Study Guide

Rainbows End Summary

By Vernor Vinge

Rainbows End Summary

Here's the super-short set-up for our two main plots:

1) Robert Gu was a famous poet and jerk; then he got Alzheimer's; then he got a medical treatment that cured him. But now he can't write poetry. However, he's pretty good at computer and engineering issues. That's a win, right? Wrong. He's so frustrated by losing his ability to write poetry that he's still sometimes a jerk. Especially to his family, like his "I just want to help" granddaughter, Miri Gu.

2) Alfred Vaz is a super spy who wants to save the world by creating a mind control technique. (It starts with a disease.) But when other spies get a hint of this, Vaz launches a plan to hide his secret scheme while he pretends to investigate his secret scheme. So he hires a mysterious figure called Rabbit to try to break into the UCSD biotech labs.

Here's how these two plots start to intertwine:

A) Robert Gu goes back to school to learn some basic skills for this heavily computerized world, like how to Google. (Slight exaggeration, but only slight.) In the not-so-smart school, Robert meets Juan Orozco. Juan Orozco gets recruited by Rabbit (through his school teacher). So now Robert is working with Juan, who is working with Rabbit, who is working for Vaz.

B) Robert's kid Bob and Bob's wife Alice work for the military, which might be a problem for Vaz… or an opportunity.

C) Miri wants to help Robert adjust to this brave new world of self-driving cars, etc., even though Robert wouldn't want her help. So Miri starts working with Juan to get Robert re-engaged with the world. She also eventually brings in her grandmother Lena (who hates her ex-husband Robert so much that she faked her own death to get away from him when his Alzheimer's was cured) and another oldster named Xiu Xiang who goes to school with Robert. So, while Robert thinks he's only working with Juan, Juan is secretly working with Miri, Lena, and Xiu.

D) Robert meets a grad student named Sharif who wants to do a paper on him—only this grad student gets a computer virus (basically), so his online persona is sometimes hijacked by Miri and sometimes hijacked by Rabbit. (Imagine if someone not only hacked into your email but could also make phone calls and video chats as you. That's how badly Sharif has been hijacked.) When Rabbit controls Sharif, he becomes "The Mysterious Stranger." He offers Robert a chance to gain his poetic ability back—and all he has to do is plant a mysterious box in the bathroom that Alice uses.

E) Confused yet?

F) Meanwhile, Robert gets involved with a bunch of people who want to preserve the old books at the UCSD library, because the books are being shredded and digitized. Rabbit is talking to these people also, trying to get them to do what he wants, which is break into the biotech labs. So originally they want to break into the biotech lab to ruin the book digitization process; but now several of them have secret motivations. (For instance, Robert wants his poetic ability back.)

G) Also, fans of different media fight over what the library should look like virtually. Some of those fans are being manipulated by Rabbit.

Here's the conclusion:

During the fan fight at the library (G), the people who want to save the books (F) break into the biotech lab, which helps Alfred at first (2); because of the mysterious box that Robert planted in the bathroom (and all because he just wanted to gain his poetic ability back) (1), Alice suffers a breakdown (B); Miri and Juan are trying to help Robert (C) and help to wreck Alfred's plan.

Also, the super-spies try to hurt Rabbit when he turns on them.

So when the book ends: Alfred lost his project, but probably wasn't exposed; Rabbit was hurt but still seems to be around; Alice is getting better; and Robert still can't write poetry, but seems a little happier now that he's dedicated to doing computer stuff instead of poetry.

  • Prologue

    Mr. Rabbit Visits Barcelona

    • Günberk Braun brings this problem to his friend (and a very powerful spy in India's External Intelligence Agency), Alfred Vaz; and Vaz sets up a meeting in Barcelona with—you guessed it—Mr. Rabbit.
    • And also some very important spies from around the world: Günberk Braun, Keiko Mitsuri, and Alfred Vaz.
    • And we should add that the meeting is virtual: Rabbit is basically a hologram and Keiko is calling in from Japan. (We said it before: if you're at all into technology, this book will have you drooling and wondering why we don't have that now.)
    • All the spies keep sending each other "silent messages," which are basically text messages you send with your wearable computers with tiny movements. (In other words, it basically looks like you're talking to people using telepathy.)
    • The spies want to hire Rabbit to take over an entire lab. Like, say, the lab at the University of California at San Diego.
    • Of course, they can't just come out and say, "we are spies who want you to do this." So Vaz's team, while pretending to hide their tracks, lets a few clues slip that indicate they are ex-drug kingpins of South America.
    • But then again, these super-spies don't really know who Rabbit is. He might be the American government for all they know (although their analysts say he isn't).
    • After Rabbit goes off to survey the lab and figure out how to break in, the super spies sit around drinking sangria. Actually, they sit around worrying about their plan. (And actually, only Vaz is physically in Barcelona and drinking.)
    • What they worry about is: who is creating this mind control device, this YGBM (You-Gotta-Believe-Me)?
    • Is it a great power, like the EU, China, the US, etc.? Or is this another terrorist group/cult?
    • Then, after Keiko and Günberk Braun end their virtual visit, Vaz tours around Barcelona (in a self-driving car!) and thinks about how easy it would be to destroy everything.
    • That is, Vaz thinks about how, thanks to technology (doh!), lots of terror groups or individual people can do huge damage—which is why Vaz is creating the YGBM technology. If he can just control people's minds (just a little), he can prevent them from using weapons of mass destruction.
    • Yes, the mind control scheme—that's all Vaz. So while he pretends to help Günberk Braun and Keiko Mitsuri catch the culprits, he's actually trying to get them off his back.
  • Chapter 1

    The Return

    • And now that we know who the villain of this story is (kind of: Vaz), let's meet one of our heroes (again, only sort of).
    • Robert Gu is an old poet and a colossal jerk. (Just check his character page if you need immediate proof of that.)
    • He was on the way out (we mean he was dying), but now modern medical science has given him a second chance. (Hence the title of the chapter. Pay attention to those chapter titles.)
    • His long trek back to health confuses him: he thinks his little sister Cara is around (despite the fact that he knows she died in 2006). In reality: it's his granddaughter Miri.
    • He's recuperating at the home of his son, Bob, who Robert refers to as a "thug." There's a happy family situation.
    • We do get to hear a bit of the situation from Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gu, Jr. and Colonel Alice Gu.
    • Alice is actually a very important person with some unspecified skills. Ooh, a mystery.
    • Luckily, thanks to that awesome teleconferencing equipment we saw in Barcelona, Alice can go do international work and still be around for family things. Like arguing about Robert now that he's recovering from Alzheimer's.
    • We also get a hint here of how Bob feels about his dad (which is not a whole lot). After all, Robert did drive away his wife, Lena: Bob's mom. So don't look for too many family hugs here.
  • Chapter 2

    The Return

    • Now that we know who the villain of this story is (kind of: Vaz), let's meet one of our heroes (again, only sort of).
    • Robert Gu is an old poet and a colossal jerk. (Just check his character page if you need immediate proof of that.)
    • He was on the way out (we mean he was dying), but now modern medical science has given him a second chance. (Hence the title of the chapter. Pay attention to those chapter titles.)
    • His long trek back to health confuses him: he thinks his little sister Cara is around (despite the fact that he knows she died in 2006). In reality: it's his granddaughter Miri.
    • He's recuperating at the home of his son, Bob, who Robert refers to as a "thug." There's a happy family situation.
    • We do get to hear a bit of the situation from Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gu, Jr. and Colonel Alice Gu.
    • Alice is actually a very important person with some unspecified skills. Ooh, a mystery.
    • Luckily, thanks to that awesome teleconferencing equipment we saw in Barcelona, Alice can go do international work and still be around for family things. Like arguing about Robert now that he's recovering from Alzheimer's.
    • We also get a hint here of how Bob feels about his dad (which is not a whole lot). After all, Robert did drive away his wife, Lena: Bob's mom. So don't look for too many family hugs here.
  • Chapter 3

    A Minefield Made in Heaven

    • Robert has a medical check-up to make-sure that his bionic implants are working. Okay, we're kidding about the bionic implants, but really they are doing some crazy stuff to fix his old man body.
    • For instance, Robert is super-surprised that he can see not only the shirt of the physician's assistant, but every thread of it (9).
    • The physician's assistant, Reed Weber, explains that just about all of Robert's medical issues are solvable with modern medicine.
    • And also, Weber sets Robert up with a computer, which is an amazing little sheet of paper that can run lots of different types of programs and operating systems. (This is how Vernor Vinge spoils our fun with our neat phones and tablets.)
    • Robert is so old that he makes his computer run WinME, which is from the year 2000. Ugh.
    • Weber also catches Robert up on some things, like the fact that his ex-wife Lena died two years ago.
    • We also get to hear how great Robert Gu was—from his POV. He was a very famous and great poet, so maybe now he'll start writing more poetry?
    • As the days go on, Robert gets better physically (even beating Miri at ping pong) and mentally (though he's still a jerk).
    • Robert learns a lot of the world through Miri, including the whole virtual presence thing (where people can tele-conference in from just about anywhere).
    • Miri also explains things like wearable computers—they have contact lenses that connect to the internet, etc.
    • Not everything is sunshine and teleconferencing for Robert, though. For one thing, he can't find his ex-wife thanks to a pro-privacy group called "The Friends of Privacy."
    • Also, Robert thinks that Bob, Jr. is engaged in a military mission in Paraguay, looking to stop weapons of mass destruction. Robert isn't so worried about Bob, and mostly just disapproves that his son went into the military.
    • Also, also, Robert isn't getting the respect he deserves as a great poet.
    • Also, also, also, he's not as good at poetry as he once was.
    • In fact, now he's weirdly gifted with technology, which is not what he cares about.
    • And so he decides to do something his daughter-in-law suggested: go to high school to take the classes for regular kids. (Meanwhile, Miri is taking the smart classes.)
  • Chapter 4

    An Excellent Affiliance

    • In case you wanted more plots and characters—besides spies vs. mind control and old poet vs. the world—here's Juan Orozco, a future schoolmate of Robert Gu.
    • Juan is a regular kid: looking for a way to play an expensive game without paying for it.
    • Juan and the Radner twins are looking for a backdoor into Pyramid Hill Amusement Park, which runs all sorts of high-tech games, like Cretaceous Returns, a dinosaur-based virtual game.
    • (Also, the Radners talk about how they're waiting for some homework to be delivered by UP/Express, which tells us two things: (1) they are not good students; and (2) something called UP/Express sends packages around. That might not be important info here, but it will become important later.)
    • But here's the thing about future virtual games: they can feel pretty real—if you can pay.
    • So before class, the three of them hack in to Pyramid Hill to play Juan's current game of choice, Cretaceous Returns, where he's been getting eaten a lot.
    • Juan contributed to the game by designing a new dinosaur species in order to get creator points.
    • And then a dinosaur eats Fred Radner and offers Juan a deal. (Trust us: it makes a lot of sense in the book. There are large mechanical robots that users can take over. And in the virtual world, users can make their avatar's looks change.)
    • The dinosaur is being run by another player (but who?). It offers Juan an affiliance. An affiliance means that Juan does a task for the dinosaur and gets a percentage of the profit.
    • The dinosaur Big Lizard wants Juan to keep an eye on the old people in Fairmont High School, in the vocational track. People who used to be politicians, scientists, and other important people. Nothing creepy about that.
    • At school, Juan goes to Search and Analysis class with Ms. Chumlig, who Juan thinks is kind of a failure at first.
    • In that class are Winston Blount, an oldster who used to be a dean at the university; Dr. Xiang, a brilliant scientist with self-esteem issues; Robert Gu; and some other people who are on Big Lizard's list.
    • But while he's checking out his classmates, his teacher catches him being observant, which impresses him.
    • Later, Big Lizard and Rabbit talk about this affiliance and about how Chumlig interacts with Juan.
    • Because—get this craziness—Big Lizard is Chumlig. What? (Most of these chapters will end with a "What?" moment.)
  • Chapter 5

    Dr. Xiang's SHE

    • After Louise Chumlig's Search and Analysis class, we get to see Juan at… shop class. Yeah, if you're reading this book for school, you might be thinking "Not more class!" But this shop class includes weird gadgets, so give it a chance.
    • Juan schmoozes up the oldsters here, like Xiu Xiang. She used to be a big tech wiz, but has to re-learn all the stuff she forgot.
    • Juan even has to help her use her view-screen to figure out what parts they have.
    • He checks out Winston Blount, who never got sick like Xiang or Robert Gu, but was still pushed into retirement (and sure is bitter about it). Winston wants to get back in. So Juan offers the affiliance as a way to help him.
    • On another day, Juan approaches Robert Gu in Chumlig's Composition class. (Ever heard of "herding cats"? Maybe "herding oldsters" is even harder.)
    • Unfortunately, Juan is no good at Composition and Chumlig chooses him to go first.
  • Chapter 6

    So Much Technology, So Little Talent

    • We're in Robert's POV, and he doesn't like Composition much. Largely because these compositions always take place partly in the virtual realm and he can't see them since he's not wearing (that is, not wearing computers or computer-linked contact lenses).
    • But using his viewscreen, Robert can see Juan's performance, which give the title to the chapter: Robert is impressed by the tech, but thinks Juan has no talent for composition (11).
    • Chumlig recommends that Juan collaborate with someone and then, just by coincidence (not), asks Robert Gu to perform a composition.
    • Now we switch to Juan's POV. (And he sees a rabbit watching through the internet.)
    • From Juan's POV, Robert Gu's poem is freaking amazing, even though it has no pictures or music (28-9).
    • And then Winston Blount makes a virtual bird poop on Gu. Gu has no idea (since he's not seeing the virtual overlay).
    • From Gu's POV (yes, the chapter switches a bunch), he's disappointed in his blah poem (that Juan was just blown away by).
    • Chumlig apologizes (for the virtual bird poop that Gu can't see) and recommends that he stay in the class to help the other students.
    • After class, Gu gets stopped by Juan, who he calls "the Orozco kid." Juan asks him if he wants to join up with his affiliance, like Winston Blount. And Robert responds that Winston Blount is an old fool and Juan Orozco is also a fool.
    • Which hurts Juan's feelings. Which makes Robert smile because, remember, Robert is a huge jerk.
  • Chapter 7

    The Ezra Pound Incident

    • Now that we know that Robert is a jerk, let's see how deep his jerktitude goes.
    • Robert often wakes up with insights and today's insight is that he can't write great poetry anymore.
    • He searches the house for paper and physical books, finding some of his old books in the basement, like Ezra Pound. (Because, once you can access all the books you need on the internet, why would you keep the paper kind around?)
    • But that doesn't really help. He's so angry that when Miri comes to entertain him, he really gets mean: he calls her a "simpleton" who tries to run people's lives. (To be fair, she is bossy.) He also calls her a "fat brainless brat."
    • When Bob Gu (Jr.) comes home and learns that his dad made his kid cry, he is not happy with his dad, who he describes as "not necessarily a nice fellow." Which is putting it mildly. We'd have stronger words to say.
    • As Bob explains to Miri, her grandfather is not her problem to fix. Do you think stubborn Miri is going to listen to that?
  • Chapter 8

    No User-Serviceable Parts Within

    • After that blowup, Robert isn't totally comfortable at home. So he spends a lot of time in the self-driving cars, looking at San Diego and surrounding areas.
    • Like he takes a self-driving car out as far as he can go, searching to get away from the internet. Which doesn't really work.
    • Out here, Robert remembers his convo with his son after the Ezra Pound incident. Bob tells Robert he needs to move out after the school semester.
    • And he also points out that all of Robert's old "friends" are avoiding him because no one really likes him.
    • Meanwhile, Juan wants to get his schoolwork for Composition on track because he'll have to demo it in public instead of taking a final test.
    • In shop, Juan observes everyone's projects and decides to approach Robert Gu. Gu is so depressed about losing his poetry and gaining some mechanical talent that he even—gasp!—talks to Juan.
    • Then, from Juan's POV, Robert flips out. He complains that all the objects they use are sealed, all marked with "No user-serviceable parts within." Like the cars—what makes them go?
    • So Robert takes Xiang's project, a transport tray. (Think of a table where the surface can move things.) Robert twists the tray so that it moves things fast.
    • He grabs some metal balls and shoots at one of the self-driving cars. Using the transport tray to shoot the balls, Gu cuts open the car's engine compartment, which is one way to deal with his frustration over losing his poetic ability.
    • And all the parts inside the car say the same thing: No user-serviceable parts within. So Robert wanders off like a lonely madman. (To be fair, he is kind of a lonely madman.)
    • After school, Juan gets a call from Robert, offering to collaborate on composition.
  • Chapter 9

    Carrot Greens

    • Hey, remember those spies who were worried about mind control technology? We haven't heard from them in a while. What are they up to?
    • Alfred is trying to keep his plans secret from Günberk and Keiko. So they're all going along with Plan Rabbit, while Alfred is secretly planning to mess up Plan Rabbit by planting fake evidence, so he can rescue his operation.
    • That's when Rabbit shows up at Alfred's secret office, which makes Rabbit seem a little more dangerous to Alfred than he thought. After all, Rabbit has figured out that they aren't South American drug lords, but the intelligence agencies of the EU, India, and Japan. Whoops.
    • Rabbit and Alfred talk about their plans. Rabbit has special interest in Robert Gu because he's interested in Colonel Alice Gong Gu, who is one of the most skilled people at… whatever it is she does.
    • Alice is preparing to audit the UC San Diego lab where Alfred is making his mind control super-weapon, which could be very bad for Alfred. Unless he can somehow take control of her…
    • So Rabbit is going to talk to Robert through a middleman who doesn't know he's being used, a graduate student named Sharif. (Confused yet? It may help to draw a map of everyone's relationship.)
    • Also: after Rabbit disappears, the leafy green top of the carrot he left stays around for three days. Which is a not-so-subtle message to Alfred that Rabbit might be more powerful than Alfred expected.
  • Chapter 10

    An Excellent Thesis Topic

    • Instead of hanging out with mean old Robert, Miri snoops on him from afar.
    • She also hangs out with her internet friends. She tells them about Robert's issues and they discuss possible solutions. Including illegal solutions like JITT—"just-in-time training," which we think sounds like this.
    • (They also discuss YGBM technology, which hasn't worked in the real world.)
    • A little girl there gives Miri some advice: give Robert some stimulation by hooking him up with a graduate student. That way, Robert can discuss his poetry of the past and feel good about it.
    • Miri does a search later and finds a good match—a graduate student in Oregon named Sharif. (Hmmm, where did we hear that name before?)
    • Miri suspects the little girl who gave this advice might be trying to arrange something, but it still looks good.
    • We see the next scene from Zulfikar Sharif's POV. Sharif is a grad student looking for a thesis topic and now a strange virtual woman comes to him to tell him about this great opportunity.
    • Yeah, it sounds like one of those scam emails from Nigeria, but it's only a little bit of a scam. The woman will give Sharif a private address to contact Robert Gu, but she wants to tag along and occasionally make suggestions to Sharif about what to say. Nothing weird about that, right?
    • In fact, this mystery woman asks for full access to Sharif's system, which is a bit like giving out all of your private info at once. But Sharif is so desperate that he does it.
    • The mysterious woman points out that Robert (a) is a jerk and (b) misses old stuff, like books. So if Sharif wants to get on his good side, he might have to remind Robert of the good old days.
  • Chapter 11

    Introduction to the Librareome Project

    • Yes, this chapter's title is hard to say. We pronounce it "Library-Ome," but we could be wrong.
    • Robert has started wearing computers, getting tutored in that by Juan Orozco.
    • So when Sharif calls to ask for an interview, Robert sees bright lights and thinks he's having a stroke for a moment.
    • And since Robert misses people who like books (and constantly calls the people around him "subliterate"), he agrees to an interview with Sharif in trade for a tour around the UC San Diego library. Right now.
    • Robert and Sharif take a self-driving car to the library, past the bioscience lab (which, you remember, Rabbit is trying to break into).
    • The campus of UCSD looks weird after the Rose Canyon Earthquake, but Sharif points out that the virtual view of campus is the same as it was in Robert's day.
    • The library—the Geisel Library (wow, right?)—looks mostly the same except for some new pillars to support it. To avoid some student demonstration, "Sharif" leads Robert through a back door. (And we put Sharif in quotation marks because it might not be him doing this suggesting.)
    • Robert hears some strange noise and also can hear the student protest more clearly, complaining about the "Librareome Project."
  • Chapter 12

    Guardians of the Past, Handmaidens of the Future

    • Let's put a hold on Robert Gu and check out some other old people. We're not being too insulting: they call themselves "the Elder Cabal." They're meeting on the sixth floor of the library.
    • The Elder Cabal now consists of Winston Blount, ex-dean; Tom Parker, computer whiz (who sticks to his beloved laptop); and Carlos Rivera, young librarian (and disabled veteran).
    • They watch the protest, which they support. The Elder Cabal, unsurprisingly, wants to keep the old-style books.
    • And they notice that Robert Gu has wandered accidentally into the book-shredding area. Because that's what the Librareome Project is: it's about digitizing all the books in the library (cool!) by ripping them into little shreds (uncool!).
    • (Also, the Librareome Project is a project by a guy named Max Huertas, who is a major investor in the biotech labs.)
    • Here's what Robert Gu sees: empty shelves, something like a tree shredder, and floating book scraps that have escaped the vacuum/camera thing.
    • Luckily for the books, the fact that Robert showed up in the library interferes with the day's digitization/shredding.
    • But that doesn't mean that Winston Blount is happy to see Gu again when Carlos Rivera comes to bring Gu upstairs. As Robert remembers, Winnie and he used to fight all the time when they both worked at UCSD.
    • The Elder Cabal explains to Robert (and us) what's going on with the Librareome Project. (Although let's note that Carlos Rivera sometimes accidentally slips into Mandarin Chinese because he was an army translator. Which isn't actually a good explanation.)
    • Zulfikar Sharif comes back after disappearing for a while and explains that he was hijacked. Oh, we've heard that excuse before. And they all argue about whether the Librareome is a good idea or not. (They also explain how the shredded material—the shredda—gets recaptured as pictures to be reassembled by programs. Also, Huertas's company is doing this to many libraries.)
    • And Zulfi Sharif is also at the library now to meet them in person.
  • Chapter 13

    The Miri Gang Is Born

    • Are you sitting down? Because we have something shocking to tell you: Lena Gu isn't dead. All this time while Bob and Miri told Robert that she was, they were just lying to protect Lena's privacy. (Think of that: we've had some unhappy break-ups in our time, but we've never faked our death to get away from an ex.)
    • So after the weirdness with Sharif, Miri wants to talk to someone smart, like her grandmother. (That weirdness: there's at least one other person who can hijack Sharif's computer. That's so unfair—Miri is the only one who should be able to do that.)
    • (Also, if you're confused about "overlays" and how people are looking at a robot but seeing a dinosaur at Pyramid Hill amusement park, this is a good chapter to read. When Miri goes through Pyramid Hill, she doesn't play any game, but she sees how some people are playing Scooch-a-mouti and some are playing as dinosaurs, etc.)
    • As Miri goes through Pyramid Hill (to make sure her grandfather isn't following), she accidentally runs into Juan Orozco, who she thinks is a dummy. So she tries to get away from him, even as he talks about helping Robert (which is her goal).
    • Miri makes her way to Rainbows End retirement community. To make herself feel more comfortable, Miri makes the place look like a fantasy where her grandmother is a powerful witch in a cabin.
    • That's when she finds that Xiu Xiang is her grandmom's roommate. Which is quite a coincidence…
    • The three of them talk about Robert (who they call "You-Know-Who" which tells you how much Lena hates him: he's like Voldemort to her).
    • Since Miri notes it, let's add that Lena is mentally sharp, but has terrible osteoporosis, so she's in a wheelchair.
    • We also learn here that Lena really did help Robert when he had Alzheimer's. That's why Robert keeps thinking Lena is around now, since he sort of remembers that time.
    • Even though Miri argues that Robert might not be all that bad, Lena doesn't want anything to do with him. Although Xiu Xiang does keep an eye on him and tell Lena what he's up to.
    • At this point, Miri notes two things: (a) maybe Juan isn't so stupid and might be helpful; and (b) maybe she can entice her grandmother by telling her that Robert is learning to use wearable computers.
  • Chapter 14

    The Mysterious Stranger

    • So Robert and Xiang are getting tutored by Juan in how to use wearable computers. Meanwhile, Miri is supervising Juan, like reminding him to get the attention of some virtual Argentineans.
    • (There's a lot of silent messaging here, which can look confusing, but you'll get used to it. Whenever you see an "—>" you can just read it as "said to." And keep in mind that while Miri, Juan, Lena, and Xiu are sm'ing each other, Robert can't see any of it.)
    • So they all play a game of "synch monster" with some kids from South America, which helps teach Robert about virtual cooperation. (And as you know, Robert needs lessons in cooperation.)
    • Because of network lag, the monster falls apart, which is very funny to everyone, though Robert thinks of this as a Serious Problem to be Solved.
    • Robert thinks Xiu Xiang is a little weird, which we know is because Lena and the others are talking to her. And it's also because she's obsessed with engineering issues. (To Robert, that's crazy.)
    • As for Juan, thanks to Robert's teaching, he's becoming not-terrible with poetry, which is a step-up for Juan.
    • Curiously, Robert is getting more interested in the technical problem of synchronization than he is in Sharif's interviews about his poetry or in the anti-Librareome protests. (In fact, the Librareome Project is temporarily on hold.)
    • Thanks to Juan, Robert is learning a lot about wearable computing. Although Miri and Lena keep trying to get Juan to avoid certain topics, like sm'ing, because then he might guess that everyone is talking about him behind his back.
    • Which means that Robert is a little surprised when Xiang sends him a silent message. Hmm…
    • After a lesson, Robert hangs around the school and watches some kids play a sort of virtual/physical game called Egan soccer. (Which is a reference to science fiction author Greg Egan and his "quantum soccer".)
    • And that's when a "mysterious stranger" comes to talk to Robert about his situation. He offers to trick/force/persuade the biotech labs into making a cure for his lost poetry.
    • (Robert calls this presence "Mysterious Stranger," which is a reference to Mark Twain's unfinished book of the same name, where the Mysterious Stranger is the devil (more or less).)
    • And the Mysterious Stranger will give Robert this cure if Robert just goes along with the Elder Cabal and fight the Librareome Project. Which he's already doing, so…
    • Meanwhile, Bob is looking into some threat analyses. Until his dad comes up to ask Bob's expert advice about the Mysterious Stranger. (Except Robert doesn't tell Bob all about that.)
    • Bob is surprised that his dad isn't being a total jerk. So they talk about how people can try to hack into other people's wearable computers; and how the house has a good bug sniffer on the front door to catch issues like that.
  • Chapter 15

    When Metaphors Are Real

    • For the Gu/Orozco project, Robert Gu is trying to get music students from Boston and Chile to synchronize.
    • Meanwhile he continues to talk to Sharif, who confesses that he's been hijacked by some other users. Which to Robert means the Mysterious Stranger.
    • (And Sharif doesn't want to erase his whole system to get rid of the hijacker because that would erase all of his work.)
    • Over at the library, Robert goes to meet the Elder Cabal. Apparently, while the Librareome was supposed to be paused, they went ahead and shredded most of the library. But they have a very secret and illegal plan.
    • Luckily Tommie Parker's laptop has some highly illegal equipment so he can shut down all surveillance, including Sharif.
    • Here's their plan to wreck Huertas's shredder plan: he plans to digitize everything and charge for access. But other companies are digitizing other libraries without shredding them, like a Chinese company named (ugh) Informagical. So if they can delay Huertas, they'll cut into his profits and make it unprofitable for Huertas to continue with the shredding. (Confused? It gets confusing, but the important part is they want to slow down Huertas's project.)
    • So they'll go through some old steam tunnels that they used to hike through in the old days. They'll get to the biotech labs where Huertas is storing the shredded paper that needs to be re-scanned. And they'll ruin the shredda by temporarily gluing it together.
    • Now they just need to get the internet to invent the glue that they need.
    • And they'll need Robert for this plan: not only is he the most physically fit, but he can get past security by stealing Alice's clearance. And is betraying your family really such a big deal?
    • So what does the library look like without books? Apparently the school administrators are getting a belief circle to make the library look interesting in the virtual world.
    • That is, some fans of Jerzy Hacek's Dangerous Knowledge stories are making part of the library look like a fantasy library. Another part of the library looks like something out of M.C. Escher.
    • Honestly, this sounds pretty cool to us, though they might be taking it a bit far. The admins simulate a little earthquake in the library by using the anti-earthquake stabilizers to shake the place. That sounds like a bad idea.
    • At some point during the tour, Carlos Rivera has a little brain thing, where he starts talking Mandarin Chinese and can't stop. While Carlos goes to get checked out, Winnie explains to Robert that Carlos had JITT (just-in-time training) for Mandarin, which is why he sometimes speaks Mandarin and can't stop.
    • Later, on the ride home, Robert looks up JITT, so this chapter is a good place to look for another explanation of what it is and why it's a bad idea. In short: you can learn stuff, but sometimes it intrudes on you. Would we like to learn Mandarin Chinese perfectly in a few months? Yes. Do we want to be permanently brain damaged by that? No.
    • Also on the ride home, Robert looks through a few virtual overlays, like the historical society and the Terry Pratchett fan circle.
    • Sharif shows up to explain how belief circles and virtual overlays work. See, for really popular works, lots of fans collaborate on building the virtual world.
    • Robert also learns that Sharif is getting hijacked by multiple people. The Mysterious Stranger tells Robert that when he's in charge, he'll make the Sharif image look a little sinister and green.
    • And then when he gets home, what a coincidence, he meets Miri, who is riding her bike around.
  • Chapter 16

    The Front Bathroom Incident

    • Life goes on for Robert as usual: he gets interviewed by Sharif (who sometimes is Miri and sometimes is the Mysterious Stranger (who is Rabbit)).
    • He continues to help Juan Orozco with the composition project, which is reaching the level of full sentences.
    • But Robert is so interested in Rabbit/the Mysterious Stranger that he's slacking off on his homework. (The future is so different from the present, right?)
    • Finally, Robert agrees to help Rabbit by betraying Bob and Alice. He just needs to get some biometric data with a little box that Rabbit gives him to put in the front bathroom.
    • So Robert does that and feels really weird at family dinner. ("So, what did you do today Robert?" "Oh, just betrayed you, Alice.")
    • It doesn't help that Alice is acting weird. And so is her virtual self/clothes, which keep changing to show different ranks in different departments.
    • Later that night, after homework, Robert hears Alice and Bob arguing. Miri explains that it's not about them; it's just Alice is getting ready for a new job and that makes Bob nervous.
    • Later, Sharif comes to ask about beauty and poetry.
    • Later, Robert observes the whole town and the house through his computer (again: awesome, though a little invasive).
    • He notices that Alice looks kind of like Carlos Rivera when he starts to have a JITT seizure. And he remembers that he read that there are some people who can train multiple times with JITT.
    • And then, finally, Alice goes to use the bathroom that has the small box that Robert planted. But he's beginning to feel bad about putting it there.
    • So he runs down and bangs on the door, expecting that the box did something awful to her, but she's fine. Confused why he's banging on the bathroom door, but fine.
    • And now Robert has the little gray box to help break into the biotech lab and ruin Huertas's book-shredding plans.
  • Chapter 17

    Alfred Volunteers

    • Here's a textbook case of irony: behind the scenes, Vaz had guided Günberk Braun and Keiko Mitsuri into their positions. And now they're making his life difficult by investigating his secret mind control experiment.
    • Vaz argues that they need to be secretive when they investigate the UCSD biotech labs.
    • Günberk Braun and Keiko Mitsuri are worried about Rabbit. They don't think he's Chinese or American government—but he might be an Artificial Intelligence.
    • On the plus side, Günberk Braun has discovered that all of Rabbit's credit comes from one source: Credit Suisse. So if Rabbit becomes a problem, they can just pull the plug on Credit Suisse, which would ruin Rabbit (and also really screw with the European economy).
    • So they decide that they need someone on the ground to supervise. And with a chapter title like "Alfred volunteers," can you guess who volunteers for that mission?
  • Chapter 18

    The Myasthenic Spelunker Society

    • Back in California, the UCSD library has several different virtual sections: Hacek, Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Scooch-a-mouti, Lovecraft. And there's some possible fighting between the Hacek fans and the Scooch-a-mouti fans.
    • Meanwhile, the Elder Cabal is still scheming to temporarily interfere with the scanning by breaking in to the biotech labs.
    • Part of that plan involves going through the old steam tunnels, which gives this chapter its title: the oldsters in the group used to go spelunking (which is "cave exploring," so maybe doesn't really apply to steam tunnels?); and "myasthenic" has to do with muscle fatigue.
    • Tommie Parker is very excited by this project and has discovered a time when he could create a diversion and break into the biotech lab. In fact, he's arranging all these different people to work together to do parts of this project, like create the glue they need. And he's feeling young and powerful again.
    • Winston Blount suggests they bring virtual Sharif along as a way to document the project.
    • Robert figures out that the Mysterious Stranger has suggested that to Blount. So it's like everyone is dealing with the Mysterious Stranger.
  • Chapter 19

    Failure Is an Option

    • Back at school, Robert is having trouble with exams: the narrator calls it a "hellweek of testing" (4). The Mysterious Stranger comes to tell Robert that the school could fail him, not like in the old days when everyone got passing grades. (Wait, when was that?)
    • But Juan is somewhat hopeful about their composition project.
    • Meanwhile, at home, things are still tense, what with Alice training, Bob worried about Alice, and the whole thing in Chapter 16 where Robert freaked out about Alice using the front bathroom.
  • Chapter 20

    The Officer of the Watch

    • Now we jump ahead: Robert passed his finals; and the secret plan to break into the lab is going forward.
    • Meanwhile, Bob Gu is the Officer of the Watch for the Southwest area. Which means that for the next four hours, he's the one who has got to look out for things like terrorist attacks in this area.
    • Here we get to hear how things are in the future: Bob has very few people under his command, but he has lots of drones and other gadgets.
    • They also have an analyst pool, ready to crunch numbers and give real-time estimates. (Sound exciting, right? Estimates—in real-time!) And Alice Gu is in charge of the analysts tonight.
    • But it looks like a pretty quiet night, where the biggest probable event is a fight between the Hacek belief circle and the Scooch-a-mouti belief circle.
    • While Bob reviews the secret information about persons of interest, he finds out that Xiu Xiang is in a class with Robert and lives with Lena Gu. So he begins to suspect that Miri has a gang of people to snoop on Robert.
    • Meanwhile, Robert's Elder Cabal is getting ready for their expedition. There's something going on at the library, which the Mysterious Stranger tells him is a diversion he created to get people out of the biotech labs.
    • Meanwhile, over in the GenGen biotech labs, we meet even more people. See, all the scientists (and student-workers) in the lab are big fans of Scooch-a-mouti. Or at least, they like the idea of doing something different for a night.
    • Supervisor Sheila Hanson leads them into the belief circle battle for the Geisel Library against the Hacek fans.
    • So they put on their virtual avatars, both on themselves and on their helper robots. (Imagine a Roomba that has a virtual costume on it that makes it look like something from Pokemon. That's what we're imagining here. And we love it.)
    • (What is a "belief circle battle"? Now, usually, belief circles don't fight because they each occupy different virtual overlays. So if you like Hacek, you can see that world, and your friend who likes Scooch-a-mouti can be in the same physical space, but see a different virtual world. However, as we'll see, because of the way the library is set up, only one virtual space can exist at a time. So a belief circle battle is when one group tries to make their vision the default. So as Sheila Hanson's group goes on, they try to make the area around the Geisel library look like something from Scooch-a-mouti. It's not a real "I'm going to hit you" fight; it's more like a "my vision is cooler and so more people are going to vote for it" fight.)
    • Since this is also a virtual battle: there are not only the people here, but the people online who are tele-conferencing in.
    • Also, for some reason, the Scoochis are chanting that they want "Real books!"
    • Somewhere during this initial meeting, Sheila Hanson and her group find an Indian man and a virtual Rabbit. These two remind Sheila's group that Bollywood is watching. (Bollywood is the term for the Indian film industry.) Which means they might become famous if they put on a big show.
  • Chapter 21

    When Belief Circles Collide

    • Alfred Vaz and Rabbit prepare for their part of the raid on the biotech lab.
    • As part of that, Alfred wonders when Alice will get sick when she looks at a file. (Because he can do that with his mind control technology.)
    • He also notices two kids on bikes (who we know are probably Miri and Juan).
    • Meanwhile, Robert and Carlos observe the belief circle fight start.
    • Meanwhile meanwhile, Miri and Juan are riding their bikes to try to snoop on Robert. They're virtually accompanied by Lena and Xiu Xiang.
    • Meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile (lot of POV shifts here, eh?), the Mysterious Stranger leads Robert and Carlos to meet Winston Blount and Tommie Parker. They get into regular, non-computer clothes.
    • In order to keep connected with "Sharif," Tommie Parker has some illegal computer equipment for everyone. He brags that it's made in Paraguay. (Which, if you remember, was also the source of his laptop; and also a place where Bob Gu had a mission recently.)
    • Then, finally, they go into those steam tunnels we've heard so much about.
  • Chapter 22

    The Bicycle Attack

    • After the Elder Cabal enters the tunnels, Alfred and Rabbit come into the building. Because Alfred is supposed to be observing to make sure nothing goes wrong.
    • He hacks into Tommie Parker's computer here so he can watch what's going on down in the tunnels and biotech labs. The Elder Cabal is about to drop off some stuff in the lab that will do what Alfred wants them to do.
    • But when things look like they're going really smoothly for Alfred, the Miri Gang shows up. Juan and Miri find Alfred, but don't know who he is. And this whole area doesn't have regular computer connection.
    • Alfred isn't thrilled to have to deal with these kids. Even Rabbit thinks Miri is a pain in the neck.
    • Alfred first tries to get rid of the kids, but realizes they know something. So while Miri escapes (thanks to Juan), Alfred gets Juan. But since we see this section from Miri's POV, we don't know what happened to Juan. That's how you build suspense, we guess. But if Juan dies we will be really upset.
    • Who does Vernor Vinge think he is, threatening to kill one of our favorite characters—George R.R. Martin?
  • Chapter 23

    In the Cathedral

    • Meanwhile, from Bob's POV, the UCSD library riot looks suspicious.
    • Also, Alice is really focused on the biotech labs, which doesn't seem right to Bob. He thinks she's focused on the lab because her JITT training that she just finished was about the lab.
    • Meanwhile, from Robert's POV, they have gotten into the lab. (Here Robert also learns that GenGen labs have a UP/Express launcher, so they can send stuff out. This will come up later.)
    • Robert is amazed by the lab, full of little robotic things (like transport trays, what Xiang built in Chapter 8) and big computers.
    • In the lab, they install some little gadgets that Tommie thinks will keep them invisible (but that we know are really Alfred's devices, so he can fake data coming out of here).
    • Meanwhile, Miri is running through the tunnels, trying to call the cops (but no luck). She begins to realize that her grandfather is being used, so she wants to wreck the plans of whoever is using him.
    • But first she has to find him.
  • Chapter 24

    The Library Chooses

    • Back at the belief circle fight, Tim Hyunh recognizes that the enemy Hacek fans are using GenGen equipment. So everyone from the biotech labs is here, just fighting on different sides.
    • Tim is also very impressed by some of the Hacekean virtual beasts, like the giant Dangerous Knowledge that they have. (It's described as half Librarian, half Knight Militant, which sounds like most librarians we know. Do not make them mad.)
    • But the Scoochis have their own giant—a Greater Scooch-a-mout that is digitally overlaid over a real robot forklift. (We picture something like this from Aliens, only without a driver.)
    • So Tim watches the Dangerous Knowledge and the Greater Scooch-a-mout dance and insult each other. And he's very impressed by whoever is controlling them.
    • (You might think that the companies who own these robots might be annoyed, but this is good publicity. Somehow.)
    • This protest/riot has attracted journalists, entertainment corporations, and, oh yeah, the police.
    • Meanwhile, Alfred talks to Braun and Mitsuri about what's going on. He decides to send one of his mobile robots into the tunnels to track Miri Gu.
    • And the spies also decide to kick Rabbit out of this part of the project. Rabbit doesn't like that, but accepts it.
    • Everything seems to be going Alfred's way, as the info coming out of the lab says that there's nothing bad going on. (That's thanks to the boxes that the Elder Cabal planted.)
    • Meanwhile, back at the riot, the Greater Scooch-a-mout (which is probably Rabbit) faces off against Dangerous Knowledge (who might be Rabbit or another AI or just a skilled person or maybe a dog?). They agree to let the Library decide who should win. What?
    • Each side makes a big show of how cool and important they are.
    • Then the library itself starts to dance. (Which Tim realizes means that someone hacked into the anti-earthquake motors and is using them to move the library.)
    • And at the end of the dance/walk, the library moves towards the Scooch-a-mout side.
  • Chapter 25

    You Can't Ask Alice Anymore

    • Meanwhile: the library dance freaks out Braun, but maybe it will work out.
    • Meanwhile: Bob is looking at this riot, which seems cuh-razy, but not necessarily something he needs to deal with.
    • Also, Alice seems obsessed still with the biotech labs. So it seems like she's gone a little crazy too.
    • When Bob contacts her, it looks like she's having a bit of a breakdown—like too-wide eyes and drooling on her blouse. So he removes her from the analyst pool. Which doesn't look good, and is probably going to lead to some domestic issues. ("I'm sorry I had to dismiss you, Alice, but you were drooling on your blouse.")
    • Meanwhile: Rabbit has gotten really into the riot. It was supposed to be a diversion, but he's having a lot of fun with whoever is controlling Dangerous Knowledge.
    • But he also suspects Alfred's operation underground is interesting. So he hacks into Alfred's private network. And he notices that the data in the lab doesn't match against the data being sent out to Braun and Mitsuri.
    • Rabbit figures that Alfred is running a secret program. He's studying animals to figure out "Molecular Biology of Cognition." In other words: mind control.
    • Rabbit thinks that technology could be bad if Alfred develops it, but it might be fun if he had it. So he tries to contact the Elder Cabal.
  • Chapter 26


    • Meanwhile, the Elder Cabal has found the shredda of the Librareome project. They start to do what they came there to do, which is apply the glue to the paper. (That will prevent anyone from scanning it for a while and then just wear off. Oh man, we love the future!) So everything will turn out okay.
    • Since Sharif is gone (because Alfred pulled the plug on Rabbit), Robert takes the laptop and acts as the recorder. And that's when Rabbit contacts him through the laptop.
    • And that's also when Miri comes into the group to tell them that they're being used. Which is awkward since almost everyone here has their own agenda.
    • (Think about it: Blount wants to get back in as a dean; Robert wants his poetry; Carlos wants something; Alfred wants his mind control technique; Rabbit wants to learn things; Miri wants Robert to get used to the future; etc. Like we said: awkward.)
    • Here's where Tommie realizes that he's been used and isn't actually as great as he thought he was.
    • And Alfred—through the laptop—tells them they need to stay there and starts threatening them. After all, he does have one mobile robot down there.
    • Tommie sprays the glue at the robot but the robot fries his pacemaker. Robert destroys the robot.
    • But now they need to get Tommie to a hospital.
    • And to make sure that Alfred doesn't watch them, they pull the plug on the laptop, even though that means pulling the plug on Rabbit.
    • While they are carrying Tommie out, Robert notices he has an email with a pdf attachment. The pdf is called "While We are Out of Touch or How to Survive and Prosper during the Next Thirty Minutes" (98). The Mysterious Stranger/Rabbit has sent lots of info to Robert about getting out of here alive.
    • They get out and call the cops. But Miri has her doubts.
  • Chapter 27

    The Revocation Attack

    • Meanwhile: Xiu Xiang and Lena are in a self-driving car. Because of the riot, the self-driving car won't let them into some of the places where they want to go. (This chapter actually rewinds, so we see what Xiu Xiang and Lena have been doing this whole evening/riot.)
    • Juan calls to say everything is fine, but Lena has her doubts. After all, if someone got their hands on Juan and his wearable computers, they could fake a call from him.
    • Because the car is self-driving, it won't let Lena and Xiu go where they want it to. So Xiu takes out something like her transport tray, except this one she made specifically to destroy things. So she cuts into the car and it stops close to where they want to go.
    • Meanwhile: Alfred takes stock of his situation.
    • (Also, here we learn that Mitsuri pretended to be the police when the Elder Cabal tried to call. So Miri was right to be doubtful.)
    • At this time, an analysis team in Moscow-Capetown says that data from one area of the GenGen labs is corrupt—and that's not Alfred's doing. It's probably Rabbit's.
    • When Alfred realizes that Miri Gu is down in the labs again, the spies get even more worried about Rabbit. They decide to stop Credit Suisse. Which will stop Rabbit and, oh yeah, about 10% of the European economy.
    • Now Alfred turns on two other secret plans: the "fruit-fly scam" and the destroy-the-lab plan. Also, he turns on the plan to ship out some useful material through the UP/Express launcher.
    • Meanwhile: Robert and Miri Gu are going back into the biotech labs to defeat Alfred.
    • During their conversation, Robert realizes that Miri was one of the people controlling Sharif. Whoops.
    • She also says that she did it all to help him and she references everyone in the Miri Gang (except for Lena). So now Robert realizes how many people were manipulating him—and trying to help him. Which is pretty meaningful—even a colossal jerk like Robert can recognize that.
  • Chapter 28

    The Animal Model?

    • Credit Suisse starts sending out revocation messages. Imagine if a huge credit card company suddenly said, "oops, all of these cards no longer work." So lots of things just stop. (But safely. Like planes land and then stop—they don't crash.)
    • Meanwhile, Rabbit finds lots of his power is revoked. But he's not totally destroyed because he has other sources of power besides Credit Suisse.
    • Back in the GenGen labs, the Mysterious Stranger shows up to Robert and Miri. Mysterious Stranger thinks Alfred is using fruit flies as his test subjects for his mind control technique. (Which doesn't make sense to Miri because she's smart.)
    • So the Gus stop the lab from sending out the fruit flies.
    • Then the Mysterious Stranger (a) calls himself Rabbit and (b) tries to get the Gus to drop the flies into another transport area. But Miri realizes that Rabbit just wants the fruit flies for himself.
    • Then Mysterious Stranger/Rabbit disappears.
    • And then Robert and Miri hear something else being shipped out in another part of the lab—the part where Robert's team put most of their boxes.
  • Chapter 29

    Dr. Xiang Takes Charge

    • The spies can relax since they think Rabbit is gone now. (They are wrong, but don't tell them—they've had a pretty stressful day already.) Also, the data coming out of the lab says that everything is fine.
    • But Vaz still needs to cover himself while he ships out his animal models. And we mean his real animal model: mice.
    • Meanwhile, Lena and Xiu are hiking up a hill. They see a California Highway police car and Xiu tries to stop it.
    • Meanwhile, Tommie is in a lot of pain with his broken pacemaker and he's in the California Highway police car. We don't know what that feels like, but it sounds awful. The pacemaker part, we mean, not the police car part.
    • When the car slows down, Tommie recognizes Xiu Xiang in front of it. (Back in the old days, when Tommie was a hacker, Xiu Xiang was an enemy.)
    • After Xiang stops the car, she tells them that she thinks someone is pretending to be the cops. Also, she tells Tommie she's admired his work.
    • Because they can't get any digital signals through, Xiu Xiang uses a toy she made to signal the marines by flashing light at the sky haze.
    • So over at the marine base of Camp Pendleton, this is what Bob sees: Alice has been moved to Intensive Care; Credit Suisse collapsed; there's the library riot over at UCSD; and now there's some weird signaling going on over by the lab.
    • Bob's team launches in their pods (small planes? gliders?) to be able to intervene if they need to.
    • That message is from Xiu Xiang, saying that the GenGen laboratory has been corrupted.
    • Thus, when Bob's vehicle is launched and targeted at the UCSD biotech labs, he has some idea that his mother, father, and daughter might be in the area. As they say in the Marines: Oy vey!
  • Chapter 30

    When the Network Stops

    • Back at the library, the Hacekeans surrendered after the library chose. (Though they're also talking to university administration to see if they can get some part of the library.)
    • Just when it looks like the riot is going to end totally peacefully, the network failure in the area messes with the robots. For instance, one of the forklifts loses track of where it is and trips. And, of course, some people get caught under the fallen forklift.
    • But the other forklift—the one that was hugging one of the library pillars—starts to push. So now it's kind of tearing apart part of the library.
  • Chapter 31

    Bob Contemplates Nuclear Carpet-Bombing

    • Meanwhile, Bob's marines—and all their drones—are focused on the UCSD area. What are they going to do there? Let's just reread that chapter title again. Yeah, if things get bad here, Bob has the authority to destroy this part of the US. Whee. The future, man—it can be kind of scary.
    • Luckily, Bob's team can set up a temporary network to help stabilize the library.
    • Bob knows that some suspect people are going to be rounded up and interviewed about all this later tonight.
    • But there are lots of questions right now. Like: why did some of the US intelligence analysts lose contact after the Credit Suisse failure? And: why did the biotech lab's UP/Express launcher suddenly become active?
    • So Bob wonders if he should destroy all this area—because what if the UP/Express launcher had some biological WMD it was about to send somewhere?
  • Chapter 32

    The Minimum Sufficient Response

    • Robert and Miri are in the mouse part of the lab.
    • They find the mice being used in Alfred's experiment and try to find the ones being prepped for launch.
    • Then they get sprayed with some liquid, which might be some sort of poison or might be just to scare them, they think.
    • Miri uses the glue that Tommie got to mess up the transports, so no mice get shipped out from this cabinet. (So much for that vacation from the lab, mice.) But there are many cabinets for various experiments.
    • So Robert and Miri race to stop any mice from being shipped out. And that's when whatever they were sprayed with kicks in. They start getting forgetful and just generally out of it.
    • Robert gets forgetful Miri to prevent the mice from being shipped out by telling her it's all a game.
    • Then something happens to the UP/Ex launcher. What?
    • Alfred is trying to rescue some of his experimental mice. Not because he likes mice—because he likes mind control.
    • Also, we learn here that Alfred didn't hurt Juan, but did erase his memory of the night with some drug.
    • But right before Alfred gets out, the US Marines hit the GenGen lab with a laser to destroy the UP/Express launcher. (The one that Robert and Miri were close to? Ruh-roh.)
    • Alfred tries to get out of the area and blend in with the crowd. He even hopes that the US attack has destroyed the evidence of what he was really doing.
    • And just to show that Alfred isn't a total monster, there's a moment where he smiles when he thinks Robert and Miri are probably fine.
    • Alfred tries to blend into the Bollywood crew that thinks he's a film executive—and then he hears Robert Gu through the network, asking for help.
    • Alfred can't see perfectly, but he sees Robert and Miri trapped in the lab. Should he help?
    • Meanwhile, back in the lab, Robert is pinned under a cabinet. The lab is a mess. And there's a bit of hot lava moving their way.
    • All this time, they've been feeling the effects of whatever sprayed them before: Miri is confused and Robert keeps calling her Cara, the name of his little sister.
    • Then Miri lies down because she doesn't feel so good. Which is normally a good idea, except when there's burning lava coming your way.
    • Robert calls out for help and tries to block the lava with whatever he can find.
    • He gets in contact with someone anonymous (who we know is Vaz because we just saw this scene from his POV). And then, guess who calls up? Zulfi Sharif!
    • While Sharif calls the police (finally doing something useful), Robert uses his arm to block the lava from killing Miri.
  • Chapter 33

    Freedom on a Very Long Leash

    • Bob Gu, Jr. has been visiting the New Annex at Crick's Clinic frequently. Probably because his father, wife, and daughter are all there for serious medical issues.
    • Here are the issues: Alice had lots of JITT training and now she's kind of stuck. Carlos Rivera sometimes switches into Mandarin Chinese, but Alice always speaks gibberish.
    • Robert is here because he's a federal detainee. Also he had a crushed leg and serious burns. In fact, his left arm was destroyed when he protected Miri from the lava.
    • Bob is here to interview Robert about the whole breaking into a biotech laboratory. (There's a joke here with a character named "Eve" who is eavesdropping on the convo between the Gus. But we explain that joke on Bob and Alice's character page.)
    • The government doesn't want to put Robert in jail for what he did, because it wants him to be out in the world in case Rabbit or some other conspirators try to contact him. So Bob tells Robert he'll be coming home to finish out the semester—even though he set Alice up to get very very sick.
    • On the other hand, Bob does appreciate that Robert saved Miri from the lava.
    • So, Robert goes back to high school. (High school is inescapable.)
    • Juan is confused about that night, but still friendly with Robert. Juan is actually more upset that Miri isn't being friendly anymore.
    • To get Juan's mind off that, Robert suggests practicing their composition. (Although Lena thinks that Robert is just worried about his grade.)
    • After the riot, Robert had a lot of notoriety, especially with the Friends of Privacy trying to keep things private.
    • So there are a lot of people watching virtually when Robert goes up to show his composition with Juan.
    • We get to see what these students do, which is just a reminder of how much crazy technology they have. Like, while the Radners put on a special effects show, some other students have created a sort of taffy/glue that changes depending on how you touch it. In fact, some of these student products are getting bought by companies.
    • Juan and Robert present their demo, which is a live music performance and poetry performed by two student orchestras and choruses, one in Boston, the other in Chile. The real trick is that, though they're playing over cheap, free connections, the music and poetry gets synched up by an algorithm that Robert wrote.
    • It goes off pretty well.
  • Chapter 34

    The British Museum and the British Library

    • After the demo, Robert runs into Winston Blount. Now, although Winnie and Robert used to fight all the time, Winston congratulates Robert and Juan on their piece. Robert even admits that the poetry part was mostly Juan.
    • Robert also thanks Louise Chumlig, who admits that she kind of knew his issue all along.
    • Robert and Juan also run into Xiu Xiang and Tommie Parker, who apparently are a couple now. (Aww—the hacker and the engineer.) Tommie notes that in the old days, work like Robert's synchronization algorithm would be patentable.
    • Xiu notes that Tommie is old and afraid to try new things, like wearable computing. Which is true. But it also seems like a very psychiatrist thing to say.
    • Tommie also explains that they stopped Huertas and gave other companies a chance to catch up. The Chinese actually digitized the British Museum and British Library in "semi-nondestructive" ways.
    • In fact, Tommie gives Robert a small disk that holds all of the information from the British Museum and Library.
    • Back at Rainbows End, Xiu and Lena catch up. Lena reports on some small therapy help she's trying to provide in the background now.
    • While Xiu respects Lena's psychiatric perceptions of most people, she tells her that she's wrong about Robert: he's not the colossal jerk he used to be.
    • But Lena refuses to listen and goes to her room.
  • Chapter 35

    The Missing Apostrophe

    • Robert tracks down Zulfikar Sharif, who got kicked out of his graduate program in Oregon and out of the US for his role in the lab mess. (Yes, we know he's totally innocent; but he did let his computer get hacked, so from outside, it's hard to tell what was Sharif or what was Rabbit/The Mysterious Stranger.) So Zulfi is back in Kolkata.
    • They talk about their weird experience: Sharif talks about being hijacked; Robert talks about losing his poetic ability. Robert also talks about how he lost his ability to be a truly colossal jerk.
    • Anyway, Zulfi is enrolling in the department of Bollywood Studies, which hopefully will keep him from more conspiracies.
    • As for Robert, thanks to his work on his composition project, he got hired as a consultant for a communications company called Comms-R-Us. Yeesh.
    • Unfortunately, Miri is still not talking to Juan (who went away for the summer).
    • Alice seems like a "ghost of her former self" (37) now that she's home.
    • One night, with Bob out of town (and out of touch), Miri comes in to tell Robert about some research she's done on restoring his ruined arm.
    • Robert confesses that he set up Alice, which Miri already knows, but doesn't quite believe. After all, no one can figure out how what Robert did could lead to what happened to Alice.
    • Also Alice is back in Training. (Like JITT training—the kind that could do serious brain damage to most people.) So Miri has no one to turn to.
    • Robert tells her that Juan is a good friend who deserves better. (From her POV, all she knows is he didn't come down into the tunnels with her.) Robert uses himself as an example of someone who made the wrong decisions about friends: he drove his sister away and his wife and now he can't make it up to them.
    • Which is probably around the time that Miri really decides to give Robert Lena's number.
    • Robert agonizes over that number and then sends a little message.
  • Epilogue

    • Six weeks later: Alice is still in Training, which Bob is not happy about.
    • Bob is back from whatever mission took him away.
    • Juan is back and Miri is talking to him.
    • Lena hasn't contacted Robert, but he still leaves her messages.
    • Xiu Xiang moves out of Rainbows End.
    • And Robert is still working for Comms-R-Us. His work takes him to the UCSD library to study haptics (feeling illusions) and how you could make that internet-accessible.
    • After the damage of the Library Riot, the library has been totally repaired, but not restored.
    • And inside, after all that fight between belief circles, everything is peaceful: there are Hacek places and Scoochi places and places where both exist and you can choose between them.
    • Robert runs into Carlos Rivera. They talk about library stuff and about the belief circle situation.
    • They also talk about Rabbit and his promises.
    • Not all of which came true: Dean Blount is back working for the university as an administrative assistant. (The current dean was actually a secretary back in the old days.) So maybe Dean will work his way up the hard way.
    • But Carlos got his wish: he can still speak Mandarin Chinese, but only when he wants to. Was it Rabbit keeping his promise or just a coincidence?
    • Carlos thinks Rabbit is still around and still helping out.
    • Robert is worried—he's happy with who he is now, he's happy being a math-whiz instead of a poetry genius. But his last thought in the book is "What if I can have it all?" (68).