When I saw that one of my favorite scifi authors, Vernor Vinge, grabbed the 2007 Hugo Award for Rainbows End, I had to pick up a copy. Heh, I was just about to compare the book to Neuromancer and Snow Crash when I flipped it over and saw a quote starting with: “In the grand tradition of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson…”
Anyway, yes, this is definitely something of a hacker book, though not with the dark passion of Neuromancer, nor the wild ride of Snow Crash. This book is basically a very educated projection of what the world will look like in 2025. The key technology is advanced contact lenses that can provide a virtual reality overlay and Internet access – smart clothing helps to create an interface that is faster and more powerful than the traditional keyboard and mouse. As a computer scientist, Vinge is able to create a very believable view of around 15-20 years into our future.
For me, the best part of this book were all the computer references – I think my favorite was, if I’m not mistaken, a shout out to GNU Hurd. Rainbows End is a far cry away setting-wise from the likes of A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, but we do wind up getting at least a peripheral view of some of Vinge’s past themes: artificial intelligence and mind control.
Overall, this was not my favorite of Vinge’s work. It’s a good scifi book to be sure; perhaps I’m looking for a level of escapism that Rainbows End‘s near-future setting didn’t provide for me. Anyway, time to figure out where to slot this one in my SciFi Leaderboard…