If you wanted a vision of what your life might be like, technologically-speaking, around 2040, then Rainbows End does the job brilliantly. The idea of "wearable" computing, where imagery can be projected directly into to retina, is a simple extension (now) of walking around with an ipod and cellphone plugged into your ears. You'll "see" a bunch of "skins" over everything.... why not? No more strange than walking around listening to your own ambient music cancelling out the noise around you. As Vinge notes (in this excellent interview
) we went from a pretty unconnected world, in 2000, to one where maybe 3 billion people have cellphones. I sometimes get calls (and emails!) from farmers in Bereba village in Burkina Faso. So as more and more of those 3 billion start moving objects around virtually, and sharing them (have you ever asked who created doodle.com
, the best meeting coordination device ever? I have no idea who they are, but it have saved me tens of hours, to read things like Vinge now!) we'll get even more innovation and collaboration.
What I liked about Rainbows End is that Vinge's wonderful description of ordinary life in this new technology world...
1) A main part of the novel is about LIBRARIES... and the books. Yaay!
2) The plot moves along very nicely... quite a good read.
3) The theme is that technology doesn't make you a better person... the central theme is how a poet (a poet!) goes from being a jerk to being rather a nice guy. But you only become a better person by living in the real world, and experiencing real people that you can come to care about. Vinge's novels all deal with the alienation that comes with technology change and growing "apartness".... he a hopeful dystopian.