Books: Rainbows End
Is evaluating a science fiction novel any different than evaluating a standard piece of fiction? Does a reader care more about how the speculative elements are presented than the actual narrative? Vernor Vinge's latest novel, "Rainbows End," is an interesting exercise in futurism, but I'd be lying if I said it was a very compelling narrative.
In "Rainbows End," a poet struck with Alzheimer's "comes back from the dead" with the help of future medical technology. He awakes to find a world where everyone uses wearable computers (in the form of contact lens that show HUD-like overlays to the wearer), where the Internet pervades almost every nook and cranny of our world, and where small-time crooks have access to weapons of mass destruction. Eventually, he gets caught up in a big plot to (what else?) control the world.
Vinge's vision of the future is pretty complete, as far as I'm concerned, and the man character is a hoto since he's so cantankerous. The depiction of the ubiquity of digital computing power is interesting (particularly in one sequence that takes place in a high school classroom where projects and lessons are beamed stright to other people's eyes), but the story doesn't have much drive. Why else would you read a novel?