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3.8 out of 5 stars22
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 7 June 2008
I've been a big fan of Vinge for a long time, but more so after "a fire upon the deep". His last two were big space opera plots with a dash of new technology thrown in, more on the ian m banks thread. This novel goes in a very different direction and moves very strongly into the thriller rather the science fiction territory. The trends explored here, fully immersive technology, difficulty of multi generational family relationships, knowing just who your allies are in a much more connected world and the challenge of sudden technology step change, made this some what jerky in places.
However I found on rereading , a few months later the book grew on me and the multi layer, multi threaded story started to become more coherent.
Vinge's background, as a professor of computing science shines through in places, particularly in his assumption of audience understanding of technology challenges.
Finally there is a real juicy hook here in the presence of a complex "AI" character just crying out for a sequel. What are you "rabbit?"
I'd say "persevere with this book" it rewards persistence
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on 18 November 2006
I wasn't disappointed in this at all. I thought it was great. I just wish he was a bit more prolific although I'd rather have quality, like this, than quantity. It's an extrapolation of "Fast Times At Fairmont High" from
his collected stories and "Synthetic Serendipity" , which are both great short stories.
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on 15 December 2009
Much as I have loved Vinge's epics of the past, covering vast swathes of time and/or space, I still enjoyed Rainbows End, a novel set in a credible near future that feels like it might be just around the corner.

Vinge builds his world on current concepts, developing them far enough to be interesting, yet remain credible. This sets a grounded stage upon which he tells a story that's really about how there's always a gap between how different generations relate to the technology of the time.

The only thing that annoyed me about the novel is that two of the main characters, a father and son, were called Bob and Robert. It took a while for me to get used to which one was which, but maybe that's just me.

Worth a read.
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on 21 October 2006
I am a big Vernor Vinge fan - I loved both A fire Upon the Deep, and A Deepness in the Sky. I also read and re-read his Realtime stories. Rainbows End starts pretty smartly. The plots involving international government security agencies, a protagonist who has been cured of senile dementia and other characters around him, get going and explained nicely. The early scene setting in the high school classroom, where our ex-Alzheimer's sufferer is back at school to learn about the future world is really neat. The picture of society of the future is concisely explained and enjoyable.

Then I started getting lost and never recovered. Lots of future in-terms appeared. It was obviously up to the reader to understand them by context, but I couldn't. What's a Haptic? There were plots involving virtual overlays of the real world - eg a Pratchetesque library. Multi player roll games also overlaid and somehow competing for credibility which gave them power. It was just too tangled. characters had some sort of avatar which they could use as telepresence - but it can be hijacked...why not just turn of your PC. Ah...PCs. Well they don't exist, but have instead metamorphosed into clothes and contact lenses. Another thing to get confused about.

Hmm... I loved the first third of this book, but by the end I really could not be bothered trying to pick apart the threads. I bought this hardback on the strength of his previous work, but I did not feel I got value for money.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 March 2014
This was a book started with a great amount of promise and possibility but fizzled out to an eventual disappointing end.

The world building itself was well done and there were a lot of really fascinating ideas in it. I really hope that the future does hold wearable computers in it as well as some of the other interesting ideas held within the pages of this book.

Where this novel fell short was in the writing of the characters. Too often sci-fi authors tend to get hung up on the cool ideas and world building to the point where they forget that a good story needs strong and believable characters. Besides Miri and Robert Gu who were both characters that were explored in depth, the other characters all felt like featureless shades who were inserted into the novel to serve as a new perspective but lacked any stories of their own. Even the big protagonists were very one sided and didn't really engage me as a reader.

Overall this book was not my cup of tea but I know that it will appeal to a lot of avid sci-fi fans out there. To anyone looking for interesting ideas set in the not to distant future then this book certainly holds something for you. However, I would add the proviso that in order to enjoy this book you need to be able to do so in-spite of a very unsympathetic protagonist.
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on 30 November 2006
Ok, I'm a member of the `geek' family - my daily job involves working with computers, both at the programming and the hardware design level. As such, this book should have been great, but I found I was disappointed in it for some rather strange reasons.

First is the world Vinge envisions, where almost everyone is plugged into the net on a constant basis via wearable computers with contact lenses for output display, and the world at large has so many contact points and monitors that you can be almost anywhere and still be totally immersed in virtual reality. My problem with this is that it doesn't go far enough! Computers small enough to weave into your clothes are an almost reality now, along with displays that can be part of normal glasses. So there is no great leap here - and in fact, the interface to the computer, how the person can give it commands, I found to be quite clunky, depending on virtual keyboards or interpretations of various body gestures (which apparently involve a fairly steep learning curve on the user's part to get right). Why not computers embedded in the body, with direct connection to the neural system, or at least allow for voice commands?

Second is the envisioned response to the dangers of having everything wired to the net and the influence generated data can have on people. I found it difficult to believe that in the time span given, a short twenty years from now, that the U.S. would have put in place a military force with the authority to not only monitor all net traffic and dragoon intelligence analysts from any organization at any time it was felt they were needed, but to take action on a moments notice, without recourse to any high civilian authority, up to and including a nuclear strike against any data source seen to be inimical.

Third is the level of software development envisaged. Software has always been the tortoise in speed of improvement, but here Vinge sees it having progressed to where it can compute and display, in real time, a complete visual overlay on the `real' world, and much of its high level programming capable of being done by almost anyone, allowing the user to effectively `live' in whatever fantasy world he desires.

The above objections are from the `geek' side of me, all technical. But what of the artistic side? Here Vinge does much better, wrapping a pretty solid story of intrigue and suspense around this future society. The threat is "YGBM" (You Gotta Believe Me), software so insidious it can make the recipient believe whatever the originator wants him to, the ultimate in mind control. When evidence surfaces that someone has actually perfected a form of this, the search is on for who and where. Most of the search is done by a character known only as `Rabbit', a very enigmatic being with obvious echoes from a certain cartoon character, intertwined with the story of Robert Gu, former world class poet who has been rescued from the ills of Alzheimer's by modern medicine, although along the way he seems to have lost that `genius' touch to writing poetry

The main characters are pretty well fleshed out, where their motivations and actions make good sense, and allow the reader to become emotionally involved with them. There are multiple plot twists and threads, all intertwined in such a fashion as to maintain a pretty high level of suspense. In fact, this book might be called a `Future Thriller' - even down to the `will the heroes save the day with the detonation clock ticking down to its last seconds?' scenario.

A mixed bag. A good, engaging story; people whose reactions to the envisioned world are plausible and realistic; but some odd technical lapses in the envisioned future that hurts its believability.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 8 May 2010
Near-future scifi is usually interesting but not very thoroughly thought through as it comes to the effect of (the development of) new technologies on people. This one is and that component is as interesting as the story is entertaining.

Its style is interesting as the story changes viewpoints often and they overlap, really adding an extra dimension to the story.

Very well done a good read!
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on 31 January 2014
In summary, it's a rich world you can really sink your teeth into with solid character arcs, a sensible if somewhat grandiose plot and it tied off quite nicely at the end.

I'd never read Vernor Vinge prior to getting this book so I wasn't sure what to expect but the near-future high-tech world it's set in is fascinating. I loved the idea of the wearable tech projecting an augmented reality straight onto your eyeballs, and little machines providing haptics to make that 'augmented reality' all the more real. That being said the world is not without its holes to pick if you search for them and if you're not familiar with computers you might see a word or concept which is unfamiliar but none of that is vital to the story.

Robert starts out as a pretty loathsome character, but I enjoyed exploring the world with him and thought overall he had a fairly solid character arc. All in all, the story is tight and it comes together well.
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on 26 October 2009
I found this book hard to get into at first, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it and will get round to finishing it eventually. It's a very scary thought to think that books may become obsolete in this increasingly technological age, as we should be encouraging people to enjoy the written word in as many formats as possible.
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on 18 November 2007
I do not understand the rather negative reviews this book has. To my mind it is excellent -- way better than "A Deepness in the Sky" and almost as good as (though not at all like) "A Fire upon the Deep". It describes in a satisfyingly complex way a world beginning to accelerate towards Vingean Singularity, with all its glories and terrors. The choice of Robert Gu, a "retread" ex genius poet as the central character is very effective, providing the reader with a link to the more comprehensible point of view. And unlike most SF protagonists, Gu is hardly a one-dimensional cut-out. He's a real SOB, for whom one can't help but feeling some sympathy as the story unfolds and we see his painful adjustments to his new status.

The book starts with a bang, describing the discovery of and the initial responses to the newest Bad Thing, which turns out to be "YGBM". No I won't spoil the joke by unpacking the acronym, but I thought the obvious sly reference to ICBM quite funny. Which brings me to another aspect of "Rainbow's End": it kept me chuckling throughout, without being overtly jokey -- a pretty rare achievement.

All in all, one of the best SF books I ever read (and I've read *far* too many!).
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