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310 of 311 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning achievement
When I was starting out as a PhD student in Artificial Intelligence at Carnegie Mellon, it was made known to us first-year students that an unofficial but necessary part of our education was to locate and read a copy of an obscure science-fiction novella called *True Names*. Since you couldn't find it in bookstores, older grad students and professors would directly...
Published on March 23, 1999 by shivers@ai.mit.edu

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in parts, mediocre in others
This collections of essays and stories is rather uneven. Some of the essays are rather monotonous and superflous, especially since the long essay by Tim May touches on many of the issues discussed in other essays. The longest portions of the collection - Tim May's essay on Crypto Anarchy, Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer's reports on Habitat, and the eponymous...
Published on September 7, 2002 by neilathotep


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310 of 311 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning achievement, March 23, 1999
By 
This review is from: True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Paperback)
When I was starting out as a PhD student in Artificial Intelligence at Carnegie Mellon, it was made known to us first-year students that an unofficial but necessary part of our education was to locate and read a copy of an obscure science-fiction novella called *True Names*. Since you couldn't find it in bookstores, older grad students and professors would directly mail order sets of ten and set up informal lending libraries -- you would go, for example, to Hans Moravec's office, and sign one out from a little cardboard box over in the corner of his office. This was 1983 -- the Internet was a toy reserved for American academics, "virtual reality" was not a popular topic, and the term "cyberpunk" had not been coined. One by one, we all tracked down copies, and all had the tops of our heads blown off by Vinge's incredible book.
*True Names* remains to this day one of the four or five most seminal science-fiction novels ever written, just in terms of the ideas it presents, and the world it paints. It laid out the ideas that have been subsequently worked over so successfully by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. *And* it's well written. *And* it's fun.
In my grad student days, we loved to sit around and discuss the implications of Vernor's ideas. Sixteen years later, I do research at MIT, and it's still fun to sit around and talk about how Vernor's ideas are coming to be.
(Amazingly enough, Vinge has done this not once, but twice: *Marooned in Realtime* contains ideas even more interesting than *True Names* -- all in the setting of a murder mystery that takes place 50 million years in the future.)
Vinge has subsequently written other, very popular and enjoyable books, such as *A Fire Upon the Deep* and his just-published *A Deepness in the Sky*. However, it's always been very frustrating to me that *True Names* has been essentially impossible to find. It's always out of print, and you have to know one of the elect who snapped up copies back when it was marginally possible -- and these copies are now jealously guarded. I won't let people read mine outside of my home. (The same goes for *Marooned in Realtime* -- seminal work; out of print.)
So I am really, really delighted that *True Names* is now back in print. I note that it is now fashionable to write books "explaining" the Net and the near-term future of our society to the layman -- books such as Negroponte's *Being Digital,* Gate's *The Road Ahead*, or Dertouzos' *What Will Be*. These books are a waste of time. If you would like to explore the implications and likely future of the computer revolution, I would recommend three novels, instead: *True Names* (Vernor Vinge), *Snowcrash* (Neal Stephenson), and *Neuromancer* (William Gibson).
Vinge and Stephenson are not only excellent writers, they are trained, competent computer scientists. *Neuromancer* is the best-written of the three; *Snowcrash* is the funniest and hippest; *True Names* -- well, *True Names* is the source.
-Olin
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read only one SF book EVER..., July 11, 1997
By A Customer
Want to know the future of the human race? A lot of authors explore the future and make it gripping or entertaining; Vinge explores the future and gets it right. True Names is a story of amplified human intelligence.

Intelligence determines the rate of technological progress. Once technology is used to amplify intelligence, a positive-feedback loop of enormous power is created. No mortal can ever write of that future - but Vinge creeps up on the edge of human history and shows that Something lies beyond.

This is the story that introduced the Vingean Singularity of SF legend: "Every time we consider the creation of intelligences greater than our own... extrapolation breaks down and new models must be applied... the world will pass beyond our understanding."

The Singularity is seriously projected, by Ph.D.'d folk, to occur around 2030. And in my opinion, it's that or nuclear war. Choose. Be ready. Read this book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Singularities and Pathbreaking, January 8, 2001
By 
Paul F. Starrs "geography fan" (El Cerrito, CA, and Reno, NV USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Paperback)
Vernor Vinge, a professor at San Diego State University (Math Sciences) has the most fertile imagination conceivable; I could hardly agree more with the reviewer below [shivers@ai.mit.edu from Cambridge, Mass.] that Vernor Vinge, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson are the science fiction prodigies of the end of the last millennium -- and those to watch at the start of this one.
*True Names* is something I stumbled on in a ratty paperback that, for some odd reason, had been rebound and inserted in my university library (I think because we had an acquisitions librarian with a taste for the singular). Reading the story in 1990 was a revelation, and it will be to anyone who finds it in this collection, blessedly supposed to be re-released (again) in March 2001 (though that too has been much delayed). A great deal of "classic" science fiction (though this would as readily stand as fiction, or just good writing) has disappeared from print; the market appears to be otherwise. But with J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, Ursula LeGuin's novels, and other such such fare rising to the top, let's hope that the best science fiction work can be showcased -- as this appears to be.
The main story, a novella, treats the relationship of a variety of figures in a role-playing and networked world. It's also a story with a great ending, a great middle and start, and genuine surprises, even in its form: the abbreviated (and underappreciated) novella. Let's hope it stays in print, and that many step forward and buy!
Incidentally, Vernor Vinge does project a remarkably apt (and well-done) geographical sensibility -- he's the son of a geography professor (Michigan State University), and the inheritance has run true. That's mentioned as a not-incidental detail -- if I remember aright, Neal Stephenson was also a geography undergraduate student. It can matter.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the story that conceived cyberspace, March 7, 2001
By 
MDA (milwaukee, wi, usa) - See all my reviews
In 1981, vinge published the book that conceived the cyberworld that exists on the internet today. Software bots, node-hopping, 3D chat rooms, warez, avatars, a hacker underground...they are all here....and were described in this book before IBM sold its first personal computer. I am amazed at Vinge's ability to see the future. ...or, as I believe, he created the future by giving a generation of computer programmers the vision to build what he saw.
True Names is a feast for the imagination. I set the book down many times while my mind reeled with extrapolations of the ideas he wrote into his story. The characters are richly developed. the climax was terrific.
Read this book if you can find it. Remember when it was published (14 years before Neuromancer). I have bought 5 copies. But over the years, friends have 'liberated' 3 of them. This book is a prize.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story and Related Articles, May 18, 2002
By 
This review is from: True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Paperback)
Having read Vernor Vinge's "A Fire upon the deep", I was very eager to read something else of his. I've heard about "True Names" a few years ago and was really intrigued, however, I could not find this book anywhere. Therefore, I was delighted to see that it's out again - I didn't check what else is on the
book, however, it would probably not have made a difference.

"True Names" is basically a medium sized story which was (apparently) groundbreaking at the time it was written (1981). In addition to this story, the book contains many articles by known figures in related areas.
So what is "True Names" about ? Roger Pollack, aka Mr. Slippery, is what is called a warlock. However, he's not the type of warlock of fantasy worlds, he is a warlock of "The Other Plane" (the name Vinge uses for Cyberspace.. simply because Cyberspace has not been coined at the time the book was written). There are a lot of similarities between the two types of warlocks, Mr. Slippery has special powers because of his great knowledge of The Other Plane. Mr. Slippery also is a member of a coven of warlocks, the greatest one in The Other Plane. These people are generally good natured, but are known to cause mischief every now on then. Roger's world crumbles around him when the FBI finds his true name (they discover his secret identity). The offer him a chance to get a reduced sentence by exposing his coven, or more specifically, expose a specific member, The Mailman, whom they believe is trying to take over the world. But the FBI does not know how much they are right, and how much the situation is more dangerous than they think.. only Mr. Slippery and Erythrina, another witch from his coven, have any chance of stopping this danger before it is too late.
I'm sure this story sounds great to you - well it is! I really enjoyed reading it, and it was interesting to see how many of Vinge's predictions have come true.
In addition, there are many articles in the book: among them
* Tim May's LONG article about Cryptography. Very interesting article, however, its relevance to the story is fairly small, and it is way too long.
* Pattie Maes' article about the future of intelligent software. Short article, yet very interesting
* Richard Stallman's very short story and commentary about free reading and software. Very interesting article.
* Chip Morningstar and Randall Farmer's article about Habitat, the first online multi-user game. Fascinatting! So interesting to see the great ancestor of EverQuest and Muds. Also very relevant to "True Names". and there were more..

To summarize: while the articles were interesting, they were not interesting enough to buy without the actual story, and some were simply just barely related to "True Names" which was frustrating, because it made me think this was just an excuse to fill up pages. Nonetheless, the entire book is worth it because "True Names" is an excellent story, and the articles are still interesting. Just don't be embarrased to skip something if it bores you, because there are quite a lot of articles and a fairly short story in between...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun mix of cyber hacking, scifi, and sword-and-sorcery, June 25, 2002
By 
Gary Sprandel (Frankfort, Kentucky) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"True names", predates this pseudonymous age, by twenty years, but it seems remarkably current. Vinge, predicts and anticipates a lot of technology, and I am looking forward to neural browsers! Perhaps more important, is the ethical question of whether one that avoids the temptation of self interest, should be trusted .. indefinitely, even if in a non-physical form? There is some talk about making this into a film, so that would be exciting!
The "Apprentice" is perhaps most significant for its collaboration, with then wife, Joan Vinge. The piece "The Ungoverned", is the connection between "The Peace War" and "Marooned in real time" (the "Across realtime" edition includes that story). Vinge's introductions are a delight in themselves, and the way he approaches "the singularity" (a particular state of technological self awareness) from different angles is thought provoking.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You, Really?, July 10, 2003
This review is from: True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Paperback)
Try to remember back to the days when computers were giant things located inside even larger buildings, when access to them was jealously guarded by a high priesthood of computer scientists, and the results you got from them, after many days of painstaking labor, was as likely to be absolute rubbish as it was to be useful answers. This was the way the world was when Vinge wrote this remarkably prescient novella, a story of a world dominated by computer access to information, commonly available to everyone, where virtual reality and your avatar are more 'real' than your physical body. In fact, the story was so far ahead of its time that several of the ideas presented in it became the blueprint for how to continue to develop the way computers work and how people interface with them.
It's a fairly good story in pure fictional terms, also. Vinge does not stint on developing his characters while letting us wander in his (at the time he wrote it) fairyland. The conflicts and problems his protagonist faces are very real problems, and Vinge's resolution of the story rings as true as his title.
The title is significant: in today's world when many wander the net known only by a self-chosen moniker, and jealously guard access to any information about their real selves, but have, never-the-less, a large amount of information held in many databases about their real selves (driver's license, social security number, credit reports), obtaining their 'true names' would be equivalent to forcing them to stand naked on a stage. It is this aspect of today's information dominated society that is the subject of several of the essays that accompany this story, many of which advocate methods for maintaining absolute secrecy of communications on the web. This is a large subject rife with many opinions pro and con, especially after the events of 9/11 and the Patriot Act. Several of the essays are well written, although they do seem to come prepared with an axe already ground, and are well worth reading.
But like most collections of essays, the quality is very uneven. Safely skippable are 'Intelligent Software', 'True Magic', and 'A Time of Transition'. Those deserving of a close read are 'Eventful History: Version 1.0x', 'Cryptography and the Politics of True Names', and most especially the original afterword to True Names written by Marvin Minsky, which is not only an excellent essay about the role of computers in society, it is also a very insightful look at all the various things that are going on inside Vinge's story that may not be readily apparent to the casual reader.
Some of the impact of Vinge's story may have been lost in the intervening years since its writing, as many of his imagined items have become reality, but it would be very hard to find a science fiction story that has predicted the future as well as this one.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast pace, original ideas, make for a superb collection, August 2, 2001
By 
Science fiction fans should be very impressed with this collection of five stories by Vernor Vinge. The real standout is the title story, "True Names", a uniquely imaginative piece that cleverly combines the magical conflict of the swords and sorcery genre with modern high-tech computers. In the world of the not too distant future, virtual reality technology has completely replaced contemporary operating systems so that talented computer hackers can virtually live in a pseudo-magical realm called the Other Plane. The very best are effectively sorcerers who can mold their reality in any way imaginable, at least until they break the connection and return to the real world. In order to avoid reprisals, they only need protect the secret of their true names. Against this backdrop, a brilliant sorcerer is recruited to hunt out the mysterious new destructive force known as the Mailman, who seems to be using the computer realm to gain power in the real world. But in a universe where nothing is as it seems, how can he tell who are his friends and who are his enemies? This is a fascinating piece of speculation that seems more and more plausible every day.
The other strong entries are "Bookworm, Run!" which features a chimpanzee whose mind has been experimentally augmented with a computer hookup, and "The Ungoverned" which shows private security agents trying to fend off an invasion in a United States that has been decimated by nuclear war. "Bookworm" is primarily a long chase, as the terrified chimp tried to escape his captors before they can punish him for the terrible crime he's committed, while "The Ungoverned" covers one key battle of a potentially major war. Both stories are heavy on action and excitement, but present some interesting ideas as well. Less successful are "The Peddler's Apprentice", in which a traveling salesman sets an angry young man on the path to greatness, and the tedious "Long Shot", which seems little more than a setup for the clever ending.
These stories are fast, easy reading with plenty of action, and should be eminently suitable for younger readers, but adult fans of science fiction will also find this a superb collection.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in parts, mediocre in others, September 7, 2002
By 
neilathotep (San Mateo, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Paperback)
This collections of essays and stories is rather uneven. Some of the essays are rather monotonous and superflous, especially since the long essay by Tim May touches on many of the issues discussed in other essays. The longest portions of the collection - Tim May's essay on Crypto Anarchy, Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer's reports on Habitat, and the eponymous novella by Vernor Vinge - are all excellent and together are worth the price of this volume.
The Habitat reports are probably the most amazing portion of this book, since they are based on a real implementation of some of the concepts discussed in other essays in the book. Habitat was a mid 1980s graphical massively-multiplayer game produced by Lucasfilms. Amazingly, the frontend ran on the Commodore 64 and the connection was over a 300 baud modem. The three essays presented in the book are available online, along with a couple of other pieces on Habitat (including one about the happenings on the Japanese version, which is wonderfully interesting).
"True Names" itself is a good novella and it reads like it could have been written in the past few years. Whether or not this was the first presentation of "cyberspace" is irrelevant to the quality of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, April 4, 2011
This review is from: True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Paperback)
True Names is not a short story. It was a well-reasoned, extraordinarily original prediction, wrapped in a short story. And it came true. Vernor Vinge is not just a writer. He saw that online identity and privacy would be central issues in 1979. It's still opaque to me how this was even remotely possible to do.

I think I was born ten years too late. I was a child when strong crypto was a rallying cry. I didn't even know how to program -- and my abilities are still primitive today. But all I can say is I wish I had been there. I wish I had been there. I wish I could have *helped.*

"Now was it that both found, the meek and lofty
Did both find, helpers to their heart's desire,
And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish;
Were called upon to exercise their skill,
Not in Utopia, subterranean fields,
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us,--the place where in the end
We find our happiness, or not at all! "
--Wordsworth
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True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier
True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier by Vernor Vinge (Paperback - Dec. 2001)
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