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True Names

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  422 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Disaffected computer wizard "Mr. Slippery" (True Name Roger Pollack) is an early adopter of a new full-immersion virtual reality technology called the Other Plane. He and the other wizards form a cabal to keep their true identities — their True Names — secret to avoid prosecution by their "Great Adversary" — the government of the United States.

The lines that define us are
Paperback, 153 pages
Published December 15th 1984 by Bluejay Books
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  422 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Jason Pettus
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked up this obscure 1981 novella by the insider-loved science-fiction author Vernor Vinge because of recently learning that it's demonstrably the very first story to define the trope we now know as "cyberspace," and that the authors who eventually created the "cyberpunk" genre in the late '80s and early '90s (William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, etc) were all passionate fans of this book and basically used it as a starting place for their own stories. And after reading it, I can ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Originally published as a novella in 1981, this version of True Names contains illustrations by Bob Walters and an afterword by Marvin Minsky. I read this back in 1984, and really enjoyed re-reading it on a plane flight across the country. Recommended!

While some of the tech is a little dated, Vinge keeps it mostly in the background. At one point, the protagonist utilizes other computers to increase his "power" online, and this is not so different from networked computers participating in a DDOS
My first Vinge, even if A Fire Upon the Deep is still waiting to be read as well. 'True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier' is a re-release of Vinge's same-titled novella, caught between introductions, essays, and an afterword.

The introduction of this edition is by Hari Kunzru, whom I've never heard of, to be honest. He gives a bit of background on the novella and the period in which is was written. Editor James Frenkel reminisces about his time as Vinge's editor at Tor Books and
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, science-fiction
Before Neuromancer and Snow Crash, there was Vinge's "True Names", written in 1981. Hackers meet in cyberspace, a virtual representation of "data space" they call the "Other Plane". Metaphors and symbols of magic are applied to this world - they are warlocks and wizards, they cast spells - modern-day sorcery in a completely networked world. There are battles in cyberspace, amassing computation power that goes to your head and makes you Gods, encryption schemes to trick those who control you beca ...more
Peter Garrett
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
The cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction was rooted in the work of New Wave SF authors such as Philip K Dick, Roger Zelazny and JG Ballard. Its themes began to emerge in the late 1970s in SF comics such as Judge Dredd, and crystallized around the 1982 Riddley Scott movie Blade Runner, the Japanese manga series Akira, and, in particular, William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (1984).

Gibson consolidated four elements that came to define the subgenre: technology (especially the internet, cybernetics a
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was inspired to read this after reading Finn Brunton's Digital Cash and how it inspired the early Crypto-anarchists, eventually leading to the creation of bitcoin and the vision for anonymous identities. Some of the names seem archaic now but given that this was written in 1981, about 38 years from when I'm reading, I think it holds up pretty well.

The story follows a group of early adopters of a new full-immersion virtual reality technology called the "Other Plane" -- they call themselves "war
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't expecting to start reading the novel at page 190. Until then there are a series of articles to introduce the theme a set up the mood. I honestly can't tell if I enjoyed the articles more than the novel. The article on remailers was amazing!
Having been in contact the works such as The Matrix, Strange Days, eXistenZ, Tron, etc, the universe presented by True Names doesn't have the wow effect it must have had in 1981. Overall the novel is enjoyable.
I might read another novel by Vernor Ving
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, z-2012
A quick read, and a little dated--but hey, the book is as old as I am--but very interesting to see Vinge's ideas of the potential future of tech back in the 80's. A lot of the concepts here have been used by other authors since this was written and have been well-updated. That being said, I enjoyed this novella (short story?) and its discussion of AI and augmented human capabilities.

Rating: PG
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
True Names (1981) by Vernor Vinge is a very early work that depicts cyberspace. It's an excellent novella that was visionary. Before Neuromancer and all the other cyberpunk fiction this was first. The story is also impressively good as well. The characters are good enough for their purpose and the writing is decent. I'd been meaning to read it for years and it lived up to high expectations.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
While noticeably dated, this story is still excellent.
Vivs L
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books, early exploration of cyberspace before the whole cyberpunk movement really took hold
T Worwood
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Published in 1981, Vinge's vision of the future of technology is again amazingly accurate. the story is short and interesting.
A Mig
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Why have I not heard of True Names before? It’s a Ready Player One cocktail with a zest of Tron, or vise versa, and to me, the gem of the cyberpunk genre. Why does everyone always refer to Neuromancer or Snow Crash as the earliest/best in the genre? True Names predates both. It has a vintage cachet that kids from the 1980s will love while being up-to-date and even prescient about the importance of data on the society of the Future. The digital world described as a fantasy world (with magics, cas ...more
Ed Terrell
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-fiction
A must read for anyone interested in science fiction preceding reality. "True Names" was written in 1980 so it predates Gibson's "Neuromancer" (another must read). How do we imagine things that do not yet exist? Characters predate the Matrix like environment by about twenty years. So if you want to keep your thumb on the pulse of the future, read the writings of those whose best works are dated in the pre- machine learning, pre Facebook and pre Internet past. Kudos for those who figure out who t ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable, though the illustrations were dated and didn't match the descriptions at times, it mostly made the story funnier.
Overall very impressed with the way the story has aged. Still pretty relevant and believable today, despite Vinge having noooo way to predict anything close to the internet of today when he wrote this. The alternate reality he composes still manages to feel serious.
Very good read overall.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Stories by Vinge that all engage with ideas around the singularity. The title story is fun, especially if you are familiar with Wizard of Earthsea. The last story is thought provoking. Some of them are kind of silly, but never terrible. I really enjoy his commentary at the beginning/end of stories to introduce them and provide some insight into his influences and thinking.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story gives a vivid perception of what it feels like being connected to cyberspace via neurointerface. In that new age of streaming communication flows, enormous processing powers, endless data storages, total surveillance and control - human mind of computer geniuses becomes a powerful tool while the world seems more fragile than ever.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounds up to 4 stars. Initially was intrigued by the weird cover and the first paragraph of the blurb with all the weird names, ended up understanding why it was a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula awards. Interesting also to read through now in 2019.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: popfiction
LOVED this story (as I have loved quite a few things Vernor Vinge has written).

Vinge is the only prominent SF author that I know of who was a computer science professor, and I have always felt that the computer jargon stuff in his books rings a bit more true than with other writers.
Aaron Reinwald
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I enoyed it. Picture if Hackers used World Of Warcraft nowadays to take control of the cyber world. Then picture being in the 80s and dreaming of what technology could do for you in the future. That's basically what this story sums up.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, non-fiction
The novella itself by Vernor Vinge is absolutely top notch. The essays that accompany it are, however, a very mixed bag.
Adam Fisher
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow - absolutely excellent. Rarely is a concept executed so succinctly. Tight writing leads to a surprisingly deep story despite the lack of length.
Peter Birdsall
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The granddaddy of cyberpunk stories. Seminal... if a little goofy/conventional.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
A good read.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting ideas collected here. The characters are fine, but not nearly as interesting as the world Vinge conceives and contemplates.
Will Sheppard
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book that predicted cyberspace. Retro-futuristic sci-fi. A unique read.
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The True Names novel itself (87 pages): 4 stars

The other articles (11 pieces): 2 stars, although a few were very good
Diego Flores
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think this is a great novella that feels remarkably complete for the amount of space that he uses. I could see lesser authors spending 500 pages to tell the same story.
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Vernor Steffen Vinge is a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels A Fire Upon The Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999) and Rainbows End (2006), his Hugo Award-winning novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002) and The Cookie Monster (2004), as well as for hi ...more

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