Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End has a superbly irritating title, particularly because I can’t stop myself from saying “Oh, do they?” every time I read the title. As an actual book, though, it’s disappointingly okay.

Vinge, of course, is the writer of the excellent A Fire Upon the Deep and the even more excellent A Deepness in the Sky, and this is his first novel since Deepness was published in 1999. So there’s seven years of anticipation and build-up behind this book, and it utterly fails to live up to any of it. The setting is the over-familiar “world of next Tuesday” that’s so enthralled Cory Doctorow and that whole technogeek crowd — and it’s so generic that this actually could have been a Doctorow novel. If it had been, mind, it would have been the novel that Doctorow only dreams he could write.

If you like the near-future Singularity novelists, you should deeply love this book. If you find them a bit dull, you’ll probably find the book moderately competent. And if you actively hate them... well, it’ll depend how much slack you’re willing to give Vernor Vinge for being Vernor Vinge. I’m willing to give him a bunch, so enjoyed the book more than I’d’ve thought I would. Evaluate your own tolerances wisely.


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