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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge

Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge. New York: Baen Books, 1986. ISBN: 0-671-65647-3

Another rollicking good science fiction yarn, and a murder mystery at the same time! I don't usually buy books anymore, preferring to use my local public library, but this paperback tempted me sufficiently when I ran across it at Goodwill or Value Village, or some such place.

I like to carry a small book with me in the black leather shoulder strap bag (basically a guy's purse) that I carry, so that I'm never stuck anywhere without something to read. And I don't like to use library books for that purpose, because it can be a bit hard on a book. They do tend to get dog-eared in the process. So it's good to have a few of my own unread books around for that purpose, at least.

And the other reason I chose this one is because I have heard Vernor Vinge speak in person, once or twice. Every year at the ALA (American Library Association) Annual Conference, LITA (the Library and Information Technology Association) puts on a program in which a panel of SciFi authors talks about the future, especially as it relates to libraries.

Vinge has been featured at at least a couple of those events, and I've made it to at least one of them. So I was interested to see what his writing was like. I've probably read a few other books by him over the years, but he's not an author who has really made a mark on my imagination.

This is definitely worth reading, even though the premise is somewhat far-fetched. No more so than lots of other SciFi, however. Only a fraction of humanity is still around, millions of years into the future. It seems that most of humanity vanished, and no one really can agree on what happened to them. Did they evolve into some higher life form, and move on to a higher plane of existence, or move out of the galaxy or something along those lines? Or were they wiped out by some inimical alien intelligence?

The people who survived, have done so via “bobbles,” Bobbles are essentially stasis devices, bubbles inside of which space and time have no meaning. Activate a bobble, and let the universe evolve around you, coming out only every few hundred thousand years or so to see what's happening. That's basically what the still existing humans have done. There are barely enough people around to recreate a viable civilization, and someone seems determined to keep them at loggerheads with one another.

All of this is background for one man, formerly a police detective, who is commissioned to solve a murder. One of the hi-tech types is marooned outside her bobble, and lives several hundred years, but dies of natural causes before any of the other bobblers (including her sister) come up for air and notice. The sister is the one who wants the crime solved, naturally.

The bobble concept is mind-boggling enough that it's difficult to keep track of how it all works, but it makes for an rollicking romp, as I already said. Definitely recommended for all SciFi fans.

P.S. As I was preparing this blog entry, I discovered (on the Web, via Google, naturally) that Marooned in Realtime is apparently part of a larger series that includes at least a couple of other novels: The Peace War (1984) and Across Realtime (1991) so I suppose I'll have to look for them at some point.


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