Review: Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge

>>Published: May 2006

>>Finally got around to it: March 2012

This will be shorter than most reviews I post because, in perfect honesty, this is the first book I’ve given up on in several years. 250 pages in I gave up the fight and scanned through to the epilogue. I tried. I really wanted to love this book and its protagonist Robert Gu, a world-renowned poet who at age seventy-five was given treatment that not only reversed his Alzheimer’s, but gave him the body of a twenty-five year old in the process. It’s a novel about connecting with a lapsed generation and also generations of family long neglected. There are also global conspiracies, library riots and Fahrenheit 451-style book cleansings, and far too much needless HTML-based artifice—the silent messaging between characters is distracting and not woven well into the book:

Miri –> Juan, Lena, Xiu: <sm>Okay, I think Robert sees them.
Lena –> Juan, Miri, Xiu: <sm>I see them! Can you, Xiu?
Xiu –> Juan, Lena, Miri: <sm>no yet i must—
Miri –> Juan, Lena, Xiu: <sm>Don’t try to message back, Dr. Xiang. You’re not fast enough yet; Robert will get suspicious. Just talk out loud, as if to him and Juan.<sm>

Though the purpose of this artifice is clear, it grinds certain sections of the book to a halt. In the end, however, the greatest crime of this book is simply that while it is written well enough, its characters, setting, and plot are unengaged and uninteresting. There’s no colour or imagery to this world beyond the barest of descriptors, and none of it triggered an emotional response. I wanted to love more than the idea behind Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End. I wanted to, but I couldn’t, and I didn’t.