Rainbows Middle

Over vacation I read Rainbows End, the newest novel by Vernor Vinge. It’s been out since 2006 and reviewed extensively, so I’ll limit myself to a few thoughts.
His main character is ostensibly Robert Gu, a poet who should’ve died of dementia and other brain ailments, but is cured by biotech advances, and comes back as something of a cross between Valentine in “Stranger in a Strange Land” and Babbitt, the self-satisfied semi-hero of Sinclair Lewis’s novel, who slips into crisis. Gu’s crisis is the same as any writer — he wonders if he’s lost his skill. Apparently Gu has never had such doubts before.  that’s almost unbelievable for a writer, but it’s a minor quibble. A bigger issue is that he’s somehow become technologically proficient (I’m guessing Vinge isn’t so good at poetry, which wouldn’t advance the plot, either.).

More interesting are  the characters we don’t really get to know, especially Rabbit. It’s a little frustrating to read a book in which the main character is actually offstage for almost the entire novel.  But so Vinge has set it up.

The best character we actually get to see is the San Diego metro area itself. It has become something like a Second Life version of itself, with people putting their own ‘skins’ on the landscape.  Vinge paints this well, and it feels like it could be real by 2025.
All in all, I found Rainbows End a fun summer read, though somewhat unsatisfying, since he leaves all sorts of plot lines dangling, presumably for a sequel.

On my Big Think blog, I posted some thoughts on what it means for business.

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