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Rainbows End Mass Market Paperback – April 3, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in San Diego, Calif., this hard SF novel from Hugo-winner Vinge (A Deepness in the Sky) offers dazzling computer technology but lacks dramatic tension. Circa 2025, people use high-tech contact lenses to interface with computers in their clothes. "Silent messaging" is so automatic that it feels like telepathy. Robert Gu, a talented Chinese-American poet, has missed much of this revolution due to Alzheimer's, but now the wonders of modern medicine have rehabilitated his mind. Installed in remedial classes at the local high school, he tries to adjust to this brave new world, but soon finds himself enmeshed in a somewhat quixotic plot by elderly former University of California–San Diego faculty members to protest the destruction of the university library, now rendered superfluous by the ubiquitous online databanks. Unbeknownst to Robert, he's also a pawn in a dark international conspiracy to perfect a deadly biological weapon. The true nature of the superweapon is never made entirely clear, and too much of the book feels like a textbook introduction to Vinge's near-future world. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

A multiple Hugo Award?winning author (A Fire Upon the Deep; A Deepness in the Sky) and former professor of mathematics at San Diego State University, Vernor Vinge writes as if he's spent some time in 2025. This novel's setting, contemporary with the author's Fast Times at Fairmont High, is one of instantaneous technology where accomplished hackers wield profound influence. Reviewers applaud Vinge's avoidance of science-fiction traps like information dumps and rootless "techno-bedazzlement" in favor of emotional storylines and plausible—and sometimes frightening—insights into where technology is moving humanity. <BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; Reissue edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812536363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812536362
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Festivus on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of Vinge's work, so I looked forward to this book with some excitement. My first impression is that Amazon is incorrect in calling this a Zones Of Thought book, as it does not seem to belong to the same universe of A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness In The Sky. While the main characters are interesting, most of the plot seems exist for the sole purpose of exploring computer technology a little more than 20 years from now. Don't get me wrong, the technology and world that Vinge shows in the near future is quite interesting and real, and makes it worth reading the novel just for itself. The story is good, but not great like you can find in some of Vinge's other works. In the last third of the book he launches into a parallel story line that I think detracts from his overall narrative.

A good book, but if you are interested in Vernor Vinge and have not read his stuff, I would steer you toward A Fire Upon The Deep, A Deepness In the Sky, The Peace War, and Marooned in Realtime before you pick up this one.
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129 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Russell Clothier on July 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I gave it a shot.

I've never liked cyberpunk William Gibsonesque sci fi, so the jacket description of Rainbow's End didn't sound promising. But come on, I thought, this is Vernor Effin' Vinge! A Deepness in the Sky and A Fire Upon the Deep are my all-time favorite sci fi novels: rich, complex, with lots of action and endearing, fully-realized alien cultures. Surely Vinge could find gold in the cyberhills.

Now I'm 200 pages into the book, and I've given up. Try as I might, I can't force myself to care - about the unlikable characters, their indecipherable actions, or the unpleasant world they inhabit. The last 50 pages has dealt with the main (?) character learning to use his virtual reality computer interface web browser contact lenses. Yep, it's that exciting. Around him, mysterious virtual entities do mysterious virtual things. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Who cares? There are interesting ideas, but the world and the characters are dull and off-putting.

Of the hundreds of sci-fi novels I've read, only three have provoked such apathy that I could not bring myself to finish them. That one of them was written by my hero, Vernor Vinge, is a deep disappointment.
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66 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
_Rainbows End_ by Vernor Vinge is an excellent science fiction novel by in my opinion one of the best novelists in the genre. This story is in the same setting as his earlier novella "Fast Times at Fairmont High" which he finished in August 2001 and first published in _The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge_. The central character of the novella, a young student at a San Diego high school (really a middle school), Juan Orozco, makes a reappearance in this novel, though as one of several important characters, not the chief protagonist.

The setting of the novel (and the short story for that matter) is San Diego in the year 2025, which the reader discovers is a world in which the internet connects people and places in ways not possible today. Miniaturization has advanced to such a degree that most people, all the time, have operating computers on them, embedded and weaved into otherwise normally looking clothing called wearables (if someone has on clothing with a computer in it with the capacity to go online he or she is said to be "wearing") and are able to interact with these computers and the internet via special contact lenses. When people first start mastering wearables and their associated contacts they often have to type in the air with their fingers on a phantom keyboard, made visible to the user thanks to their contacts, but as a user becomes more proficient they become able to access computer resources by much more subtle gestures, including particular facial and eye movements.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan A. Turner VINE VOICE on May 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The more you're interested in gee-whiz new technology for its own sake, the more you'll like _Rainbows End_. If you're hoping for a rip-roaring brain-expanding gripping adventure a la _A Deepness in the Sky_, you may find it less rewarding. Vinge is a first-rank writer, but here he gets a little too caught up with the gosh-wow aspects of his subject--to the detriment of his story.

Vinge, of course, is very well known for his notion of the "Technological Singularity": the hypothesis that soon technological change will be so overwhelming that we can't even imagine what will come next. _Rainbow's End_ is a brave attempt to look twenty years closer towards that cliff. It makes interesting speculation.

It's only partially successful as a tale, though, because:

1) The changes Vinge posits in society and technology are quite extensive, and he has to spend a good deal of time explaining them. He does it well, and his ideas are interesting and plausible, but it's still something of an essay instead of a narrative. The characterization, in particular, is a bit hit-or-miss.

2) I wonder whether Vinge overstates his case for the upcoming "Singularity." (The assumption that change is inevitably, monotonically accelerating is certainly arguable. Have things changed more in, say, the 80 years since 1926 than in the 80 years before that date?) I'm not sure that the Singularity *won't* happen, but I'm not sure that it *will* either. I think I'd have enjoyed the book a little more if I were.

3) Certain details of the story--e.g., the exact nature of Rabbit and of the "YGBM" McGuffin--are treated rather sketchily. Some readers will be annoyed by this; others won't care.

Still, this is a very good book. It's a likely Hugo nominee.
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