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.