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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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Title: A Deepness in the Sky
Author: Vernor Vinge
Narrotor: Gary Tipton
Year: 1999

Immediately after finishing A Fire upon the Deep, I continued with A Deepness in the Sky, also by Vernor Vinge. There are many similarities between the two books, apart from the obvious ones related to the fact that they are written by the same author. I have about the same comments on general things like language and style, so I will not bother you with repeating what has already been said.

The time is set to a long time before the events of A Fire upon the Deep, so the books are so loosely tied together that they can be read in any desired order without risk of spoiling something important. The story is again divided into two parallel threads which gradually coalesce. The first one depicts a merchant fleet approaching a star with mysterious astrophysical attributes, namely that it is only active in cycles. When they arrive, they find that they are not the only ones interested in acquiring the treasure that might reside in beyond the mystery of the star and conflict soon arise between the two fleets.

A single planet in orbit around this star has developed a peculiar form of arachnoid life and the second thread is focused on them and their existence (another parallel to A Fire upon the Deep, which also features aliens on a low-tech world). An extraordinary mind has sparked a furious technological development, tearing apart the traditions and values built up over millennia, by suggesting and introducing the means to survive the dark (i.e. when the star is inactive) without hibernation. This causes social as well as political upheaval for the spiders.

It should be mentioned that the focus of the novel is on characters involved in these stories, and even if the framework is important, it is still mostly there to provide a setting for the characters to interact with. However, the setting is not as interesting as in A Fire upon the Deep, which is a pity, because the other aspects of the novel are better than those of the previous book. In general, I relate much more to the characters and their problems and dilemmas seem more relevant. Also, the balance between the two story lines is much more delicately handled in a Deepness in the Sky.

To summarise, I like the characters and the structure of the story much better in A Deepness in the Sky. However, the setting is not as innovative and does not spark inspiration, which was one of the main reasons as to why I liked A Fire upon the Deep. These two aspects roughly cancels each other, meaning that I will give identical grades to both novels, i.e. four snails.

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Title: A Fire upon the Deep
Author: Vernor Vinge
Narrotor: Gary Tipton
Year: 1992

Vernor Vinge has written two novels that have earned the Hugo Award for best novel, and A Fire upon the Deep is my first experience of the author. The epic scale of the novel is set right from the start, where a few humans awaken something immensely powerful from its millennia of slumbering within an old archive left off the net for several billions of years. The power thus awakened slowly increases its influence until it is clear that not only does it threaten its immediate neighbours, but the entire galaxy might be in danger.

However, the story line of the novel itself is not focused on the power, but is instead divided into two threads. First, there is a group trying to retain something which they hope will stop the power from spreading. The only problem is that the power has spread false rumours and innuendo, making the group the prime target for a grand-scale hunt. Second, a landfall on a medieval-level planet goes badly wrong and two children are the only survivors, separated from each other and captives of two rivalling tribes. Slowly, these two story lines become interlaced and finally merge together.

There are several really cool and original things about A Fire upon the Deep. First of all, the division of space into several zones of thought is interesting. Depending on which depth one is (deeper meaning closer to the galactic core), the properties of space change to allow different things. We would live what is called the Slow Zone, which works much as we are used to. Above us, there is The Beyond and The Transcend, in which entities are infinitely mighty powers having passed beyond mere technological advances and become something entirely enigmatic to the human mind.

Apart from this, the race that inhabits the medieval planet mentioned above, is truly fascinating. Being made up of loose packs, held together by some kind of weak telepathic communication, individuals (or singletons) are disregarded in general and only the pack counts. Except when the singletons happen to be from outer space, belonging to a civilisation with an abundance of technological advances beyond the dreams of those who scheme to use it for their personal advantage.

Sadly, I do think the novel lacks in other areas. The language is not bad, but not very extraordinary either. The characters are for the most part rather dull and uninteresting. Generally speaking, the thread focusing on the rescue mission is much weaker that the part on the medieval world, which is somewhat frustrating since much time is spent on the former. The story in large is intriguing, but rather slow and not exceptional in any way. I also feel that the ending is somewhat feeble and fails to add up all the epic currents initiated in the beginning.

For the first time, I will comment on the narration of a novel (yes, I listened to it). The narrator is an American gentleman called Gary Tipton, who performs his task adequately but without splendour. His voice is somewhat drawling and at times a bit disengaged, but on the whole he does what is expected of him. He uses basically the same voice for all characters, but the few changes he employ are fairly effective.

Conclusively, A Fire Upon the Deep contains a lot of good ideas, some of them truly original and inspiring. It was a long time ago I was inspired by this kind of science fiction, so kudos to Mr. Vinge. On the other hand, I feel that the book is really not my cup of tea, either when it comes to language or story. I have already begun with A Deepness in the Sky and hopefully he has evolved into a better author in the years separating the two novels.

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Note: This is my old 101-in-1001 list that was started in 2005. I launched another one in 2010, so the old list has been moved to this post to make room for the new one. I finished about three fourths of this list and some of the things I accomplished I’m still proud of today. A handful of unfinished tasks on this list also made their way to the new list.

Click here to go to the new 101-in-1001 list launched in September 2010!

The 101-in-1001 list

This project was started by Triplux and I came to know about it via Kendoka.se and Yasylum. At first I thought it was rather silly, but I soonI started compiling my own list. For various reasons, this project was put on ice at the end of 2008 and its fate is as yet undetermined, even though it seems likely I will eventually complete, if not all, then most tasks on the list.

The mission

Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. My mission will end on New Year’s Eve 2008. The tasks should me as unambiguous as possible, although I have diverted from this in some cases where it is utterly impossible to assess a clear goal. 1001 days is long enough to accomplish some of the more demanding tasks on the list and 101 tasks seems to be about as many good ideas as I can come up with. My intention is to give each task a solid try and I my goal is to complete all of them, make no mistake about that.

I also intend update the list and write about the projects (a list of published articles can be found here). By doing this, I put pressure on my self but I also hope that I can inspire other people to do things they want to.

– A task that I have not started

– A task that I have started but not completed

– A task that I have completed

– A task that I have failed with

Personal development

001 – Attend a first-aid course
002 – Spend 25 hours studying anatomy (16/25)
003 – Find out what is wrong with my back
004 – Learn to drive a car (I’m not allowed a license due to poor eye-sight)
005 – Create a character sheet describing myself in detail
006 – Send a photo of myself to random people and ask them to describe what kind of person I am
007 – Meditate 25 times (2/25)
008 – Write 25 private diary entries (12/25))
009 – Spend 50 hours learning to draw (12/50)
010 – Identify 100 things that make me happy
011 – Spend 25 hours researching sleeping and dreaming (15/25)
012 – Write an article about sleeping
013 – Have unscathed fingers for a month (started 08/08/10)

Professional development

014 – Record an audio book in English (Stardust chosen)
015 – Learn and write about the five top origins of migration to sweden
016 – Get the three remaining points from my psychology education
017 – Write five serious articles in English

1. Listening to audio books
2. Why I dislike long novels
3. The illusory choice of postponement
4. Relieving a burdened mind
5. Quo vadis, Taiwan?

018 – Make a list of 1001 words in English and learn them (list compiled)
019 – Make a list of 1001 Chinese characters and learn them
020 – Finish “SprÃ¥ket i mittens rike” by Jonas Björklund
021 – Learn Zhuyin fuhao
022 – Get 2.0 on the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (need not to be formal due to the cost)

Physical development and activities

023 – Swim 10 000 metres in 4 hours
024 – Do one-and-a-half forward somersaults with one twist
025 – Run 42 kilometres
026 – Submit myself to a health examination
027 – Complete one serious exercise program (at least one month)
028 – Manage a free handstand for one minute
029 – Do 25 chin-ups
030 – Hike 50 kilometres with a 10-kilo rucksack in one day
031 – Walk 100 metres on my hands (63 record)
032 – Learn to orient
033 – Stretch after all physical activity for a month
034 – Buy a high-quality rucksack for hiking
035 – Try 5 different new sporting activities

1. Trampoline
2. Diving
3. Scuba diving
4. Unicycling
5. Volleyball

Reading

036 – Have read a total of 10 books by Philip K. Dick

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
2. The Man in the High Castle
3. A Scanner Darkly
4. Ubik
5. Galactic Pot-healer
6. Martian Time-Slip
7. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
8. A Maze of Death
9. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
10. The Father-thing

037 – Have read a total of 5 books by Ray Bradbury

1. Fahrenheit 451
2. The Day it Rained Forever
3. S is for Space
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes
5. From the Dust Returned

038 – Have read a total of 5 books by Neil Gaiman

1. American Gods
2. Coraline
3. Good Omens
4. Stardust
5. Neverwhere

039 – Read 10 works by Nobel Prize winners

1. Harry Martinson – Aniara
2. George Bernard Shaw – Pygmalion
3. Gabriel Garcia Marquez РHundra ̴r av ensamhet
4. Albert Camus – L’étranger
5. Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises
6. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
7. Gao Xingjian – One Man’s Bible
8. Eyvind Johnson РDr̦mmar om rosor och eld
9. Orhan Pamuk – Snow
10. Doris Lessing – The Grass is Singing

040 – Read 10 books in Swedish

1. Harry Martinson – Aniara
2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez РHundra ̴r av ensamhet
3. Albert Camus – FrÀmlingen
4. Tove Janson – Pappan och havet
5. Catharina Lillieh̦̦k РMei wenti!
6. Wu Chen’en – FÀrden till VÀstern, del 1, Den gyllene cikadan
7. Hjalmar Șderberg РDoktor Glas
8. Michail Bulgakov – MÀstaren och Margarita
9. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – En dag i Ivan Denisovitjs liv
10. Vilhelm Moberg – Rid i natt!

041 – Read ten different comics

1. The Sandman
2. Hellboy
3. Watchmen
4. The Authority
5. WE3
6. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
7. Sleeper – Out in the Cold
8. The Books of Magic
9. Kid Eternity
10. The Filth

042 – Read a book in French
043 – Read all Hugo Award winning novels (47/55)

2008. Michael Chabon – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
2007. Vernor Vinge – Rainbows End
2006. Robert Charles Wilson – Spin
2005. Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel
2004. Lois McMaster Bujold – Paladin of Souls
2003. Robert J. Sawyer – Hominids
2002. Neil Gaiman – American Gods
2001. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2000. Vernor Vinge – A Deepness in the Sky
1999. Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog
1998. Joe Haldeman – Forever Peace
1997. Kim Stanley Robinson – Blue Mars
1996. Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age
1995. Lois McMaster Bujold – Mirror Dance
1994. Kim Stanley Robinson – Green Mars
1993 a. Vernor Vinge – A Fire Upon the Deep
1993 b. Connie Willis – Doomsday Book
1992. Lois McMaster Bujold – Barrayar
1991. Lois McMaster Bujold – The Vor Game
1990. Dan Simmons – Hyperion
1989. C.J. Cherryh – Cyteen
1988. David Brin – The Uplift War
1987. Orson Scott Card – Speaker for the Dead
1986. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
1985. William Gibson – Neuromancer
1984. David Brin – Startide Rising
1983. Isaac Asimov – Foundation’s Edge
1982. C.J. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
1981. Joan D. Vinge – The Snow Queen
1980. Arthur C. Clarke – The Fountains of Paradise
1979. Vonda McIntyre – Dreamsnake
1978. Fredrik Pohl – Gateway
1977. Kate Wilhelm – Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
1976. Joe Haldeman – The Forever War
1975. Ursula K. Le Guin – The Dispossessed
1974. Arthur C. Clarke – Rendez-vous With Rama
1973. Isaac Asimov – The Gods Themselves
1972. Philip Jos Farmer – To Your Scattered Bodies Go
1971. Larry Niven – Ringworld
1970. Ursula K. Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness
1969. John Brunner – Stand on Zanzibar
1968. Roger Zelazny – Lord of Light
1967 a). Frank Herbert – Dune
1967 b). Robert A. Heinlein – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
1966. Roger Zelazny – This Imortal
1965. Fritz Leiber – The Wanderer
1964. Clifford D. Simak – Way Station
1963. Philip K. Dick – The Man in the High Castle
1962. Robert A. Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
1961. Walter M. Miller, Jr. – A Canticle for Leibowitz
1960. Robert A. Heinlein – Starship Troopers
1959. James Blish – A Case of Conscience
1958. Fritz Leiber – The Big Time
1957. No Hugo Award
1956. Robert A. Heinlein – Double Star
1955. Mark Clifton, Frank Riley – They’d Rather Be Right
1954. No Hugo Award
1953. Alfred Bester – The Demolished Man

044 – Buy a really good book and pass it on to someone, so that he or she can pass it on when they have read it
045 – Read the Bible
046 – Read the Quran
047 – Read John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Writing

048 – Finish my RPG Magneter och mirakel
049 – Finish my freelancing project “Tornet mot Stjrnorna”
050 – Write a novel (first chapter written)
051 – Write fiction in English
052 – Write an article on the strategy of Carcassonne
053 – Write an article about one-eyed vision
054 – Write an article about audio books
055 – Write five short stories (1)

Computer activity

056 – Reorganise www.snigel.nu
057 – Complete the missing sections on Snigel.nu
058 – Get detailed statistics working for Snigel.nu
059 – Review all books read and all movies watched during the period
060 – Make my contribution to the new Rollspel.nu version
061 – Change and organise passwords and logins
062 – Go through and sort all personal files
063 – 500 characters per minute for two minutes
064 – Make someone change from Qwerty to Dvorak
065 – Buy a scanner
066 – One week without using a computer

Media consumption

067 – Watch the top 100 movies on IMDB (33/100
068 – Watch 5 movies from each continent

Africa
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Asia
1. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
2. Kiki’s Delivery Service
3. NausicaÀ of the Valley of the Wind
4. Grave of the Fireflies
5. Howl’s Moving Castle
Europe
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
2. Asterix tolv stordåd
3. Snatch
4. Educating Rita
5. A Clockwork Orange
North America
1. Gattaca
2. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
3. I, Robot
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Oceania
1. Whale Rider
2. Mad Max
3.
4.
5.
South America
1. City of God
2.
3.
4.
5.

069 – Watch 10 movies by Hayao Miyazaki

1. Spirited Away
2. My Neighbor Totoro
3. Princess Mononoke
4. Laputa: Castle in the Sky
5. Kiki’s Delivery Service
6. Nausicaaa of the Valley of the Wind
7. Howl’s Moving Castle
8. The Castle of Cagliostro
9. Porco Rosso
10. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

070 – Watch 5 movies in Mandarin Chinese

1. The Emperor and the Assassin
2. Warriors of Heaven and Earth
3. Raise the Red Lantern
4. Curse of the Golden Flower
5. Cape No. 7

071 – Buy something from Hans-Werner Sahm
072 – Compile a “best of Snigel” CD and trade it with 10 others for their favourite music
073 – Watch a movie at the cinema

Everyday life

074 – Change one aspect of my appearance
075 – Manage my economy without borrowing any money (looking good)
076 – Cook 50 new dishes (25/50)
077 – Analyse what I eat for a week
078 – Use dental floss every day for a month (2007-09-24)
079 – Throw, give away or store everything I do not need
080 – Assemble a digital address book
081 – Actually get up when the alarm sounds in the morning for one month
082 – Learn to sleep comfortably on my back
083 – Donate blood
084 – Exercise Nei Kung in the morning before breakfast for one month
085 – Collect images, quotes or scraps and put them on display (44/100)
086 – Organise and catalogue all my books
087 – Backup, sort and reorganise all my audio books
088 – Backup, sort and reorganise all my music
089 – Get some fancy business cards
090 – Buy a pair of high-quality boots

Experience and play

091 – Spend a week alone away from civilization
092 – Watch a full sunrise or sunset
093 – Spend one day blindfolded
094 – Solve Rubik’s Cube in one minute
095 – Build and fly a kite
096 – Watch a candle burn down
097 – Play marbles
098 – Participate in a total of 250 sessions of Antioch

Meta

099 – Publish something about each task on the list
100 – Get someone to start a list of their own
101 – Write a concluding essay on the subject of this list

My project will end on New Year’s Eve (December 31st) 2008.
It is left.

I have 27 more things to do.