There is no such thing as a hard and fast rule. When laws don’t work or we don’t like them we change them. When the structure of a deathmatch is causing me problems, I change it. I know…I suck, but it’s the damn holidays and we’ve been so busy that it has been hard enough to keep to the reading schedule without having to post something like five separate reviews for each of these books. So I’m not going to do that. I had four additional rounds planned with specific themes that I thought were worth comparing and I’ll try to touch on all of them, but I’m not going to go into the same detail. I think we’ll find it isn’t necessary…
Round 2: Narrative Shifts
I’d almost call these even except that early on I was only concerned about Kivrin and was seriously aggravated every time Willis brought us back to the Oxford of Dunworthy and influenza and bell ringers. I eventually came around, but my interest and attention in all aspects of the story never even compared to how how enjoyable every part of A Fire Upon the Deep was.
Round 3: Contagion
You know, Willis did a great job here. Doomsday Book was just 573 pages of slowly building paranoia over black plague and paranoia. You wouldn’t think anything could get worse than that kind of constant fear but A Fire Upon the Deep improves on conventional fears of contagion by orders of magnitude. We’re not talking illness or even death. We’re talking species wide, planetary, and galaxy-wide slavery and total corruption of the mind, body, and soul. Oh, and we don’t even know if there is anything that can stop it.
Is it even worth covering two more rounds when my decision is clearly A Fire Upon the Deep? People who were paying attention at the time can correct me, but I would wager that Doomsday Book only grabbed its share of the title because it is just so easy to like. Although Vinge, IMHO, produced the more complex story with every character and piece of tech being worthy of their own entire novel (I’d accept a series for the Tines alone), Doomsday Book is so much easier to comprehend and is just so silly, especially when compared to the other seriously heavy shit going around in 1992. This is probably also the reason it is included on so many lists and was nominated for more awards (including the Nebula which it won). But of course that doesn’t make it the better book and since I’ve abbreviated my analysis this time, why don’t we check my work.
Reader ratings (1 to 5 stars) at WWEND seem to support my conclusion:A Fire Upon the Deep AVG Score is 4.33 (125 ratings)
Doomsday Book AVG Score is 4.22 (104 ratings)
This, however surprisingly, is not supported by the WWEND scores though. There, Red Mars has an average rating of 4.055 (131 ratings). I guess I can agree that both A Fire Upon the Deep and Doomsday Book had a wider appeal than Red Mars, but this still causes me to lose confidence in humanity… That being said, I personally think the 1993 Hugo’s should have actually broken down thusly:1) Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson2) A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge3) Doomsday Book by Connie WillisNevertheless, in only three rounds, Doomsday Book was "knocked the fuck out!" and we now have the definitive winner of the 1993 Hugo: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge!