I previously reviewed Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy [soylentnews.org] and Postsingular [soylentnews.org] and found that Rudy Rucker [wikipedia.org]'s best work comes after ideas had the most time to percolate. Postsingular was a relative dud, although still far superior to Neal Stephenson's REAMDE [soylentnews.org]. In contrast, Rainbows End [wikipedia.org] is highly recommended. Indeed, it is essential reading for anyone concerned about the progression of software from desktop, web and mobile to augmented reality [wikipedia.org]. The book has a shockingly similar game to Pokémon Go [soylentnews.org] in addition to a plausible mix of tech mergers and new entrants in a near-future universe where smartphones have given way to wearable augmented reality.
Many books, comics and films have covered the purgatory of high school and some have covered the special purgatory of going back to high school (for a re-union or as a student). The film: 21 Jump Street [wikipedia.org] is a particularly silly example of the sub-genre. Rainbows End covers a world leading humanities [knowyourmeme.com] academic who spends years in the fugue of dementia [wikipedia.org], responds almost perfectly to medical advances and is enrolled in high school to complete his therapy. While he looks almost perfectly like a 17 year old, his contemporaries remain in decline or have bounced back with far more random results.
Almost everyone and everything from the protagonist's granddaughter to classmates to the high school syllabus pressures him into getting his own augmented reality client. It is worse than the current pressure to join social networks [soylentnews.org]. Understandably, many curmudgeons [soylentnews.org] never take the leap. Obviously, narrative would greatly suffer if our protagonist wasn't one of the bold few. But, whoa, what a world which awaits! It is easier to flip through augmented reality overlays than to change channel in IRC [soylentnews.org]. He also gets acquainted with instant messaging [wikipedia.org], tele-presence [wikipedia.org] and the innards of network jitter [wikipedia.org]. He stays in contact with faculty and, from this, some of the action is set around UCSD [wikipedia.org]'s Geisel Library [wikipedia.org]. However, the protagonist has fractious relations with family, is failing classes in a downmarket charter school [wikipedia.org], is socially awkward and makes zero progress on a personal cornerstone of academic publication. Old friends suspect that he's lost his spark. Meanwhile, new talents are frustrated by digital certificate chains [wikipedia.org], "secure" management engines [soylentnews.org], DRM and no user servicable parts (with particular reference to vehicles) [soylentnews.org]. "Computer says no." [wikipedia.org] is enough to test anyone's sanity.
The protagonist endures art classes which are mostly editing and sequencing augmented reality effects; shop classes which use a patronising wifi [wikipedia.org], DRM, augmented reality, servo [wikipedia.org] construction set [wikipedia.org] (a plausible successor to Lego Mindstorms [wikipedia.org]); and "Search And Analysis", trite MBA [wikipedia.org] classes for the effective use of search engines, analytics [soylentnews.org], forums and crowd-sourcing. Meanwhile, there are sub-plots involving a library digitization project, a biological threat and a hacker portrayed as a white rabbit. The white rabbit is a cheeky, winsome character more like Bugs Bunny [wikipedia.org] or Roger Rabbit [wikipedia.org] than Lewis Carroll [wikipedia.org]'s nervous White Rabbit [wikipedia.org]. It is not new for an author to have a theme about literacy heritage. (Or lack thereof.) Ray Bradbury [wikipedia.org]'s Fahrenheit 451 [wikipedia.org] covers book burning [wikipedia.org] in the most literal and alarming form. Rudy Rucker covers subtle matters. For example, when the physical becomes virtual, the loss (or reduced use) of alphabetical index reduces serendipity [wikipedia.org]. It also covers the matter of gifting public collections to billionaires; ostensibly in the name of progress.
Many of the characters perform double duty and this creates a soap opera bubble of reality. It feels like an author being clever with an overly constrained plot. Before the midpoint of the book, it is quite apparent that the loose ends of the plot get resolved far too tidily. Nevertheless, it is highly enjoyable and has technical merit while doing more with less. Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy takes the mythical imipolex plastic [wikipedia.org] of Thomas Pynchon [wikipedia.org]'s book: Gravity's Rainbow [wikipedia.org] (written in similar style to the Illuminatus trilogy [wikipedia.org]) and infuses it with general purpose artificial intelligence [wikipedia.org]. Postsingular has nanobot [wikipedia.org] gray goo [wikipedia.org] and parallel universes [wikipedia.org]. Rainbows End is more alarming because no such leaps are required.
Rainbows End by Rudy Rucker is widely available in print.