The First 750 Words

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Review: Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End

Fiction – Science Fiction

Vernor Vinge is an old school writer. He’s not one of the “golden age” writers but he has a long history. According to the wikipedia article, his first story was published in the month and year I was born.

vernorvingerainbowsendThe back cover gave a blurb of the book. The high lights: The year is 2025, Alzheimer’s is curable, rejuvenation is possible, computers are wearable and the world can be saved by a thirteen year old girl and her secret friend Mr Rabbit. I had to buy it.

It begins like a spy novel. High tech but nothing to write home about. It almost lost me early on. If you can get past that though, it does become a very engrossing novel.

The real novel begins with Robert Gu, a world famous poet who disappeared from public view when he got Alzheimer’s. After years of near mindlessness, after the wife he abused passes on while taking care of him, he is rejuvenated (he now looks like a teen) and has his Alzheimer’s cured. He has his memory but not any memory of his time with Alzheimer’s.

Robert is a changed man after his treatment. He had a well known reputation for verbally and mentally abusing family, friends and co-workers. His poetry was universally loved but he was universally hated. He’s nicer now but he’s lost his edge.

We meet Miri, his granddaugther. She is the first to experience some of the old robert; the vitriolic, hateful poet. She is a master of the new age technology. Contact lenses have replaced computer screens. Clothes house the interface to the net. The better your clothes, the better your technology. Fashion as an indicator of connectedness.

We meet Robert’s son, Bob. Bob doesn’t like his father. Bob wouldn’t let the old man live with them but his wife, Alice Gong, another technology master, insisted. Bob and Alice are high-ranking military members who watch over the US. Along with advanced technolgy, terrorism has become a daily part of life.

It’s the dailt part of life about this book that makes it so good. The technology is so tightly integrated that it’s not over the top or in your face. Or maybe it’s so in your face, you forget about it after a while.

I carry a blackberry. I spend 80% of my waking day in front of a computer. I can imagine a time when I spend 100% of my day connected. Contacts and clothes. I would invest in good equipment.

With always connected technology, instant messaging takes on a whole new meaning. Because people are wearing their computer and viewing the output through contacts, Silent Messaging, or SM, is an integrated part of everyone. The younger, or more technically savvy, can SM with out typing. People who stand around staring off into space are probably sm’ing. Kind of like today’s cellphone with bluetooth headphone people.

Robert Gu has to go back to high school to catch up on what’s happened in the world since his illness began. There he works with young people and other retreads like himself. There he falls in line with some old associates and they get sucked into a conspiracy involving world governments, terrorism and the next big thing(tm).

To me, the downside of the book is how pat everything is. The characters are strong. The technology is strong. The world is strong. The story not so much. It’s not bad, actually; I recommend reading it. I’m just setting the expectation to be blown away by the bits and pieces rather than the whole.

And who, you might ask, is Mr Rabbit? I’ll let you read that one for yourself.

Buy the book.

  • Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; First Thus edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812536363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812536362

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