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View Full Version : Anyone a fan of Vernor Vinge?


Greg Charles
11-18-2010, 04:21 PM
I followed a link from a recent thread on Robert Heinlein to a list of Hugo Award Winners (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel), and was surprised to find that Vernor Vinge is one of only a few people to win the award more than twice. I've read a couple of his novels, "The Peace War" being my favorite, but even so I have trouble thinking of him as a giant of science fiction, rather than as my old CS professor from San Diego State. Has anyone else read his stuff, and what did you think?

Tamerlane
11-18-2010, 04:25 PM
A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, especially the latter, are both very good IMHO. I own, but haven't yet read Rainbow's End.

In general I like him, but then I like well done Space Opera ( I'm a Cherryh fan for example ), so the above two novels cater to my tastes.

Der Trihs
11-18-2010, 04:30 PM
He's done some great stuff. I liked the equal to The Peace War, Marooned in Realtime even better. He also wrote a short story set between the two, The Ungoverned. True Names is an old favorite of mine, a very early example of cyberspace/virtual reality in sci-fi - before the name was coined. A Fire Upon the Deep was good, but the ending a bit depressing to me. The prequel I didn't read, since the premise sounded too depressing for me to enjoy.

Mr. Excellent
11-18-2010, 04:36 PM
A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, especially the latter, are both very good IMHO. I own, but haven't yet read Rainbow's End.

In general I like him, but then I like well done Space Opera ( I'm a Cherryh fan for example ), so the above two novels cater to my tastes.

I like Vinge's two space opera novels, but hire more "cyberpunk" stuff leaves me cold. Your milleage may, of course, vary.

Greg Charles
11-18-2010, 04:53 PM
equal = sequel? I actually liked "The Peace War" more than the sequel, but they were both interesting. The sequel does have his idea of a technological singularity, which he developed more after that.

hire more "cyberpunk"? hire = his, or what? I'm having trouble parsing that. Which are his cyberpunk novels? I assume you mean "A Fire Upon the Deep" is the space opera, right. I couldn't really get into that one enough to be able to classify it. Maybe I'll give it another try though.

Der Trihs
11-18-2010, 05:16 PM
equal = sequel? Ugh, yes, sorry.

Morbo
11-18-2010, 05:20 PM
I like Vinge's two space opera novels, but hire more "cyberpunk" stuff leaves me cold. Your milleage may, of course, vary.

Ditto. Also, I liked A Fire Upon The Deep much more than A Deepness In The Sky, and I didn't much care for Ranbow's End.

DocCathode
11-18-2010, 05:37 PM
I love True Names. It's a brilliant mix of cyberpunk and fantasy.

Evil Captor
11-18-2010, 05:39 PM
I like almost everything he's written, he's one of the few writers who is capable of thinking about the future without falling into cliches. He's an original, inventive thinker who knows how to write interesting stories. Rainbow's End would be a cyberpunk story, I imagine, but still so imaginatively and originally realized that I enjoyed every word of it.

hdc_bst
11-18-2010, 06:00 PM
I like Vinge's two space opera novels, but hire more "cyberpunk" stuff leaves me cold. Your milleage may, of course, vary.

Yep, my mileage does vary. Loved AFUtD and ADitS, and then was completely blown away by Rainbow's End - very imaginative. Reading this thread it looks like there's a couple other of his books I should check out.

MilTan
11-18-2010, 06:02 PM
I've only read A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, but I absolutely love them both -- I count them among my favorite sci-fi books. I seem to be in the minority in preferring Deepness to Fire, though.

aruvqan
11-18-2010, 06:50 PM
I like him. Very good writer. I found you really can't go wrong reading hugo winning stuff. It is voted on by readers and not publishers, after all.

Green Bean
11-18-2010, 07:00 PM
I was so bored by Rainbow's End that I couldn't even finish it. I dislike cyberpunk in general, though.

Qadgop the Mercotan
11-18-2010, 07:22 PM
I've enjoyed all his stuff except for "Rainbow's end".

I wish he'd go back to his "zones of thought" (or whatever it was called) universe.

MilTan
11-18-2010, 09:19 PM
He's supposed to be releasing a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep sometime next year.

Meurglys
11-19-2010, 06:19 AM
For an author with only seven novels out, he has a very high hit rate for winning the Hugo for best novel.
Three have won, and another two were on the ballot. Only his two early novels, Tatja Grimm's World (1969) and The Witling (1976) didn't make the nominations.

Frylock
11-19-2010, 07:14 AM
I followed a link from a recent thread on Robert Heinlein to a list of Hugo Award Winners (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel), and was surprised to find that Vernor Vinge is one of only a few people to win the award more than twice. I've read a couple of his novels, "The Peace War" being my favorite, but even so I have trouble thinking of him as a giant of science fiction, rather than as my old CS professor from San Diego State. Has anyone else read his stuff, and what did you think?

Hells yes I'm a fan. Philosophically stimulating wowee-zowee future-tech-y sci fi with engrossing plots to boot? I'm there.

I just finished re-reading A Fire on the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.

Funny thing is, I was going to start a thread about this, but since you already have, I'll ask the question I was going to ask here instead.

The first time I read Deepness long long ago, I could swear (by the way, possible very minor spoiler ahead) there was some detail given as to how the Spiders' vision worked. I remember it involving their visual system somehow flickering through various modes at several frames per second, and this made video very hard for them to develop. I remember this pretty clearly, remember thinking Vinge had oddly inserted this explanation into the story as though it were an important plot point when in fact it went nowhere.

But on rereading, I saw references to the difficulty of developing video, and hints that their visual system was very different than ours, but none of the details about it that I remember reading the last time.

Did I somehow skip a portion of the book this time? Or are there in fact no such given details, and I somehow just made up the memories in my head?

Frylock
11-19-2010, 07:17 AM
He's supposed to be releasing a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep sometime next year.

I've searched for info on this before but couldn't find anything. Where did you read about it?

Frylock
11-19-2010, 07:21 AM
It seems like most fans don't like Rainbows End as much. Yet I thought it was awesome. I wish I could remember enough about it to say why, but anyway, there's the fact of it.

I dig plausible near-future tech speculations in general though so that may have been part of it.

Also the themes concerning the ways people can be fooled into thinking their autonomous when in fact they are agents for others--a theme that unifies all of his work, I think, esp. this and Deepness and Fire--is one that really hits me viscerally for some reason so that may have been part of it too.

Just found part of this mini-review I wrote for it once:

As the book progresses, Robert and granddaughter, with some friends, end up embarking on a kind of updated Hardy Boys style mystery caper--though the stakes this time turn out to involve the fate of the human race itself.

The way into the caper involves the concept of "hijacking." To hijack someone is to hack into their computer and manipulate the information it is feeding them. By this means, a hijacker can make someone act in the hijacker's own interest. It's like mind control, but different.

Who is being hijacked, and by whom? This question is asked all over the place in the book. And so it turns out the book is largely about people trying to discover the significance of their own actions. Another way to put this is, they're trying to discover the meaning of their own life.

Any book that successfully shines a new light at a new angle on that old quest must be pretty good. And it is

Malthus
11-19-2010, 08:52 AM
A Fire Upon the Deep is one of the all-time great space operas.

Lynn Bodoni
11-19-2010, 09:14 AM
For an author with only seven novels out, he has a very high hit rate for winning the Hugo for best novel.
Three have won, and another two were on the ballot. Only his two early novels, Tatja Grimm's World (1969) and The Witling (1976) didn't make the nominations. I've loved just about everything I've read by him, except for those two novels. Yes, even Rainbows End.

Eleanor of Aquitaine
11-19-2010, 09:20 AM
I've only read A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, but I absolutely love them both -- I count them among my favorite sci-fi books. I seem to be in the minority in preferring Deepness to Fire, though.I liked Deepness better, too. Those are the only two of his novels I've read, but I intend to read more.

I've been trying to catch up with the last decade of Hugo nominees. I've just started my first Charles Stross book. So far I like Michael Flynn, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, Naomi Novik and Peter Watts, but I don't like John Scalzi or Robert J. Sawyer. I've always liked Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold. I liked Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, and I'm meaning to read more from him.

Tom Scud
11-19-2010, 10:06 AM
I liked Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, and I'm meaning to read more from him.

Whatever you do, avoid his Darwinia, which has an awesome initial premise and then goes very very very badly off the tracks about halfway through.

MilTan
11-19-2010, 10:41 AM
I've searched for info on this before but couldn't find anything. Where did you read about it?

I saw it on his Wikipedia page, citing an interview he gave at a Con. Here's the interview (http://www.norwescon.org/archives/norwescon33/vingeinterview.htm), where he clearly talks about the sequel to Fire that he is finishing. I don't know where Wikipedia got the release date from, as it isn't cited.

Green Bean
11-19-2010, 10:54 AM
Based on what you're all saying, I'll try some others of his.

With regard to Robert Charles Wilson--Try Julian Comstock. Good stuff. I liked Darwinia as well, but Tom Scud is right that it goes of the rails.

Greg Charles
11-19-2010, 05:56 PM
Thanks for replies! It's good to know that Dr. Vinge has such a fan-base. He was a pretty good teacher as well. I remember he won his first Hugo in the first year of my master's program, after being nominated twice and falling short. Until this thread though, I still thought of writing as his side job. Now I'm curious to read some more of his work.

robby
11-19-2010, 07:47 PM
I read "Long Shot," a fantastic short story by Vernor Vinge, in a collection when I was 12 years old or so. (I actually figured out who the author was years later here on the SDMB.)

As a freshman in college, I read the serial version of "Marooned in Realtime" in Analog. I should track down the prequel one of these days...but hey, it's only been 24 years since then, after all. ;)

Little Nemo
11-20-2010, 12:20 AM
I liked Darwinia as well, but Tom Scud is right that it goes of the rails.I dunno. I didn't feel that Darwinia went off the rails so much as it went off in a completely unexpected direction.

To anyone looking for a good introduction to Wilson, I'd recommend The Harvest. It's an unusual end-of-the-world story.

squeegee
11-20-2010, 01:31 AM
For me, The Peace War was pretty good in spots, but overall weak; great ideas, but uneven storytelling. Then I read A Fire Upon The Deep and was totally hooked. Then I was pleasantly surprised at how much A Deepness in the Sky surpassed it -- awesome book. In the interim, I read Marooned in Realtime and loved the angle of a murder mystery spanning thousands of years, great stuff!

OTOH, I hated Rainbow End. Not an original idea in it, and it was written long past when being characters being "connected" 24/7 was innovative. I struggled to finish that book, and I'm not happy I persevered.

Lethal Babydoll
11-21-2010, 10:58 AM
I like him. Very good writer. I found you really can't go wrong reading hugo winning stuff. It is voted on by readers and not publishers, after all.

The nomination are good to look at as a guide for discoving books.

I've discovered several that way, most notably to me The Inverted World (http://www.amazon.com/Inverted-World-Review-Books-Classics/dp/1590172698/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290358417&sr=1-1) and The Ragged Astronauts (http://www.amazon.com/Ragged-Astronauts-Bob-Shaw/dp/0671654055/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290358487&sr=1-1).

The only 4 time best novel winner other than Heinlin is Bujold, who i don't care for but many obviously do

Pushkin
11-22-2010, 02:54 PM
A Fire Upon the Deep was good, but the ending a bit depressing to me

I loved that book, quite epic in it's scope. I did though find the ending a bit uplifting somehow at the same time as being slightly sad.

Revtim
11-22-2010, 03:13 PM
I read A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, and enjoyed them.

I really liked in A Fire Upon the Deep the idea of an individual mind emerging from a pack, but was disappointed about how utterly human the mind is. Perhaps he was trying to make a point that minds are similar even when generated in different ways, but I didn't buy it.

squeegee
11-22-2010, 11:29 PM
I really liked in A Fire Upon the Deep the idea of an individual mind emerging from a pack, but was disappointed about how utterly human the mind is. Perhaps he was trying to make a point that minds are similar even when generated in different ways, but I didn't buy it.

Really? A main plot point was Flenser's villainous personality eventually being supplanted by the Teacher personality, because Flenser was forced the take on the Teacher members when his other members were lost (and eventually declared dead). This doesn't scream "non-human mind" issues to you?

Frylock
11-23-2010, 05:29 AM
BTW Fire is objectively better than Deepness. ;)

Better plotting, better writing, more interesting speculations about what aliens can be like, and more emotional punch to boot.

Revtim
11-23-2010, 08:07 AM
Really? A main plot point was Flenser's villainous personality eventually being supplanted by the Teacher personality, because Flenser was forced the take on the Teacher members when his other members were lost (and eventually declared dead). This doesn't scream "non-human mind" issues to you? What I mean is that the thought processes and motivations were identical to the human mind. The dialog and thoughts of these characters were indistinguishable from dialog and thoughts from human characters.

Malthus
11-23-2010, 08:34 AM
What I mean is that the thought processes and motivations were identical to the human mind. The dialog and thoughts of these characters were indistinguishable from dialog and thoughts from human characters.

I dunno, there was a lot of superficial sameness - which is what you'd expect: aliens may be alien but we are all animals together - social animals would be superficially similar, wherever they happened to be from. OTOH, while pursuing human-like goals - power over others, creativity, etc. - they often employ non-human means - like attempting to extend their "self" with incest. I liked the handling of the Tines.

Also, the same book depicted aliens who were well and truly alien in motive and act - those strange creatures they come across in their habitats.

What I thought less successful was the handling of those plant-creatures, which I thought unnecesarily unrealistic.

MilTan
11-23-2010, 10:13 AM
What I thought less successful was the handling of those plant-creatures, which I thought unnecesarily unrealistic.

Unrealistic in what sense? The skroderiders were explicitly an artificially created species (or, at least, one whose evolution was artificially manipulated), which seems to neatly explain away any implausibilities.

Malthus
11-23-2010, 10:42 AM
Unrealistic in what sense? The skroderiders were explicitly an artificially created species (or, at least, one whose evolution was artificially manipulated), which seems to neatly explain away any implausibilities.



I know, but the species seemed to have too many bizzare drawbacks to make a lot of sense as a wide-ranging sparefaring species - or at least, it seemed a trifle jarring to have a space pilot who occasionally just forgets what s/he/it's doing. The Tines, in contrast, worked well to my mind - they had drawbacks it is true, but also advantages.

Mr. Excellent
11-23-2010, 10:52 AM
I know, but the species seemed to have too many bizzare drawbacks to make a lot of sense as a wide-ranging sparefaring species - or at least, it seemed a trifle jarring to have a space pilot who occasionally just forgets what s/he/it's doing. The Tines, in contrast, worked well to my mind - they had drawbacks it is true, but also advantages.

Eh - that didn't seem all that unreasonable to me. Skroderiders have perfectly functional long-term memory - it's just that their short-term memory is crud, which is why they use their skrodes as memory prostheses. I expect skroderider pilots train extensively on a very simple concept: When in doubt, consult your skrode *immediately*. Not so different, in principle, from the use of checklists in-flight by human aviators.

Malthus
11-23-2010, 11:00 AM
Eh - that didn't seem all that unreasonable to me. Skroderiders have perfectly functional long-term memory - it's just that their short-term memory is crud, which is why they use their skrodes as memory prostheses. I expect skroderider pilots train extensively on a very simple concept: When in doubt, consult your skrode *immediately*. Not so different, in principle, from the use of checklists in-flight by human aviators.


Fair enough, it just struck me as jarring that a major species would have such an odd and inherent drawback. Yes, I know that they were engineered that way, but otherwise - how could a species lacking in short-term memory evolve? And if this was a product of their prosthesis - why design it that way?

I know this is explained by a revelation later. But in reading the book for the first time, they just didn't seem that likely.

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