A Fire Upon the Deep
by Vernor Vinge
Published by Tor Publishing
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
It is many thousands of years in the future. Humans have spread so far across the galaxy, they do not even remember where they originated from. In their travels, they have discovered that the Universe is much like the ocean. The advanced live at the surface while the primitive live at the bottom. It turns out humans have been living in The Deep. Occasionally, like in the ocean, a bit of technology will sink into the Deep among the primitives. Such is the case when a band of humans run across a deactivated Artificial Intelligence, known as a Power. As they reactivate it, they discover that it had turned evil and was turned off for a VERY good reason.
As the humans try to escape, they separate into two ships. One with the adults, one with the children. The adults ship is destroyed, but the children's ship escapes...with the key to the evil AI's destruction. They hide in the Deep where the AI is unable to follow.
The ship lands on a medieval planet inhabited by wolf-like beings who are made up of several individual animals. They are a pack mind in which each individual is a part of the whole's personality. These creatures, called the Tines, are in the middle of a great battle and each side realizes that whoever controls the new technology will be the winner. Two of the children are awake and each falls into the hands of one of the warring sides. How will they deal with these new aliens and how will they decide which one is the one to follow?
Meanwhile, the AI begins to ravage the galaxy and it seems there is no hope of stopping it. A lone human woman then receives a distress call from one of the stranded children. She then decides to go on a rescue mission, but then soon realizes that there is much more at stake than just the lives of the children. The fate of the galaxy may depend on her success or failure.
This is some of the best science fiction I have ever read. It has a very Star Wars feel to it, but it goes so far beyond it. The book has action, adventure, science, romance, humor. You couldn't ask for a more entertaining story. The aliens are some of the most unique I have see, ANYWHERE. The characters are so well developed and you care so much about them. There is an intergalactic internet, called 'The Net of a Million Lies' in which commentary about the actions in the novel takes place. It was extremely cool! The characters in this story are real, and none of them are invincible. They are some of the most human you will find in any story. There is a spectacular chase scene that happens across the galaxy! This is one book I would have to say is a complete original. Also, this book was a Hugo award winner. I can't recommend it any higher to a Star Wars fan.
At the beginning of the story, for about the first fifty pages, it is really hard to figure out what's going on. However, the explanation here might help you if you start to read it. If you stick with it, you will be quickly drawn into the story. Also, the end wasn't quite what I hoped it would be, but it was a natural conclusion to what happened in the story, so I can't argue about it.
Getting attacked by a thousand hamsters, a fried plant, and a wounded Tine. (Sorry, you've just gotta read the story to understand these!)