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Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge(1944- )
Vernor Steffen Vinge is a retired San Diego State University (SDSU) Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels and novellas A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), Rainbows End (2006), Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002) and The Cookie Monster (2004), as well as for his 1984 novel The Peace War and his 1993 essay “The Coming Technological Singularity,” in which he argues that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which “the human era will be ended,” such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it. Vernor Vinge is married to SF author Joan D. Vinge.

A Fire Upon the Deep: Big-canvas space opera with uninspired plot

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) was the big breakout novel from Vernor Vinge, winner of the 1993 Hugo Award and nominated for the Nebula. It features a unique premise I haven’t encountered before: the universe has been separated into four separate Zones of Thought: the Unthinking Depths, Slow Zone, Beyond, and Transcend. Starting from the galactic core, the Zones demarcate differing levels of technological and biological advancement — but this doesn’t simply mean different stages of development. Instead, more advanced technologies cease to function when taken into slower zones, since the laws of physics themselves are different.

This include faster-than-light travel, so FTL ships that travel into slower zones need to also have ramjet drives to avoid losing power. Artificial intelligence also... Read More

A Deepness in the Sky: Might have been interesting at half the length

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep was a big success for Vernor Vinge, winning the 1993 Hugo Award. Seven years later, he followed up with A Deepness in the Sky, set 20,000 years earlier in the same universe, and this captured the 2000 Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award. I came to both books with high expectations and was eager for a big-canvas space opera filled with mind-boggling technologies, exotic aliens, galactic civilizations, and a big cast of characters. Sadly, the first volume didn’t engage me, and I’m afraid the second didn’t either. At 28 hours, this audiobook became a chore about halfway through, and I mainly forced myself to finish it because I wanted to be able to write a review of... Read More

Fast Times at Fairmont High: The future of middle school?

Fast Times at Fairmont High by Vernor Vinge

Juan is an eighth grader in a near-future San Diego. Final exams have arrived and Juan and his friends are under a lot of pressure to perform well because those who don’t keep up in this fast-moving information-driven virtual-reality society are left behind. That’s what happened to Juan’s father. Juan is determined to succeed, so much so that he’s experimenting with cognition-enhancing drugs.

For one of their exams, students must work with a partner on a project of their choosing without outside assistance. That means that Juan and his partner Miriam can’t access any information or help that’s not already been downloaded into their wearable computers and networked brains. If they’re caught communicating with anyone from outside, even remote students, they’ll fail. While Juan and Miriam are working on their project in the Read More

More science fiction by Vernor Vinge

Across Real Time — (1984-1986) Publisher: The Peace War is quintessential hard-science adventure. The Peace Authority conquered the world with a weapon that never should have been a weapon — the “bobble,” a spherical force-field impenetrable by any force known to mankind. Encasing governmental installations and military bases in bobbles, the Authority becomes virtually omnipotent. But they’ve never caught Paul Hoehler, the maverick who invented the technology, and who has been working quietly for decades to develop a way to defeat the Authority. With the help of an underground network of determined, independent scientists and a teenager who may be the apprentice genius he’s needed for so long, he will shake the world, in the fast-paced hard-science thriller that garnered Vinge the first of his four Hugo nominations for best novel.

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Stand-alones:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Tatja Grimm’s World — (1969) Publisher: Multiple Hugo Award winner Vernor Vinge’s first full-length novel As a mud-spattered youngster, Tatja quickly realized she was different from the stone-age primitives with whom she grew up. Her insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge could not be quenched among them; she had to explore and learn more about the strange world she lived on. She finds the bastion of all culture, arts, entertainment and history for the entire planet, the seven-hundred-year-old science fiction magazine Fantasie, which is produced entirely aboard a gargantuan floating vessel the size of a small city. But despite the printing presses, sail-powered vessels, and mind-expanding technology, Tatja is still dissatisfied. Rising through the ranks, she finds that the people on the enormous barge are just as unintelligent as the primitives she grew up with. But others have come to the planet who not only challenge her intelligence, but offer her a tantalizing opportunity to uncover answers to mysteries that have long plagued her. But with opportunity comes risk. And if she acts unwisely, she could bring doom to the only world she knows.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Witling — (1976) Publisher: This second novel by multiple award-winner Vernor Vinge, from 1976, is a fast-paced adventure where galactic policies collide and different cultures clash as two scientists and their faith in technology are pitted against an elusive race of telekinetic beings. Marooned on a distant world and slowly dying of food poisoning, two anthropologists are caught between warring alien factions engaged in a battle that will affect the future of the world’s inhabitants and their deadly telekinetic powers. If the anthropologists can’t help resolve the conflict between the feuding alien factions, no one will survive.


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