No apostrophe in the title, you note: I don't doubt this will be a Finnegans-Wake-y trip-up point for sloppy future bibliographers.
So, this is an exercise in near-future idea-popping, filled with cool notions as to how contemporary technologies are likely to get extrapolated over the coming decades: internetted contact lenses, augmented reality, belief circles and the like. The novel employs a Wellsian ‘Sleeper Wakes’ conceit (noted 20th-century poet, Bob Wu is cured of the Alzheimers that had had him in a coma and rejuvenated) which enables Vinge to give us an Estate Agent's tour (or, since this is a US title, a Realtor’s tour) of his future through Bob’s eyes. And it's often interesting, this tour; although not really enough in-and-of-itself to hold our attention. So, alright: Vinge also provides us with a thriller strand: a dastardly plot to exploit ubiquitous Digital Age connectivity and der!-der!-DERR! Control! People’s! Minds!—which our hero tackles, helped by his thirteen-year-old granddaughter Miri and a would-be industrial spy/hacker/dude who only appears in the novel in the form of a white rabbit avatar. All fair enough. Although hip 21st-C youngsters are plugged into unimaginable reservoirs of info data, they don’t read books, and this is a Bad Thing. I can't argue with that. But, then, I'm 45. Indeed, whilst the novel does have a strenuously forward-looking ethos it can’t quite free itself of a certain Dad Dancing At The School Disco ("Vernor Vinge, b. 1944") quality. Vinge dedicates the novel to eBay, for instance, which is a bit wincing. At one point Bob loses his rag because Miri refers to Ezra Pound as ‘she’ (there’s a John Boyd novel—is it Last Starship From Earth?—which has a similar moment of outrage at somebody's gender-ignorance re: Rainer Maria Rilke). And whilst lots and lots of cool ideas and moments are, I suppose, a good thing in a novel, the tech stuff is frequently a little over-busy, and the thriller plot never quite picks up momentum to compensate for that, which makes the overall reading a bit of a plod. For example, often the prose is cluttered, ashen corporatese of this stripe:
Even on a slow day, thousands of certificates got revoked every hour. It was a messy process, but a necessary consequence of frauds detected, court orders executed and credit denied. All but a handful of revocations were short cascades of denied transactions, involving a single individual and his/her immediate certificate authority, or a small company and its CA. ... no apex certificate authority had ever issued global revocations. And Credit Suisse was one of the ten largest CAs in the world. Most of its business was in Europe, but its certificates bound webs of unmeasured complexity all over the planet, affecting the interactions of people who might speak no European language.Too much of this (and there is too much of this: that passage continues ‘... failures spread as timeouts on certificates from intermediate CAs and—where time-critical trust was involved—as direct notifications ... so far there were only small failures as UCSD ...’) glues-up the machinery of the novel. Much better are the character dynamics, grouchy and real-feeling, with a solid sense of (especially) the emotional complexities of schoolyard interaction. Not the best novel published in 2006 (though the Hugo voters thought it was), but not bad.
I'm interested as to where we are now, with this novel (by 'we' I mean 'science fiction fandom'). 5 years is a long time in