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Rainbows End

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Rainbows End
Author Vernor Vinge
Length Novel
ISFDB ISFDB entry
wikipedia.org Rainbows End
Genre Science Fiction
Story Survey
Starting Perspective 3rd
Starting Tense past tense
Starting Action Level 2 (out of 5)
Starting Hook Level 2.5 (out of 5)
Starting Tension Level 4 (out of 5)
Starting Genre Level 3 (out of 5)
Reviewer Fritz
First Paragraphs
CHAPTER 00: Dumb Luck and Smart Thinking

###

The first bit of dumb luck came disguised as a public embarrassment for the European Center for Defense against Disease. On July 23, schoolchildren in Algiers claimed that a respiratory epidemic was spreading across the Mediterranean. The claim was based on clever analysis of antibody data from the mass transit systems of Algiers and Naples.

CDD had no immediate comment, but in less than three hours, public-health hobbyists reported similar results in other cities, complete with contagion maps. The epidemic was at least one week old, probably originating in Central Africa, beyond the scope of hobbyist surveillance.

By the time CDD got its public relations act together, outbreaks had been detected in India and North America. Worse yet, a journalist in Seattle had isolated and identified the infectious agent, which turned out to be a Pseudomimivirus. That was about as embarrassing a twist as the public relations people could imagine: Back in the late 'teens, CDD had justified its enormous budget with a brilliant defense against the New Sunrise cult. The Sunrise Plague had been the second-worst Euro-terror of the decade. Only CDD's leadership had kept the disaster from spreading worldwide.

The Sunrise Plague had been based on a Pseudomimivirus.

There were still good people at CDD. They were the same specialists who had saved the world in 2017. They quickly resolved the July 23 issue. Public Relations could now spin a more-or-less accurate statement: Yes, this Pseudomimi had evaded the standard announcement protocols. The failure was a simple glitch at the Center's "Current Events" website. And yes, this Pseudomimi might be a derivative of the Sunrise Plague. Denatured strains of the original, death-optimized, virus continued to echo around the world, a permanent addition to the background noise of the biosphere. Three had already been sighted that year, one just five days before the July 23 scare. Furthermore (and here the Public Relations people regained their usual élan), all such events were subclinical, having essentially no perceptible symptoms. The Pseudomimiviruses had an enormous genome (well, enormous for a virus, small for almost anything else). The New Sunrise Cult had transformed that genome into a Swiss Army Knife of death, with a tool to counter almost every defense. But without such optimization, the Pseudomimis were clunky bags of DNA junk. "And so, in conclusion, we at CDD apologize for failing to announce this routine event."

Picture

Rainbows End

    Robert Gu is a recovering Alzheimer's patient. The world that he remembers was much as we know it today. Now, as he regains his faculties through a cure developed during the years of his near-fatal decline, he discovers that the world has changed and so has his place in it. He was a world-renowned poet. Now he is seventy-five years old, though by a medical miracle he looks much younger, and he’s starting over, for the first time unsure of his poetic gifts. Living with his son’s family, he has no choice but to learn how to cope with a new information age in which the virtual and the real are a seamless continuum, layers of reality built on digital views seen by a single person or millions, depending on your choice. But the consensus reality of the digital world is available only if, like his thirteen-year-old granddaughter Miri, you know how to wear your wireless access—through nodes designed into smart clothes—and to see the digital context—through smart contact lenses.

With knowledge comes risk. When Robert begins to re-train at Fairmont High, learning with other older people what is second nature to Miri and other teens at school, he unwittingly becomes part of a wide-ranging conspiracy to use technology as a tool for world domination.

In a world where every computer chip has Homeland Security built-in, this conspiracy is something that baffles even the most sophisticated security analysts, including Robert’s son and daughter-in law, two top people in the U.S. military. And even Miri, in her attempts to protect her grandfather, may be entangled in the plot.

As Robert becomes more deeply involved in conspiracy, he is shocked to learn of a radical change planned for the UCSD Geisel Library; all the books there, and worldwide, would cease to physically exist. He and his fellow re-trainees feel compelled to join protests against the change. With forces around the world converging on San Diego, both the conspiracy and the protest climax in a spectacular moment as unique and satisfying as it is unexpected.



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