Exciting new releases make this a wonderful month for science fiction and fantasy readers. The first piece of good news is the publication of Vernor Vinge's new novel Rainbows End. A mathematician and computer scientist, Vinge came up with the concept of the technological singularity the idea that beyond a certain point the world will be so different from today that it is impossible for us to imagine. The singularity has a firm hold on many science fiction writers' imaginations, but Vinge slips past it by setting Rainbows End before his theorized singularity date (ca. 2045) in 2025 when the world is still somewhat recognizable. Robert Gu, a highly lauded poet and retired academic, has Alzheimer's disease and is clinging to life. He is treated for the disease and regains much of his functionality, but not his poetic abilities. Pre-Alzheimer's, Gu was such a major pain in the neck that after his recovery, most of his family and his former colleagues keep him at arm's length. (Given that Vinge was an academic for many years, he offers a convincing portrait of the pettiness of academic strife.) Gu's son and daughter-in-law, who are both involved in homeland security, don't trust him. His teenage granddaughter wants to ignore her parents' warnings and get to know her revitalized grandfather. Vinge's novel is full to the bursting point with ideas, future technology, international intrigue, a possible artificial intelligence, earthquake-proof buildings and many other imaginative extrapolations. This isn't the future, but it is a deeply thought-out and well-examined future that will fascinate and entertain fans of speculative fiction.
Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.