A Fire Upon the Deep won Vernor Vinge the first of his six Hugo Awards when his novel shared the award in 1993 with Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book. Vinge’s imagination is apparent throughout his book, but what for sets the book apart are his unique aliens, the Tines. Avid sci fi readers become alien jaded. There are the fearsome bug aliens, the hive brain aliens, the humanoid aliens, and so on. A handful of aliens stick in my mind. One is Nessus, the neurotic Pierson’s Puppeteer in Larry Niven’s Ringworld. Ringworld won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1970.
With their three legs and two heads, Pierson’s Puppeteers look like a committee constructed them. Tines don’t even look alien. You could see one at the neighborhood park without realizing it. So, what is a Time? I don’t want to spoil the experience of discovery for you. Check out Chapter Two in A Fire Upon the Deep. For me it was like “did I read that right?” I reread the passage. “Yes, I read that right. What’s happening here?” I read the remainder of the chapter very carefully. Like with Nessus, I grew rather fond of my favorite Tines.