Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

 

Science FictionRainbows End by Vernor Vinge Rainbows End
Vernor Vinge; Tor/Tom Doherty Associates 2006
WorldCat

Robert Gu had been an irascible  Poet Laureate and tenured professor of English. His wife divorced him after many years. His son disliked him. Then he got Alzheimer’s and wandered off into a fog of dementia. While he was mentally absent medicine progressed. Now it’s the mid 2020’s. Robert’s Alzheimer’s has been cured. There are a number of rejuvenating therapies that have also worked for him. Despite his age he now has the body of a young man in his 20s. He has the mind and memories of an older, retired man.

When Robert first wakes up he is far behind in current technology and current events. He cannot return to his old job even if they would take him. He has to return to a vocational program at his granddaughter’s school to catch up.

It appears that his nasty personality has remained as well. He snaps at his granddaughter and alienates his son once again even though he lives with his son’s family. Only his daughter-in-law supports his staying in their home. Robert resents that he has to learn to survive in the modern world after he had been so successful.

Internet connectivity is done through wired clothes and contact lenses. It is used to communicate, change the look of the world around a person, for instant connection to search engines and answers, for meetings, for school projects, and run all of life in general. There are nodes all over projecting different views that people can wear themselves or overlay on the look of the world around them. Robert objects to learning the new technologies but realizes he must.

The worst thing for Robert Gu, though, is that his Alzheimer’s cure has stolen his lyrical words. He can’t write poetry any more. Being a poet was his internal drive and identity. It’s gone now. He hides that from the world, though. He keeps hoping it will return.

Vernor Vinge projects a near future where technology runs all of life. Every one is always connected, able to be followed, and has few places where privacy can be set up. Once in Rainbows End Robert Gu escapes far into the desert so that he can see the world as it is. While connectivity is great for the every day person, it’s also wonderful for big businesses. politicians, or anyone who wants to tear down others to fit their own world belief. Terrorists with good computer hackers can hijack technology quickly. That is part of the major plot of Rainbows End.

Vinge’s vision of technology growth is fascinating and probable. Laptops and tablets will disappear as clothes become wired and the information can be seen through computerized contact lenses. The world view overlays are fascinating. Would you like to see the world as it would be in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld? Choose that overlay.

Unfortunately, the writing in Rainbows End itself bogs down throughout, especially the middle. There are many players in the different plots and subplots, plus some world wide plots that use the residents of San Diego, including Gu’s group of “friends” to further their goals. They are usually distinct but it’s still distracting at times. For the middle third the reader just wants the story to get on with it.

Rainbows End is an intriguing look at our future. The science is based on current technology and is all too probable.

More books by Vernor Vinge

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