EPS Review #179 - Rainbow's End

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, Tor, 2006, 381pp.

I was in a paltry airport bookstore, hard up for a book to read on the plane, so I grabbed this SF by Vinge, whom I read and liked before. I was not completely clear on whether this was written for children, but aside from a couple of teenage characters, the story is normal for the genre. The protagonist is an old guy, recently cured of Alzheimers and brought back to relative youth, in San Diego in 2025. He was a famous and heartless poet 20 years earlier, but now he is slightly lost in the future, needing to learn to use his wearable computer and the improved internet.

In many ways this book is an agreeable enough exercise in near-future Science Fiction. I like how the whole world is virtual -- through one's clothes and eye contact screens, one sees whatever overlay is appropriate. Real buildings are flimsy and even semi-mobile, but you see the decoration and signs on it that are appropriate. Mostly, all this technology made me impatient for in-brain text messaging as a side-text for conversation. Blackberries are close, but everyone can still see you typing, unless it is under the meeting room table.

The best part, as so often for me, is the AI character. This time the ghost in the net (HAL, Wintermute, ...) is Rabbit, aka The Mysterious Stranger. (Mark Twain was a SF writer.) Rabbit is really the only fun character. And the best part of the book is when, with only microseconds to spare, he is cut off from the protagonist and in that instant sends him a nicely-formatted PDF entitled "While We Are Out of Touch, or How to Survive and Prosper in the Next Thirty Minutes." Made me laugh, anyway. Rabbit is a trickster god. I like that. I think that if I were an AI several orders of magnitude more bright than an average human, then I would find many things funny, not least those things that I might do.

Ewan wrote: I'm sure you noticed that the Wintermute/Neuromancer split personality trope was used very successfully in Dr Who last week!