Kris's Reviews > Rainbows End

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
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's review
Aug 09, 2008

it was amazing

In the near future, a victim of Alzheimer's has been cured and rejuvinated. Robert Gu must now use his 90's oriented brain to navigate the world of the 2020's. So, like many of the elderly in the latter decade, he goes back to high school.

Among other things, he must learn to understand how to "wear." To wear is to use internet-ready computers embedded into one's clothing and contact lenses. (The I/O for these devices consists for the most part in subtle movements of the eye.) Those who can wear have constant and immediate access to a world of information and imagery that leaves those who can't wear seeming almost blind by comparison. To young people, like Robert's granddaughter (who is in the same high school class as he), wearing seems as natural as breathing. To someone in Robert's position, though, it seems artificial and pointless.

As the book progresses, Robert and granddaughter, with some friends, end up embarking on a kind of updated Hardy Boys style mystery caper--though the stakes this time turn out to involve the fate of the human race itself.

The way into the caper involves the concept of "hijacking." To hijack someone is to hack into their computer and manipulate the information it is feeding them. By this means, a hijacker can make someone act in the hijacker's own interest. It's like mind control, but different.

Who is being hijacked, and by whom? This question is asked all over the place in the book. And so it turns out the book is largely about people trying to discover the significance of their own actions. Another way to put this is, they're trying to discover the meaning of their own life.

Any book that successfully shines a new light at a new angle on that old quest must be pretty good. And it is.
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