Vinge's BRILLIANT "Rainbows End" as a free download

Vernor Vinge has put the entire text of his magnificent, prescient, mind-alteringly good novel Rainbows End online as a free download. This was one of the best books of 2006, a book that practically defines what "post-cyberpunk" really means: stories about what happens when the world (and not the street) finds its own use for technology. The tech touches -- massive, augmented reality ARGs; adaptive full-body user-interfaces; destructive book-scanners -- are half-predictive, half-allegorical, and entirely provocative. What a treat!
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.

Link, Buy Rainbows End (Thanks, Ori!)

See also:
Vernor Vinge on computers, freedom and privacy
Vernor Vinge interview
Vernor Vinge and Cory on the Singularity on NPR


  1. Oh sure, release the book for free months after I’ve bought it hard cover and read it.

    You authors and your slowness…

  2. Too bad it’s not CC licensed, because I just whipped up a purple numbered version and it would be damn handy to have it online. So many times I’ve wanted to link to a specific piece of that text.

  3. Awesome. I just gave this book away (never lend books) last week.

    Trevorf, I’m not sure what a “purple numbered version” is, but write to Vernor. Authors putting their stuff up for free tend to be pretty cool about derivative works.

  4. I really loved reading Rainbows End. With it as a free electronic document, it should be more easy to get some of my geekier friends to sit down and read it.

    Although, I myself have trouble giving up the tactile sense of holding onto a book (something that actually gets discussed in the subject literature, I notice.)

    Lovely times.

  5. What? What? No “Vinge isn’t actually very brilliant” trolling? Is this still BoingBoing?

    For the record, I love Vernor Vinge’s work, all of it.

  6. This has been my subway book for the last few weeks. Just getting into the climax, and wishing I were reading it all in one go.

  7. Bought this in paperback some time ago, and quite enjoyed it… not my favorite of Vinge’s work, but quite a lot of neat ideas there, and some technology I really wish we had now (and some not-so-much).

  8. Spent the day alt-tabbing between this book and a very boring document. Wonderful piece. Is this a series? Can I have more, please? Must get the hardback and throw it at everyone I know.

  9. I finished this book up just a month or so ago, and I still find myself flashing on it when people are sitting around talking about where the internet will be in 20 years. It’s very tempting to say, “just read this.”

    Nina, I’d say there had better be a sequel planned. I still have a little questions that need answerin’!

  10. Loftwyr, that’s blisteringly fast compared to his writing speed.

    Nina Katarina, it’s not part of a series. Try A Fire Upon the Deep and then A Deepness in the Sky.

  11. This (translated) quote should sound familiar:

    And that’s why he (Hans Jansen) thought of a revolutionary plan. The books need to be destroyed, it’s the only way to safe them. “I see only one solution: cut open the back of the books and run them through the scanner as a pile of papers. You’ve lost the book that way, but you’ve made a digital copy for les than 10 bucks.

    (Hans Jansen is head of Research & Development of the Royal Library of Den Haag)

    From: Dit boek moet kapot (NRC Handelsblad, 22 November 2007)

  12. I keep intending to read this (and now have even fewer excuses than before) but I keep hearing that I should read earlier Vinge first. Is the consensus A Fire Uopn the Deep?

  13. loftwyr: Oh sure, release the book for free months after ‘ve bought it hard cover and read it.

    Actually, it’s been quietly available since at least early June. I’ve pointed five local university faculty at it on-line; one ignored my recommendation outright (bastard!), two bought copies, one just read it online. The last… is worried; she does not understand that world, but also sees far too much of it growing around her. She’s still debating whether to buy it or not.

  14. The text is kind of littered with these tags. TO get rid of them, you need to do a search and replace with an actual html tag, like


  15. Hemidemi @17, the tags are part of the text, for flavour and verisimilitude. If you read the book, you’ll notice that they are part of the intaweb chat between the characters, not just randomly left in by poor proof-reading.

  16. The download is, sadly, not available anymore. I wonder, would it now be a crime to get a copy via BitTorrent?

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