I just finished reading A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge. Bought this one because it won a Hugo for best novel.
I really enjoyed it. It was full of huge ideas and memorable characters, and interesting aliens.
Two though-provoking features in this book (very minor spoilers) : one, is that there are different ‘zones’ of space where the physical laws are different. Our little home Earth would be in what the characters of the novel call ‘the slow zone’, here, the speed of light is the fastest speed possible. But it’s not this way in other zones.
I enjoy this idea. Could it be that we are just trapped in an unlucky portion of space? Maybe this is why we have encountered no other life.. because no one wants to risk getting stuck to come visit us!
The second idea I liked was one of the alien races in the book. They were ‘pack minded’ creatures. A group of 4-8 (or sometimes more) creatures worked together as one, with one mind. Each ‘member’ of the group is like a limb, but each ones memories and personality combine to the whole.
I can sort of imagine what it would be like to be one of these creatures… but to join one, that is another matter entirely.
I have often though about ‘collective consciousnesses’ and think that if such a thing were real, I might like to try joining it. Most people are so intensely attached to their individuality, that the thought seems horrific. But instead of seeing it as losing your self, you could see it as gaining so much more.
There were lot’s of other interesting things too, but I don’t want to give away too much more. Anyway, I recommend it!