5.0 out of 5 stars Good collection built around true names.
Just picked this up and finished it the same day. True names was a re-read for me, and is an awesome story. It certainly presages much, in my opinion. The other articles are included mostly because they reference the novella, but their inclusion is logical and well built. The piece by May is very good.
Published on Feb 10 2002 by Jeffrey N Martin
3.0 out of 5 stars A cyberspace primer
Vinge's novella would have been worth reprinting on its own, but this package offers a bit more than just a good story. "Truenames", like several other stories mentioned in the introduction of this book (and in the other reviews here), presented an eerily insightful prediction of the cyber-world we have today. Perhaps due to Vinge's familiarity with the...
Published on Jan 9 2003 by The trebuchet
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4.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You, Really?,
It's a fairly good story in pure fictional terms, also. Vinge does not stint on developing his characters while letting us wander in his (at the time he wrote it) fairyland. The conflicts and problems his protagonist faces are very real problems, and Vinge's resolution of the story rings as true as his title.
The title is significant: in today's world when many wander the net known only by a self-chosen moniker, and jealously guard access to any information about their real selves, but have, never-the-less, a large amount of information held in many databases about their real selves (driver's license, social security number, credit reports), obtaining their 'true names' would be equivalent to forcing them to stand naked on a stage. It is this aspect of today's information dominated society that is the subject of several of the essays that accompany this story, many of which advocate methods for maintaining absolute secrecy of communications on the web. This is a large subject rife with many opinions pro and con, especially after the events of 9/11 and the Patriot Act. Several of the essays are well written, although they do seem to come prepared with an axe already ground, and are well worth reading.
But like most collections of essays, the quality is very uneven. Safely skippable are 'Intelligent Software', 'True Magic', and 'A Time of Transition'. Those deserving of a close read are 'Eventful History: Version 1.0x', 'Cryptography and the Politics of True Names', and most especially the original afterword to True Names written by Marvin Minsky, which is not only an excellent essay about the role of computers in society, it is also a very insightful look at all the various things that are going on inside Vinge's story that may not be readily apparent to the casual reader.
Some of the impact of Vinge's story may have been lost in the intervening years since its writing, as many of his imagined items have become reality, but it would be very hard to find a science fiction story that has predicted the future as well as this one.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
3.0 out of 5 stars A cyberspace primer,
Unfortunately this book stands on somewhat awkward ground. The readers it is going to attract are unlikely to be completely new to the subject - they're probably going to know a bit about one aspect or another. As a result, they're going to be bored by at least some (or many) of the essays in the book. Some of the essays are quite dated as well, though the editor made sure that none were actually irrelevant.
All in all it was quite satisfactory. It's worth rating at 4 stars for a reader who is interested in but unfamiliar with this material.
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in parts, mediocre in others,
The Habitat reports are probably the most amazing portion of this book, since they are based on a real implementation of some of the concepts discussed in other essays in the book. Habitat was a mid 1980s graphical massively-multiplayer game produced by Lucasfilms. Amazingly, the frontend ran on the Commodore 64 and the connection was over a 300 baud modem. The three essays presented in the book are available online, along with a couple of other pieces on Habitat (including one about the happenings on the Japanese version, which is wonderfully interesting).
"True Names" itself is a good novella and it reads like it could have been written in the past few years. Whether or not this was the first presentation of "cyberspace" is irrelevant to the quality of the story.
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, but not as far-reaching as I'd hoped,
The essays otherwise are short on exploring how the net has changed our lives in other ways: Social contact, economic infrastructure, the boost to (and fall in) the economy due to the sheer volume of hardware and software needed to support the net's growth, and so forth. The article on the virtual reality "Habitat" fills some of this void, but it seems woefully outdated considering that MUDs, Instant Messaging and the like have all been popularized since Habitat's heyday.
As for Vinge's story itself, it still holds up well today as an enjoyable read, although the things that bothered me about it ten years ago (the handwaving about how the human mind interprets the net as a fantasy world, the ineptitude of the police to deal with problems in an off-net manner) are still problematic today. But it's certainly a rousing adventure, and touches on several points which are entirely worthwhile today (privacy, secrecy, the value of increased computing power, the Turing Test, how peoples' on-line personas can be entirely different from their true selves). Admittedly, I've always found virtual reality-based stories hard to swallow, so I'm a hard sell in this regard.
Hard-core Vinge fans (such as myself) should certainly pick this up, as "True Names" is an essential developmental story in Vinge's writing career. Those interested in cryptography or some case studies of the history of the Internet should also find it interesting. But all-in-all I think I'd have preferred to see "True Names" included in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge and found some other place to present the essays.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story and Related Articles,
book, however, it would probably not have made a difference.
"True Names" is basically a medium sized story which was (apparently) groundbreaking at the time it was written (1981). In addition to this story, the book contains many articles by known figures in related areas.
I'm sure this story sounds great to you - well it is! I really enjoyed reading it, and it was interesting to see how many of Vinge's predictions have come true.
In addition, there are many articles in the book: among them
5.0 out of 5 stars Good collection built around true names.,
2.0 out of 5 stars True Names is somewhat false.,
By A Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars What about Simulacron 3?,
5.0 out of 5 stars Singularities and Pathbreaking,
*True Names* is something I stumbled on in a ratty paperback that, for some odd reason, had been rebound and inserted in my university library (I think because we had an acquisitions librarian with a taste for the singular). Reading the story in 1990 was a revelation, and it will be to anyone who finds it in this collection, blessedly supposed to be re-released (again) in March 2001 (though that too has been much delayed). A great deal of "classic" science fiction (though this would as readily stand as fiction, or just good writing) has disappeared from print; the market appears to be otherwise. But with J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, Ursula LeGuin's novels, and other such such fare rising to the top, let's hope that the best science fiction work can be showcased -- as this appears to be.
The main story, a novella, treats the relationship of a variety of figures in a role-playing and networked world. It's also a story with a great ending, a great middle and start, and genuine surprises, even in its form: the abbreviated (and underappreciated) novella. Let's hope it stays in print, and that many step forward and buy!
Incidentally, Vernor Vinge does project a remarkably apt (and well-done) geographical sensibility -- he's the son of a geography professor (Michigan State University), and the inheritance has run true. That's mentioned as a not-incidental detail -- if I remember aright, Neal Stephenson was also a geography undergraduate student. It can matter.
3.0 out of 5 stars I thought "shockwave rider" predicted it all, years earlier.,
By A Customer
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True Names P by Vinge Vinge (Paperback - Dec 28 1984)
Used & New from: CDN$ 11.78