Monday, October 11, 2010

Book review: Across Realtime

Vernor Vinge is one of my favorite Science Fiction authors. With amazing skill he builds consistent and fascinating worlds to weave stories of the future. Vernor Vinge has a strong libertarian bent. My only complaint is he doesn’t write enough. I wish he wrote more.

Across Realtime is a book with two stories. (The Peace War and Marooned In Realtime) Both of these stories revolve around a concept of “Bubbles.” At first people believed the bubbles were force fields and those inside would die after the oxygen ran out. Later they discovered the bubbles were stasis fields, basically frozen in time. Once the bubbles popped, the people would continue on with their lives.

Around our time scientists at Livermore Labs created the technology to “bubble” people and objects. A group of people used bubbles to encase armies and quickly ruled the world. The Peace War takes place fifty years in the future. A revolutionary group tries to revolt. Vernor Vinge explores what fifty years of rapid growth in computer technology might be like.

One of the heroes of the story is a science from Livermore Labs who tries to stop the bubbles from being used to conquer the world. He finds a young boy who is a greater genius. Together they lead the revolution. There is a lot of intrigue as the “Peacers” want to keep their power and stop the revolt.

Marooned In Realtime takes place in the same universe, but millions of years in the future. The singularity occurred and most of humanity has moved on. Those in bubbles during the singularity missed out. Some of these few humans want to restart the human race and are trying to gather a critical mass. Wil is the main character of the story. He is a detective who is trying to find the person who bubbled him and made Wil miss watching his children grow up.

Both of these stories are complex. There are lots of details making the stories seem real. Vernor Vinge put a lot of thought into what it means to have bubble technology.

If you like good classic science fiction, give this book a try. It rates a strong five on a scale of one to five.


Anonymous said...

It's too abstract. I grew up liking science fiction because it let me step into the future, but stories like this are too many steps down the road and just alienate me. Not all of those steps will happen the way the author projects, and that leaves his future twisting in the wind.

I'd rather read the near-term science fiction of Pournelle and his collaborators.

Jehu said...

Vinge is a good author. You'd probably also like his 'A Fire on the Deep' and 'A Deepness in the Sky'.

Henry Cate said...

Anonymous - You might give Vinge a try. At least Across Realtime isn't that far into the future.

Jehu - I agree, Vinge Vinge is good. I've read both of those and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.