I have a great love for Vernor Vinge's sprawling scifi novel A Fire Upon the Deep. It's kind of a mess, mixing in so many different plots and concepts that it's more like three novels. But it's full of good space opera and flows well. And like the other early Vinge work True Names it benefits from a deep well of brilliant ideas: the singularity, ASCII Usenet as interstellar communications medium, telepathic doggy group minds, ... I liked that book so much that every time Vinge publishes a new one I buy it right away and read it.

Alas, his new novel Rainbow's End is as disappointing to me as Deepness in the Sky was. It just never quite gets off the ground. The protagonist is an old man rejuvenated by sci-fi miracle medicine, having to adjust to modern technology by socializing with young teenagers. The premise holds promise but the resulting character interactions are wooden and devoid of feeling. The main plot is a mess, something about warring factions and espionage and the menacing but terribly named YGBM technology. But unlike Fire Upon the Deep this mess doesn't ever turn into anything compelling. There are a few clever scifi concepts tossed in but they stick out and are not integrated well. "Hey! Look! I'm talking about Trusted Computing on this page!". I managed to finish the book, but it felt like a duty.

I don't normally write reviews of things I don't like; what's the point? But after reading Cory's gushing praise over on BoingBoing I had to offer my own disappointment. That, and I hold out the hope that someone will point out to me that the book is actually brilliant and I'm an idiot.

  2006-06-29 15:33 Z