Vernor Vinge – Rainbows End

Title: Rainbows End
Author: Vernor Vinge
Year: 2006

Rainbows End is probably among those books which, at the time of publication, feel credible and reasonable in their prediction of future technological development, but at which tomorrow’s audience will probably laugh. This is the third novel I have read by Vernor Vinge’s (reviewed earlier: A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky), but unlike his other two Hugo Award novels, the setting of Rainbows End is not a strange and distant universe, but our own society twenty years into the future. It might sound boring and it might seem like it has been done a million times before, but let me tell you, it has not. This is something new.

The merit of this novel is the authors extrapolation of present-day technology. It feels real, but not so real as to become dull. It sports many brilliant ideas only hinted at elsewhere in literature or reality. It feels embedded in society and with its human population. The author also manages to use key feautures of this technology to weave an intriguing story, focused on Robert Gu, a once famous poet lost to Alzheimer’s, but now recovering from the brink of death by modern technology. However, his longing for his lost mastery of words puts him in a weak position with regard to forces who want to use and manipulate him.

Unfortunately, there are downsides to most books and Rainbows End is not an exception. In earlier reviews of Vinge’s books (see links above), I have previously lamented that the language is adequate, but not masterful. This is also true for characters, who feel realistic, but not very interesting (the big exception is the mysterious rabbit, of course, because having a carrot-munching bunny as an avatar for a powerful, unknown force is inherently cool).

To summarise, I like Rainbows End a lot, but feel somewhat frustradet because of its shortcommings. It could have been a marvellous book, rising above the level of Vinge’s other Hugo Winners (both were awarded four snails as well), but instead he fails to induce that feeling of awe I so much yearn for in my reading. However, the book is still very good, make no mistake about that; it is just that I feel a bit disappointed that it was not even better.

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