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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Review: Rainbow's End, by Vernor Vinge

After winning last year's best fiction, I looked forward to a repeat performance in Vinge's latest novel.

Rainbow's End follows the story of Robert Gu, a poet who is pulled back from the ravages of Alzheimer's only to discover his talent with words gone, replaced by a passion for engineering. If that was the main plot of the book, it would innovative and a departure for him, but of course, that's not it. The primary plot revolves around YGBM (You-Gotta-Believe-Me) technology: an infection and a trigger so subtle that people don't even know that their behavior's being manipulated.

The technology in the book isn't unbelievable, but unfortunately there are still a few plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. For instance, one plot point revolves around a corporation's attempt to scan books by putting them through a high speed shredder. Given that non-destructive scanning methods exist, it seems that this sort of technology would get the cold shoulder from University libraries, so my assumption is that Vernor Vinge didn't get along with the librarian at UCSD.

There's a little attempt to put in some character development in the novel, but nevetheless, I wouldn't read this book for any of that. The vision of technologies is interesting, but about halfway through the book after you've gotten sated, and you'll wish for the conclusion to happen quickly. It's exciting enough for a movie, but perhaps nothing could live up to the build up that had leads to it.

Recommended, but not his best work. Be warned.

The pillars shifted and the library... walked. It was not as spectacular as fake imagery could be, but Huynh was seeing it with his naked eyes. In halting cadence, first one fifty-foot pillar and then another rose visibly from the ground, moved several yeards in the direction of the Greater Scooch-a-mout, and descended with the sound of rock penetrating rock. The rest of the building shifted with them, twisting on the utility core that was the library's central axis.

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