The Pequod Review:
Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep is a thrilling interplanetary space opera that has it all: exotic alien species, superhuman forms of intelligence, deep physics, and a prescient mode of intergalactic communication that anticipated the internet. The book’s plot is a good one — it involves a super-intelligent virus-like plague (the “Blight”) that seeks to conquer a certain human civilization — but it is Vinge’s detailed world-building that especially dazzles. His story is set across four “Zones of Thought” within the Milky Way, each of which has different physical laws that impact human intelligence. In the lowest zone (the Unthinking Depths), entry is usually fatal (or at least permanent) since intelligence is so impaired that the traveler cannot find his or her way out. In the highest zone (the Transcend), its inhabitants operate in such an advanced state of intelligence as to be incomprehensible to the zones below. Vinge suffuses his narrative with scientifically-realistic details on everything from FTL travel and internet-fueled disinformation, to video-compression algorithms and coldsleep. While the quality of his writing doesn’t always match that of his ideas, this is one of the finer modern science fiction novels.