How many members did Lord Steel consist of in A Fire Upon the Deep?

I read the entire book. Just before coming here to ask I read a considerable multitude of book reviews and blog posts, and looked through the first fifth or so of the book hoping that Steel's members were quantified in his introduction (I found no such quantification.) I'll perhaps look next at the battle between Steel and Flenser, but I'm hoping somebody here will be able to answer my question.

  • 1
    I think that it was either 4 or 5. I know that after the battle he had 3, which was not enough to keep him together. There's a line from Flenser that it took a lot of different packs to make one Steel, because Steel was his most successful experiment and Flenser was swapping Steel's members while he experimented, but I don't think it was revealed how many members were left after experiments were over.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 15:09
  • 1
    @jo1storm 2 died in the battle, and 3 were left. So I suppose Steel consisted of 5. Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 16:05
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez write it as an answer, please.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 16:16
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    @jo1storm It's a team effort though ;) Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 17:25
  • You can accept the answer as correct if you are satisfied with it.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 9:18

1 Answer 1


In the battle between Steel and Flenser it seems that two members of Steel were killed. Flenser later boasts:

Ah, one last thing dear Woodcarver. A detail. I killed two of Steel when he tried to destroy Jefri's starship.

Afterwards Steel is reduced to just three members. This is not sufficient for most Tines to remain intelligent, but the Steel fragment was still capable of speech, indicating his unusual properties. So it appears that Steel was originally composed of five members.

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