I met Vernor Vinge this last weekend at Conjecture, but my copy of A Fire Upon the Deep was at home. Then I got busy, and lost track of time, and by Sunday I realized my chance to buy something and get it autographed was probably gone, since I didn't see him around.
Then I did! Standing right outside the dealers room! So I bounced into the dealers room and asked Patrick, who was running the Mysterious Galaxy bookseller, which of his many Vinge titles I should buy RIGHT NOW because the man was right outside and did not appear to be immediately busy, and yes, I was going to ask for a signature outside a scheduled signing but at this event at this time I was pretty sure I could get away with it. He handed me Rainbows End, which I bought.
Note: Vernor Vinge is gracious, brilliant, and is delightful company -- we got to talk for almost an hour, and I got my copy of the novel signed.
Back at home I tried to read the book in bed, and I discovered that my eyes are no longer up to that task -- not with these glasses, at any rate. So I bought it again, this time electronically, and the only reason I'm telling you this is that the theme of "I'm not getting younger, but there are technological solutions for that" was present early on in the book, and really resonated with me. YMMV.
Stylistically, the book has some omniscient POV moments, and while they might ring weird for some readers, they're one of the things I love about the science fiction I grew up with, so the book resonated with me on a second level. And since the book is recent (2006) and tells a solid, prescient, near-future (2025) tale, it resonated a third time. Oh, and it won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novel, so there's that.
Structurally, the most daring thing the book did was present us with a protagonist whose flaw is that he's a very mean person. Usually that's a big turn-off, but in the context of this story, I found myself on the edge of my seat (well, bed. Also, metaphor) hoping for a voyage of redemption. To quote Patrick Rothfuss, an author can threaten a character with much worse things than death. This character has already cheated death. Now he has real problems.
Ultimately, Rainbows End (the absent apostrophe is not a typo) was satisfying enough that I'm quite happy to have bought it twice. My next purchase probably needs to be bifocals, but Vernor Vinge writes such a compelling vision of the near future that I'm half-convinced that a better medical or technological solution might be just around the corner.