Book Review: Marooned in Realtime (Vernor Vinge 1986)

There are no spoilers in this review beyond what you’d find in the first few chapters or the cover blurb.

Rating: 4/5

Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge is the far future sequel to The Peace War, set on Earth 50 million years in the future. The Peace War introduced the concept of “bobbling”, a scientific discovery where a spherical bobble, impervious to the laws of physics, can be created. Anything inside the bobble doesn’t experience what happens outside of it; a year can pass outside the bobble, but no time passes inside it. The time length for which a bobble exists can be tuned. This was used to great effect in The Peace War as a mechanism for sequestering weapons. In Marooned in Realtime, the people who were bobbled through various circumstances come together and try to reestablish humanity after it was somehow lost.

If you like other Vinge stuff, you’ll probably like this, and it’s a lot shorter than some of his things. I recommend reading The Peace War first, although I think I like this book slightly better. There are some references back to the characters in the first book and a novella written between the two, which got a little annoying eventually. Also, I am not sure if the ubiquitous bobbles and their governing rules would be totally obvious reading this as a stand alone. It has been several years since I read The Peace War, and though I remembered the basics, I found myself wishing I could remember more clearly.

Overall it was  a solid Vinge book, with good hard scifi and far-flung and fun extrapolations. Vinge is a computer scientist, and he makes the most of this background. Don’t expect to read Vinge for the emotions. His forte is playful futurism and making everything go wrong at once. I read Marooned in Realtime easily in three days, and I’m not the fastest reader. It was easy to get into, and the first book I’ve read off my holiday reading list.

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