Vernor Vinge is one of my favorite and probably one of the best science fiction writers. His books are incredible reads and his Peace War Series were brilliant. He continues this tradition with his latest book, Rainbows End. Forget the title as this book should be called, This is the future.
The novel introduces us to Robert Gu, a man slowly recovering from Alzheimer’s disease thanks to advances in medical technology. As his faculties return, Robert must adapt to a very different world, where almost every object is networked and virtual reality technology is commonplace. Robert, formerly a world-renowned poet but with a notoriously mean-spirited personality. Robert and his granddaughter Miri are drawn into a complex plot involving a traitorous intelligence officer, a seemingly omnipotent being hiding behind the avatar of an anthropomorphic rabbit, and a horrible biological weapon.
Vinge’s story takes us through what the future will look like indeed the only weakness of this book is that much of it feels like a textbook introduction to Vinge’s near-future world, with not enough focus on the story. But that is also the book’s strength as it introduces us to the future almost as if we have a crystal ball. Just look at the some of the new technology that the book introduces us to:
Device Free Hardware
The Ipad is the writing on the wall and the beginning of the end for computers as we know them. Soon keyboards will be a thing of the past and computers will keep getting smaller and smaller. Vinge saw the future years before the Ipad and in his book envisions computer small enough to be carried on our person. The keyboard and even the touch screen has been dumped for small rings that sense movement as you mime typing. In the book new users still have to pretend to type but people who have used the rings for a long time are able to type just be the rings picking up the electronic nerve signals that come before the actual finger muscle is moved. Thus these experienced users can interact with their PCs without out moving their fingers.
Also abandoned by computer users in the future is the computer monitor instead people have contact lenses that are really small transparent displays so we can see the computer display all the time.
These technologies combine to create a whole new way of living. For one we will have almost telepathic abilities. With the ability to type with the slightest movement of our fingers and the ability to see what we’re typing via our contact displays we will be able to communicate using already existing programs like Microsoft chat all the time, and anywhere with no one knowing what we’re seeing or doing.
Another result of the contact lenses monitors is that we will see the world differently … literally. Say you’re a big Star Wars fan. You can select several different world views including Star Wars Land and view the world like you are in the Star Wars Universe. The computer interwoven in your clothing will note your surrounding and then change your world view via the contact lense displays. So instead of seeing cars you will see X-wing fighters, instead of people you will see Wookies or 3CPOs. And these are just a few of the future innovations that Vinge introduces to us. If you want to see what the future looks like read this book!