Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Rainbows End

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,GUI Center,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I finished Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge last week.

There’s a reason Rainbows End was awarded the Hugo for Best Novel in 2007. It is, to put it simply, a great book. There were parts that got a little slow for me, but, over all, it was a great piece of work. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that I knew Vernor Vinge taught Computer Science and that the book had won the award. That is why I got it to read, after all.

The story follows one Robert Gu, a famous poet who’s fallen victim to Alzheimer’s Disease, as he’s cured and reintegrates into society.  The “down side” of his cure is that he’s lost the miracle of his poetry.  Somehow, whatever the cure does to fix the dementia alters Robert’s brain in such a way that he is no longer the man he used to be.  And, he’d do just about anything to get that magic back.  The story also follows Robert’s son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter as they deal with his regained ability to interact with the world.  The twist comes in with the fact that his son, Bob, and daughter-in-law, Alice, are in the military as part of the group who keeps America, and the world, safe from terrorists of all stripes.  International spies find a way to use Robert’s desire for regaining his poetic skills to get inside Bob and Alice’s command.  Their goal is somewhat less clear, but it involves a plot to manipulate the minds of the unsuspecting world public to “improve” everyone’s way of life.  Of course, things rarely work out the way anyone intends.

Well, as you can imagine, there are some very good reasons this won the Hugo for 2007.  It is a very good book.  I got a little distracted in the middle when life got a little strange, but, for the most part, the plot moved along at a good pace and always had something interesting to offer.  One of the attractions for me was the view of future computer technology that Vinge describes in this book.  His concept of wearable computers that are partially integrated into clothing and contacts seems like a logical step from where scientists are experimenting today.  Vinge presents this, and all the hard science-fiction in this book, in a realistic, no-nonsense way that makes it all seem very plausible.
He also draws some believable characters who’s actions are logical and reasonable given their motivation and the circumstances.  I can easily see myself doing some of the same things these characters do, both good and bad.

In short, if you enjoy science-fiction, there’s plenty to enjoy in Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.  Definitely a change for me, but a good one which I heartily recommend.

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