A short week, god save the queen and all that.

I was a “first responder” again this week, and solved a few problems I’d not in my previous shift, so it’s good to learn new things. The team are planning to have me do one more week of pairing before I’m added to the rota proper.


This week I read:

  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

    Yet another SF Masterworks book, this one set in our universe, but where the galaxy is divided into “zones of thought”: the Unthinking Depths close to the core where even human-level intelligence is impossible; the Slow Zone, which contains the Earth, and where biological sentience is common but true AI is impossible; the Beyond, which has true AI, fantastic technology, and FTL travel (because achieving all those things requires a level of intelligence not sustainable in the lower levels); and finally the Transcend, which is beyond what we can imagine and whose inhabitants are like gods.

    The book kicks off with a human civilisation of the high Beyond accidentally awakening a dormant power, referred to as “the Blight”, in the low Transcend, ultimately dooming themselves and many other civilisations. It then switches between the story of a small group of humans who escaped the catastrophe and crash-landed on a world in the low Beyond inhabited by dog-like creatures with group minds who have been stuck for thousands of years in a medieval-style civilisation, and the story of another ship from the high Beyond desperately trying to reach this world to recover something capable of striking down the Blight which stowed away with the escapees.

    As these old SF classics go, this is a fairly long one, at nearly 600 pages. Most of them seem to top out at 2–300. Despite that, I got through it in only a few days: it’s a real page-turner, and the alternating stories really contributed to that, as I’d read a bit, think “ok, I should go to bed when I finish this chapter”… and then the next chapter would pick off at whatever cliffhanger the other story paused at—how could I stop then?

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