Rainbows End – a SF review/comment

Rainbows End book cover

I’ve been reading Rainbows End (actually just finished it late last night, but my comments will be written in the order I noted them down as I read), but I noticed something – there is a section in the beginning where a young boy is asked to “watch” some students in his class at “Fairmont High”, including one Prof. Gu, who I understand will become a central player. Now that section is taken almost word
for word from his short story “Synthetic Serendipity” with a few name changes that are unimportant, and the addition of Prof. Gu as a person of interest.

Now, that short story was published in 2005, copyright 2004, and the book was 2006.

How do you feel about a short story being lifted, almost verbatim, into a novel – in effect, recycled. Maybe he was already planning Rainbow’s End and used the short story as a testing ground. I can’t find a website for him, an official one, most are about the singularity, to see if he has comments. I found one comment that
said it was being marketed as an excerpt from Rainbows End after the book won the Hugo, before that it was said to be a prelude to RE, and became the book with a large prefix and suffix. It was first published in IEEE Spectrum, 30 June 2004, and later in Dozois’ 22nd collection, and most recently in a VR collection, Dangerous Games”.

But I did find an interesting podcast type thing, where he talks about all sorts of this like Schroeder, Benford, Brin, tech, etc. http://www.mefeedia.com/tags/vinge/

According to Slapshot site, the story is adapted from a novel he was working on: Rainbows End.

In some odd way I feel cheated, either that the short story was just a part of a novel he was working on – something to throw out and get paid for, or it was “cribbed” into a novel. It wasn’t just similar,
it was for the most part exactly word for word.

I’m in the middle of Rainbows End – reading it surreptitiously between pages of Uglies by Scott Westerfield, which my daughter wants me to read, and I want to, it’s just that it’s a little slow going, and I fall asleep, so I read RE (no ‘) late at night. There is much emphasis, but no explanation for the lack of the (‘) in Rainbows End, which I find perverse – get me wondering, and leave me hanging.

By the middle, it was not pulling together yet. The parts are all spread out like one of Prof. Xiang’s experiments – I wish there was more on the tech stuff, but we seem to be learning as Prof. Gu does – slowly, and dribbled out like a trail of bread crumbs for us to follow, but then there is the fact that at times, he doesn’t explain, just takes you on a wild ride, and hope you hang on. It was labeled cyberpunk I believe.

Could be interesting concept, and I do love the idea of YGBM (you gotta believe me) “warfare” rather than conventional types. YGBM is the targeting of specific groups, or even an individual, with subliminal type suggestions/messages that can basically make them do anything you want. An example was used in the book – they showed an ad at a game for some kind of nougat bar, but before that could even register with people, there was a big spike in nougat bar sales at the counters. It turns out that the message to want a nougat bar was hidden elsewhere. It was a targeted delivery. Explained much better in the book, but an interesting concept when contrasted to the conventional bio-warfare.

At this point in the books it’s all set-up and none of the characters have really come alive for me. Did it really win awards? Why do they all start so slow? Am I one of those non-awards readers?

I noticed a trend with children’s/teen books: with some exception (The Giver, etc.), most of the Newberry books were NOT the kids’ favorites, but they were always on the recommended reading list, and the ones they had to read at school. No wonder kids don’t like to read – if that’s what they are told is “good”. But Harry Potter showed them that non-good can be very good, and now they are reading. But they learned to steer away from award winners, and recommended books, which might hurt them in the future when they need
those biggies for English classes in college. I don’t like Faulkner, but the Eng. Profs do.

I’m not sure where RE falls, but it is very good so far (I’m almost done), in it’s own way. Although I still wish Mr. Rabbit had been more whimsical, but then I haven’t reached the end and found out who he/it is (we never do).

But one thing I noted down was that this book, and others like it are so full of pop references and made-up pop references, like Spieling/Rowling media giant, and wikibay (sort of wiki gone wild?) that it will date itself in just a short time. Plus it is so detailed on the tech, that it could also easily date if it turns out that the tech goes another way entirely. That’s a chance in near-future books – dating oneself before you have a chance to establish the book as a “classic.”

The ability to project yourself elsewhere – used better in Lady of Mazes IMO, but it’s good here. The Sminging (silent messaging), with it’s “Miri (arrow) Juan <sm> text…<sm>…” is annoying. Once was enough. Twice is repetitive (and that’s ME talking) and every time is annoying.

I am really looking forward to a truly unique vision, and I find that RE is not – it’s derivative and uses tech that appears all over SF, I guess because it’s near future, it draws from current tech, so that’s the best extrapolation, but others use it in further future stories and other worlds, so it seems that it will not die. I need something “fresh” that will make my eyelids pop!

Well I finished it, and I still have some concerns, although I did really enjoy it. There was a lot of use of VR overlays on the environment and on clothes/bodies, something I noticed a trend in the latest SciFi books (like Elizabeth Bear’s “Undertow”) . People seem to think this is TNBT (the next big thing), a device used in many SF books – they find a new tech idea, and suddenly that spawns a whole new trend in the books. I’m going to post on both Undertow, and on Vinge’s concept of The Singularity, which was not in this books, but is explained in detail in conversations with him and in his book “Fire Upon the Deep.”

I hope that my postings on SciFi books doesn’t bore everyone, but it’s what I read, and I read a lot, and since my SF book discussion group doesn’t seem to want to discuss books at the moment, I need an outlet, so my blog will be it for a while. I’ll intersperse it with other topics off course. so what’s ahead? The Singularity for Dummies, New Words to Use, Undertow, Off to College, and …..

The House AI


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