impersonator act!!!

Re:I just heard the sad news from Natalie Portman. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065561)

George Plimpton never had an Elvis impersonator act!!!
And that's why he deserved to die!

It's the 'Sensa Wunda' (3, Interesting)

RussH (94054) | about 11 years ago | (#7065280)

As per the old 'golden age' discussions, it's books (usually on a vast scale) like this that generate the sense of wonder that makes readers read and re-read it, then finally pick up 'the making of' as well!

Definitely a fantastic read, couldn't agree more.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065285)

It's available to buy on Palm media? Pchaah... it's been available on IRC for years!

Heh. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065294)

George Plimpton dies, and slashdot is busy reviewing this comic-book dogshit as if it were literature.

Read Paper Lion.

Re:Heh. (1)

TopShelf (92521) | about 11 years ago | (#7065406)

Read Paper Lion.

And then watch the Lions on Sunday, and realize that Plimpton could probably play on this team now...

Re:Heh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065451)

You ain't "lion" brother!

Hahahahaha get it, lion sounds like "lying"!

It's funny, laugh!

Re:Heh. (0)

daveqr (247081) | about 11 years ago | (#7065515)

Totally agree with this. I'm surprised we haven't seen any Ayn Rand reviews. Now that's good readin'!

Re:Heh. (0, Offtopic)

Otter (3800) | about 11 years ago | (#7065738)

George Plimpton? Robert Palmer [bbc.co.uk] just died! Yet another victim of the French health care system.

Anyway, who cares about these 60's relics? People fawn over Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal like they ever did anything of lasting consequence, never mind pretending that they have anything useful to say today. And George Plimpton was essentially a novelty act even in his day.

Obligatory Eliezer S. Yudkowsky review (5, Interesting)

metroid composite (710698) | about 11 years ago | (#7065297)

Whenever I think of the "Vingean Sigularity" and Posthumanism, I can't help but think of Yudkowsky as he has some of the best internet materials on the subject so....

Yudkowsky's review [yudkowsky.net] (Which incidentally is considerably shorter)

Re:Obligatory Eliezer S. Yudkowsky review (2, Informative)

Skyshadow (508) | about 11 years ago | (#7065491)

Since you brought up the Vingean Singularity, I feel like I should point out a good short story I read just this morning that takes place in a decidedly posthuman era: Coelacanths by Robert Reed.

Worth a check-out if you're looking to entertain yourself for a while and don't what to switch on the idiot box...

Re:Obligatory Eliezer S. Yudkowsky review (1)

deego (587575) | about 11 years ago | (#7065897)

have a link to Coelacanths? or where to get it?

Re:Obligatory Eliezer S. Yudkowsky review (1)

Skyshadow (508) | about 11 years ago | (#7066423)

It was in "The Year's Best Science Fiction" anthology, the 20th annual edition. Edited by Gardner Dozois.

Re:Obligatory Eliezer S. Yudkowsky review (1)

Saeger (456549) | about 11 years ago | (#7066634)

Yeah, Yudkowsky's a certifiable genius who's actually done a lot to inform people about this Singularitarian "crazy talk." [singinst.org]

--

Readability? (3, Insightful)

WTFmonkey (652603) | about 11 years ago | (#7065302)

I still have the problem of not wanting to read hundreds of pages of on-screen print. I just bought a 19" viewsonic monitor, but can't imagine reading an entire book on it (or any monitor). I also don't have a palm-type reader either. Are they worth buying yet? Do they read the same as treeware?

Re:Readability? (4, Interesting)

javatips (66293) | about 11 years ago | (#7065407)

I own a Palm Tungsten T and I bough many e-books from PDM. While reading on a small screen is not the best thing since slice bread, I still enjoy it. Note that the screen quality of the T|T is very good. I would not even try reading a book on a device with a low quality screen (older Palm or Handspring devices). Color screen or B&W screen should be ok.

The convenience (I always have my T|T in my pocket, si I can read a book almost anywhere and anytime) of having a book in electronics format far outweight the small inconvenience of reading on a small screen.

The only things that annoys me about e-books, is that you do not have a great deal of choice. The selection they have on PDM is nice, but is still far from the selection availlable at a small bookstore. The other thing is that your bookshelve don't grow with the number of books you read. I like, when I go to somebody else home, to take a look at their bookshelve to see what they read. You loose that ability when you have an electronic bookshelve.

Re:Readability? (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 11 years ago | (#7065514)

I travel a lot, and for me my Palm is a lifesaver. I have a Tungsten T and have read probably 50-100 or more novels on it. One nice thing is that because it has its own consistent backlight, it is much easier to read on airplanes and at night than a paper book.

During the day and while killing time, paper would be nicer to read, but being able to immediately start off where you stopped, read a few lines, and never lose your place are not always easy with paperbacks.

Travelling with a palm and a 9V adapter for emergency charges is a lot more convenient than having a half-dozen paperbacks with me, and I can change what I'm reading depending on mood or switch to a game to let my mind process interesting things in the background...

Re:Readability? (2, Informative)

henben (578800) | about 11 years ago | (#7065786)

I use an old Handspring Visor Deluxe and a program called Weasel reader (gutenpalm.sourceforge.net). It's not quite as good as paper, but it's a lot easier on the eye than a PC screen. I'd recommend you buy the Palm Zire, except it only has 2MB of memory, which isn't really enough if you want to carry around a decent selection of reading material. Maybe get an old second-hand monochrome Palm from someone who's upgrading?

Re:Readability? (1)

StarFace (13336) | about 11 years ago | (#7065802)

Another vote for the Palm T|T. After much deliberation, I decided to give eBooks a try about half a year ago, and I've been happy with my choice. I am an avid reader, and for someone my age, I have a large library of paper books that I would never part with. While it is impossible to say now, I don't know if I'll ever give up paper books entirely, but you never know.

As for digital, I have no problems reading them using the Palm. I went ahead and purchased Palm Reader Pro and a set of monospace fonts, this made a world of difference. I can use a font and size that more closely resembles traditional text, and use sub-pixel anti-aliasing to keep them smooth. Another nice thing with Pro is it comes with a pocket dictionary. I guess this would be nice for some people, but most of the words I have to look up are not even in the pocket version -- so I went ahead and bought the full Webster's Collegiate. The dictionary integrates very well with the reader. Looking up a word is as simple as highlighting it with a pen. That convenience, along with the ability to tote around the equal of a small bookshelf around with you, are very compelling reasons to stick with eBooks for me.

I sometimes read in the computer -- usually when I am at work and things are slow. Generally I prefer to use a handheld device, though. It is more like reading a book. I don't sit posture perfect and stare straight ahead to read -- I lay on the couch. I don't think I'd ever voluntarily read an eBook on my desktop/laptop in my leisure time. To each their own, however.

I still buy a lot of paper books. Usually things that are not available in eBook, or special things I want a physical copy of. Annotations to Finnegans Wake, for example, would never work well on a handheld because each line is carefully formatted to match the original text of Joyce's Wake.

Re:Readability? (2, Informative)

btempleton (149110) | about 11 years ago | (#7065872)

Use the techniques I outline on How to read an electronic book [templetons.com] particularly on a big monitor, to try it out. It's better than you think. Of course PDAs and laptops are better but you can do much with an ordinary PC.

Re:Readability? (1)

gbrandt (113294) | about 11 years ago | (#7065926)

Thats what I thought, until I got an LCD screen. The sucker is fantastic on the eyes (and it looks good too :-).

You can read for hours if you wanted to.

Gregor

Re:Readability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7066155)

I don't have a problem with reading e-books on my aging 21 inch CRT hulk. Well, not eye-pain wise. The only problem I have with reading that way is portability combined with time. My monitor weighs roughly 100 lbs, and my computer weighs quite a bit too, and needs to be plugged in. In short, I can't use my computer to read when it would be most useful ... when I have to wait on something else (between classes, for example).

I still feel kinda lucky to be the able to read books on my desktop though.

Re:Readability? (1)

Jon-o (17981) | about 11 years ago | (#7066889)

I agree - reading on a monitor while sitting at a desk is not the comfiest thing to do. I recently set up an old semi-dead 386 laptop as a dumb terminal (it wasn't easy to find a null-modem cable these days!) connecting with kermit, and can at least read in bed now. It's surprisingly comfy for things like this that I don't need all the graphics and stuff for. Just using 'less' on texts from Project Gutenberg has worked pretty well, and I run it in a screen session so that I don't lose my place and have to search around to find it each time I want to read. Not the most elegant setup, but it works pretty well.

BN.com is no longer selling EBOOKS (1)

lostindenver (53192) | about 11 years ago | (#7065307)

Try fiction wise Plus they have it in more formats: "AVAILABLE ONLY IN SECURE MOBIPOCKET OR SECURE PALM READER OR SECURE ADOBE READER 6.0 FORMATS." I have purchased about a hundred books from them on the sci fi side and have Never had a problem.

Please? (0)

gregarican (694358) | about 11 years ago | (#7065324)

How's about an abridged version of the review? Perhaps my circa 2003 American attention span is much too attuned to Coors Light commericals and MTV videos, but I'm more used to an Ebert thumbs up with a qualifying statement or two.

I'd hate to read the review of Marcel Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past."

In a book review... (2, Insightful)

the_consumer (547060) | about 11 years ago | (#7065331)

...it's common practice to name the author. Somewhere near the top is nice. Yeah, I see that 'Vinge' occurs a few times toward the end, but to anyone who deeosn't know who Vernor Vinge is, this isn't particularly helpful, and it seems a bit disrespectful to the author.

Re:In a book review... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065417)

The first paragraph ends with:
"contains some minor spoilers for plot, but not for ending."

Then there is a box. The box contains text. What does the text say?

A Fire Upon the Deep: Special Edition
author Vernor Vinge

I think your attitude is a little disrespectful to our kind book reviewer, don't you?

This post brought to you by ICBLF

Re:In a book review... (1)

the_consumer (547060) | about 11 years ago | (#7065498)

Then there is a box. The box contains text.

Not if you're viewing slashdot lite, which I am. And even if I weren't, the point still stands. Somewhere near the beginning of the review, within its body, the author's full name should be given.

Great geek litrature (4, Interesting)

warmcat (3545) | about 11 years ago | (#7065333)

I reread this last week while I was ill with a cold, I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

Vinge is a geek's geek, several times he uses the bandwidth limitation to most excellent and credible use -- and in truth, limitations stemming from not having enough bandwidth will never go away.

If you have never read his work, or disclaim the possibility of it being worth your attention, I urge you to reconsider, this is literature for the [above] average Slashdot reader.

There are many similarities between this and 'A Deepness In The Sky', Pham Nuwen is in both, but the similarities go deeper: a suppressing, evil Microsoft-like force closely controlling and monitoring the minds of the people who can throw off its yoke is the theme: makes you wonder about Vinge's childhood and siblings.

Re:Great geek litrature (1)

srmalloy (263556) | about 11 years ago | (#7066852)

Vinge is a geek's geek, several times he uses the bandwidth limitation to most excellent and credible use -- and in truth, limitations stemming from not having enough bandwidth will never go away.

I particularly liked the 'postings' from the race that were mostly speculations about the situation and requests for more information, and concluded with the Known Net version of "please reply by email, because I don't read this newsgroup" -- I couldn't help laughing when I read that the first time...

A Favorite (1)

Euphonious Coward (189818) | about 11 years ago | (#7065358)

That's still among my favorite books. I doubt I'll ever buy the annotated edition, though. I'd rather buy up copies of his "The Peace War" to lend out to the deserving.

gosh-wow lan stuff (3, Funny)

GillBates0 (664202) | about 11 years ago | (#7065364)

Somewhere should make clear to the undiscerning reader that we can't have gosh-wow 1990 LAN stuff on the Known Net because of bandwidth and transmission delay problems...

not to mention the flurry of lawsuits brought upon the Straumuli by the RIAA.

Not prolific, but good, author (1)

nimblebrain (683478) | about 11 years ago | (#7065394)

Deepness in the Sky was a pretty good novel as well.

Joan D. Vinge, his ex-wife, wrote the Catspaw series, as well as the Snow Queen series. She brushes on fantasy a little in style, but with science fiction underpinnings, and they deal nicely with topics such as racism, questioning the status quo, rising above your station, and the limits on freedom when you're at the very top.

...of course, during the time it took me to write this, Stephen King came out with another book... doh! :)

In Soviet Russia (-1, Troll)

DrFlex (711207) | about 11 years ago | (#7065404)

The deep fires upon you!

Sprinkle some smart dust and off you go.

"RE: Hexapodia the key insight" (4, Interesting)

InfoVore (98438) | about 11 years ago | (#7065409)

One of the things I enjoyed about Vinge's use of the USENET-like posts was how he subtly mixed grains of truth and insight into some of the posts.

From the readers perspective, it is easy to see which posts were on the right track and which ones were utter nonsense. It offered an interesting perspective on how garbled or wrong information could have unexpected and dangerous consequences (unprovoked attacks on innocents, etc).

It was particularly facinating to read the posts on the "Hexapodia..." thread go from garbled facts to a dead-on analysis of the situation.

Great book by one of the modern SF masters.

If you want to see more books (4, Informative)

mental_telepathy (564156) | about 11 years ago | (#7065412)

In electronic format, support The Bean free library [baen.com] , which offers many free books in multiple formats.
Also Webscriptions [webscriptions.net] , which is a great way to get books early and cheap.

Re:If you want to see more books (1)

FreezerJam (138643) | about 11 years ago | (#7066357)

>...support The Bean free library, which...

I'll assume that means it's decaffeinated.

Re:If you want to see more books (1)

NearlyHeadless (110901) | about 11 years ago | (#7066451)

In electronic format, support The Bean free library [baen.com] , which offers many free books in multiple formats.
Does the Bean-free library include The Pythagorean Diet Cookbook?

Read the book, not the review! (5, Insightful)

Sierra Charlie (37047) | about 11 years ago | (#7065414)

It's a good book, as is "A Deepness in the Sky" by the same author set in the same universe.

I know it's too late but, if you're interested in the book, try to avoid the 'review' above. It lays out FAR too much of the plot and background... a few quick statements above give away concepts that take over half the book to develop in an interesting way.

No offense intended to the original poster, who is obviously a big fan of the work.

Re:Read the book, not the review! (1)

tcdk (173945) | about 11 years ago | (#7065565)

I have to agree on this and and follow up with my own, go read the book.

Infact go read everything by Vinge. He has written, so few books, but all of them are great. He show knowledge and interest in topic of IT and he seems to know what he's talking about (unlike, say Gibson).

I've reviewed most his books on my site (without spoilers).

Another version (1)

Knos (30446) | about 11 years ago | (#7065432)

Another version can be downloaded for PC from here:

http://mfx.scene.org/

Together with Deepness in the Sky. ;)

Amazingly futuristic (3, Interesting)

dillon_rinker (17944) | about 11 years ago | (#7065439)

This book seemed amazingly futuristic when I first read it. The notion of online communities divided up into interest groups seemed like a really cool idea. Several years later I discovered usenet...

Found this by accident... (2, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | about 11 years ago | (#7065446)

Just happened to pick up this book in a Borders one Saturday when my girlfriend was out of town and started reading, intending to cover the first few pages and see if it was worth buying.

I sat in the cafe for six hours reading and swilling coffee, until they started closing up and I had to buy it and get out.

Since then, I've read a lot of Vinge (including his Zones-of-Thought followup, Deepness in the Sky), but this is IMO his best work. Good hard scifi, original alien species (both the Riders and the Tines are refreshing in a world of Star-Trek-Weird-Nose aliens), good plot progression... Really, I thought the Usenet portion that the reviewer got so stuck on was the least of the reasons to recommend this book.

Anyhow, go get it if you haven't already.

So how protected is it? (1)

roystgnr (4015) | about 11 years ago | (#7065463)

it is understandable that Dr. Vinge (or his publisher) might have preferred for the book to be digitally protected.

Yes, it's very understandable, but it isn't going to happen. I wonder whether they're simply satisfied to make it harder for people to get at the cleartext, or whether some snakeoil salesman managed to convince them that they've got magic uncrackable "digital protection". Based on Vinge's net experience I'd guess the former.

Since that is unlikely to change anytime soon

Anyone want to put money on that? ;-)

as digitally-protected e-book formats go, the PDM format is actually quite decent. Free reader software is available for the Palm, PocketPC, Macintosh, and Windows platforms (and the Windows version also runs flawlessly under WINE on Linux)

Translation: the most capable programmers might unobfuscate the cleartext after it's already been decrypted in /proc/1337/mem, but if you don't think you're up to that you can probably spy on the X datastream, compile a couple wrapper functions on top of the Wine font API, or simply write a screenshot->ocr script to grab it all.

I actually kind of like DRM when it's stuff like this which doesn't take away your control of your own hardware - it feels much less like an invasion of consumer rights and more like a fun hacker game. I worry about it backfiring on the creators, though - if the people who buy copyrighted products have to get cracked versions in order to have unhobbled access to the media they've already purchased, they're more likely in the future to just get the cracked version instead of a purchase rather than in addition to one.

The Setting (3, Informative)

headkase (533448) | about 11 years ago | (#7065506)

I read A Fire Upon the Deep about a month ago. The setting was excellent, with AI Gods who are as much above us as we are above cockroaches. Looking for other material with this setting led me to Orion's Arm [orionsarm.com] . Orion's Arm shares the ideas of the Singularity like A Fire Upon the Deep and has a 10000 year time-line with no humanoid aliens and as realistic as possible physics.

Related stories? No problem. (4, Informative)

devphil (51341) | about 11 years ago | (#7065516)


A Deepness In the Sky is the prequel to this novel, but was written later. Excellent characters, fascinating plot, really sweet tech. Set only a few thousand years from now.

The reviewer asked about more Tines stories. There's a short story that occurs after both Deepness and Fire but was written first. Actually, it was the very first Zones of Thought story. It's called Blabber, and you can find it published in various Vinge compilations. "The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge" has it, along with some comments by Vinge on the background.

I'd actually read the short story before the other two, then over the course of time, read the two novels and re-read the short. Wow. Vinge's stuff is chock full o' rereading goodness, meaning you pick up on a lot more on subsequent reads.

Re:Related stories? No problem. (1)

the gnat (153162) | about 11 years ago | (#7065968)

There's a short story that occurs after both Deepness and Fire but was written first. Actually, it was the very first Zones of Thought story. It's called Blabber, and you can find it published in various Vinge compilations. "The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge" has it, along with some comments by Vinge on the background.

Specifically, there are incompatabilities between the short story and Fire, which he says now constrain his efforts to turn the story into a sequel. (Although I think he'd be foolish to try to stick too closely to the literal text of the story.) The universe is clearly the same, and one of the characters, but some references are recognizible but just don't make sense in context.

I'd actually read the short story before the other two, then over the course of time, read the two novels and re-read the short.

I disagree - it's more interesting to read the books, then go back and see what he originally was thinking. In particular, his explanations for the "Zones of Thought".

My bad. (1)

devphil (51341) | about 11 years ago | (#7066268)

I'd actually read the short story before the other two

There's a misunderstanding here. I meant "I had read them in this order," describing past experiences, not "I would read them in this order," making a recommendation. Shame on me for using the contraction there. :-) Does that clear things up?

I actually have no recommendation for the order of reading, other than "once done, loop through them again to pick up the stuff you missed."

Re:Related stories? No problem. (2, Informative)

st. augustine (14437) | about 11 years ago | (#7066462)


There's a short story that occurs after both Deepness and Fire but was written first. Actually, it was the very first Zones of Thought story. It's called "The Blabber," and you can find it published in various Vinge compilations. The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge has it, along with some comments by Vinge on the background.
A side note: according to this interview [strangehorizons.com] on Strange Horizons [strangehorizons.com] , "The Blabber" will form the basis of the next Zones novel. Vinge has another book or two to write first, though.

Related material (1)

adipocere (201135) | about 11 years ago | (#7065521)

A Deepness In The Sky is something of a prequel to this. I didn't much care for it, as it discarded some of the more exciting concepts of A Fire Upon the Deep. I was always fascinated by The Transcend.

To the author of this article, Vinge does have short stories which specifically relate to the Tines that are pretty decent. It's not the only time you'll see well-designed groupminds, like in Charles Sheffield's (sp?) The Mind Pool (which has more than one title). Still, the Tines are fun.

The Peace War and its sequel, Marooned in Realtime, are good for Singularity-addicts and your posthumanist types, especially the latter book. I can't speak to Vinge's other work, such as True Names.

I have the 1993 Hugo/Nebula CDROM (1)

e40 (448424) | about 11 years ago | (#7065533)

and the annotations are a little sparse/terse. They seemed to me just "notes to self", and many are just a single (short) sentence. If the newest one has the same annotation, I'd pass on it. Just get the book and read it!

Btw, this is one of my top 5 books of all time.

Xenu anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065541)

The galaxy is divided into several Zones of Thought, ranging from the Transcend on the farthest outskirts of the galaxy to the High and Low Beyond, the Slow Zone, and the Unthinking Depths at the galactic core...Outside the galaxy, in the Transcend, lurk the superintelligent beings who have, well, Transcended

Makes me think of Xenu [xenu.net]

The Tines do appear in other Vinge work (2, Informative)

Xthlc (20317) | about 11 years ago | (#7065549)

There's a piece that centers around them in Vinge's excellent, excellent short story collection [barnesandnoble.com] . Although the surprise around which the plot revolves is kinda ruined if you've already read Fire Upon the Deep.

The last story in this book ("Fast Times at Fairmont High") is a particularly well-thought-out portrait of what American education might evolve into, given another fifty or so years of the Internet and school privatization.

Other Vinge novels (1)

Zathrus (232140) | about 11 years ago | (#7065559)

The concept behind these beings [the Tines] is fascinating to me, and I would like to read more stories involving them.

If so, then try and get a copy of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (or Threats and Other Promises, which is out of print and incredibly hard to find -- I lost my copy :( ). He wrote a short story that predates (IIRC) Fire Upon the Deep that involves the creatures. It is, as to be expected, somewhat more primative, but still a good short story.

My favorite Vinge short is Original Sin, which I find hard to describe without giving away too much. It is, fortunately, in the anthology listed above.

I'd also recommend The Peace War (which is also available as Across Realtime combined with Marooned in Realtime). This was the first thing I'd read by Vinge and I still find it an interesting book. I prefer TPW over MiR -- the latter is more of a detective story than anything else.

Unthinking Depths (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065666)

...and in the Unthinking Depths, even rational thought itself fades away. As one might imagine, most of the "civilized" races of the galaxy are found in the Beyond, between the Slow Zone and the Transcend.

All except for the branch of humanity know as "The Floridians"

The author... and singularity.. (2, Informative)

deego (587575) | about 11 years ago | (#7065769)

The author, Vernor Vinge, a mathematician, was also the first one to use the word "singularity" in reference to the technological spike---

Venge-sing [caltech.edu] .

Leading futurists like Ray Kurzweill, who wrote "The Age of spitirual machines", and is now almost out with "The singularity is coming", concur with him.

BTW, on the same note, Slashdot recently linked to Marshall Brain's articles on "RoboticNation"---Marshall also has a very interesting online novel called Manna [marshallbrain.com]

Another bit of computer lore (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065810)

Somewhere in A Fire Upon The Deep, Vinge mentions that the computer inside the ship has a clock counting from when humans first landed on the moon" That's 1969, not too far from Jan 1 1970 whence Unix counts (not too far, from the perspective of tens of thousands of years at least in the future, anyway). So, they're still using Unix! Neat!

Re:Another bit of computer lore (1)

darkgumby (647085) | about 11 years ago | (#7066613)

It's been a while, so I can't be specific, but there are definite references to Unix in 'A Deepness in the Sky'.

I would have never known Vernor is so popular (1)

lunarc13 (711225) | about 11 years ago | (#7065831)

All this time i just thought he was a struggling author, i hang out with him and his family druing the holidays for x-mas and thanksgiving, weird to think he has such a huge fan following. I have talked to him about some of his stuff but, he is a very interesting guy. I will be sure to let him know that slahsdot has a post about his book.

Re:I would have never known Vernor is so popular (0)

nfdavenport (599530) | about 11 years ago | (#7066404)

For heaven's sake man, if you can, beg him for me to write more books. I have been waiting for years for more of his books and nothing seems forthcoming. And if you know David Brin tell him to get moving as well.

Some notes on the CD-Rom version (4, Interesting)

HiKarma (531392) | about 11 years ago | (#7065834)

Since I'm the person who made it (well, Vernor did the hard part...)

a) You can still get the CD today, if you join the EFF with a donation of $200 or more, and make a special request to get the CD instead of a T-shirt or Hat. The CD rom has the materials in open formats, just like we at the EFF push. There's a lot on it in addition to A Fire Upon the Deep, indeed, 2 hugo winning novels (Fire and Doomsday book) and 2 nebuala winning novels (Doomsday Book and Red Mars.) as well as all that winning and nominated short fiction.

b) The format used isn't strictly Microsoft Help format, but a special book publishing product MS made (probably based on that). And it's not so bad. Read the notes on how to read an ebook on a desktop computer and you will find that it's pretty tolerable. Wide margins, large text, fill the screen and sit 6 feet away so you can change your posture frequently -- those are the key points. I designed it to do this, and the MS reader was chosen because it was about the only tool at the time that could do that. HTML couldn't. I do provide a translator to HTML though.

Whoops (1)

btempleton (149110) | about 11 years ago | (#7065852)

I posted that from a machine logged in with a friend's account. Yes, it's really me who wrote the above

Re:Some notes on the CD-Rom version (1)

Metropolitan (107536) | about 11 years ago | (#7066786)

Thank you for putting this together!! I ordered one monents after finding out it existed (95, I think), and have enjoyed it a great deal.

Any chance of another collection coming out like that? It would be a great library addition to have one for each year, and pick up the books of those writers one likes the most.

Cheers,
-Metropolitan

2 editions (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7065928)

Ref: Amazon has 2 editions: paper [amazon.com] and eBook [amazon.com]

Re:2 editions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7066012)

Don't forget, Amazon supports inane software patents [gnu.org] . Why would ccats [slashdot.org] support this predatory practice for a $1 referral fee?

Digitally protected e-book == antibook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7066051)

I just don't understand why this review appears at Slashdot at all.

To quote Eric Eldred:

http://users.vnet.net/alight/mid-battle.html

"By definition an antibook is a book that has been murdered--it has been bought up like private property, enclosed inside a secure hardware lock by strong encryption and digital signatures, wrapped up inside a shrinkwrap software license you have no choice but to accept, copyrighted whether it deserves a new copyright or not and protected by the criminal sanctions of the new laws, delivered directly to consumers over the Internet instead of being sold by used bookstores or browsable on a bookstore shelf, incapable of being lent by public libraries because of all the licensing restrictions, locked up securely so the reader cannot print it out, copy it to a disk to backup or use on another computer or share with anyone else, in fact so locked up it requires proprietary software or hardware to even view the antibook, incapable of being resold because of the shrinkwrap license and the hardware locks, and unable to be accessed for any fair use by scholars or by anyone, including blind readers, if it ever technically reverted to the public domain."

Did VV have anything to say about the DRM? (1)

phr1 (211689) | about 11 years ago | (#7066216)

Or more likely, was it done without bothering to ask him, or maybe even over his opposition?

I refuse to buy any DRM-impaired e-books, so I hope that an open-format version becomes available sometime.

Trap ending. (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 11 years ago | (#7066249)

My favorite part about this book is that if you get lazy and read the last page it gives you a false impression of how the book ends. I e-mailed VV about this and he very politely replied.

Uthinking depths to Trancendence is also one of my favorite models for Galatic geography esp. that it uses the modern ides of the galactic habitable zone.

This book is on my short list for top 20 sci-fi books. If you like it also check out Iain M. Banks.

In regard to palm's I have a Clie NS 710 I got on Ubid. It was cheap, it has a VERY high-res screen and plays MP3's. It really excels becasue it has a hold button that turns off the LCD while the MP3's play. My only gripe is that I HATE Sony's Memorystick, I wish it took CF instead. I use readers for a lot of Linux tips and documentation. I like to be able to pull it up no matter what I am working on on my PC. Books have been hit or miss for me. Although the CLIE is more readable than my Handspring Deluxe was I still am a paperback fan for fiction.

One of my favorites too (1)

ScooterBill (599835) | about 11 years ago | (#7066365)

It's a long book but totally engrossing. He puts forth a number of fascinating concepts, any one of which would have made a great plot by itself.

As far as the PDA readability idea is concerned, I've read a few PDA books (both Palm and IPaq) and it does work. I like it best for reading in the dark (like when the wifey's sleeping) or in the car at night, etc...

Fire Upon The Deep - Highly recommended reading

M

"Usenet posters" (1)

Scott Hazen Mueller (223805) | about 11 years ago | (#7066375)

Correcting a comment by the OP, I'd note that Henry Spencer (formerly utzoo!henry) has good reason to believe that he was the (primary) model for the poster "Sandor at the Zoo." Not that I'm authoritative or anything, but I am inclined to agree, having read Henry's Usenet posts for many years...

Shlashdot books reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7066444)

I don't trust slashdot books reviews anymore.
Some time ago it was published a review about a
book called "decipher" by Stel Pavlou, I read the
book and is terrible I really regret have spend
the money. Why people can't write just a good
and coherent novel???.

have the CD-ROM (1)

DuctTape (101304) | about 11 years ago | (#7066905)

I've got the CD-ROM of whence the reviewer speaks. Included novels are:
  • China Mountain Zhang
  • Red Mars
  • Steel Beach
  • Doomsday Book (Nebula winner)
  • (of course) A Fire Upon the Deep
Plus it also has all Hugo and Nebula nominated short fiction, samples from the Campbell Award Nominees for best new writer, Hugo nominated fan writing, fanzines, and fan art. And if that wasn't enough, four volumes of the rec.humor.funny joke books.

I wrote ClariNet to ask them when the '94 version was going to come out, but I don't recall ever getting an answer. Dang.

DT

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?