I took two attempts to get through Rainbows End, and it took me a while after finishing it to figure out why I didn’t like it: it doesn’t deliver on its promises. In the prologue, European intelligence services have detected someone experimenting with a highly advanced and incredibly subtle form of mass mind-control. The opening chapter follows this up with a meeting between other intelligence agencies as they decide what action to take, and reveals some of the secrets behind the threat.
It’s a great teaser opening…to a different book.
The rest of Rainbows End is a moderately interesting treatise on the future of education, learning, and knowledge management, fronted by an unlikeable protagonist, and ending with a fist-shaking “I would have got away with it if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids” moment. The unlikeable protagonist mellows, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about love and understanding.
Not Vinge’s finest hour.
Although it is not immediately obvious, The Intruders is set in the same world as Marshall’s Straw Men series—there’s a tiny reference to the events at the end of Blood Of Angels, but it’s easy to miss. The Straw Men don’t play any part in this book; instead, there’s an entirely different shadowy ancient organization pulling strings and manipulating events. Michael Marshall has always had a knack for evoking the unseen and the unsettling. If you like your thrillers with a dose of the supernatural thrown in, this will be up your street.
One of the things I liked most about The Intruders was the way Marshall ends the book: rather than leave you breathless with an explosive climax and an abrupt finale, he takes the time to explore the aftermath, and tie up some loose ends while unravelling certain others. There is something very finely judged about it, and it left me with a lasting sense of depth to the world just at the point when I was ready to leave it behind.