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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Vernor Vinge’s foray into pre-singularity near-future science fiction, Rainbows End, is a disaster. Vinge paints a picture of a future not too distant, trying to cover all of the following in 364 pages:

  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Secure Hardware
  • Terrorism
  • The Department of Homeland Security
  • Anti-American Sentiment
  • IP Licensing
  • Cryptography
  • Pervasive Snooping
  • Hacking
  • Dystopia
  • WMD
  • Cultural History Destruction
  • Mind Control
  • Age Reversal
  • Hive Minds
  • Distributed Computing
  • Pervasive Text Messaging
  • Nanotechnology
  • Flash Mobs
  • Blogging
  • Distributed Popularity
  • Information-Centric Culture
  • Aggregation Instead of Production
  • Identity Destruction
  • Distributed Propaganda

I’m sure I’m just barely scratching the surface, but it makes for an incoherent and pointless babbling mess of a work. I love everything I have read by Vinge, and that covers most of his fiction work, and I admire his insights on singularities and post-singularity culture. Without fail, I recommend his works to my friends with any interest in science fiction or computing. However, his jumbled mess of a near-future is perhaps the most disappointing rubbish of a novel I’ve read all year. It’s as if Vinge figured out the top 50 topics in science, computing, politics, communication, and culture, made a checklist, and made sure to spend at least some time talking about each one. A more convincing story could have been written by a high school student, with more meaning behind it to boot. I only finished the book because I had faith that Vinge would somehow make the experience worthwhile in the end (he failed). Were he not one of my favorite authors, I would never consider reading another of his works. 2/10.