Across Realtime

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A loosely-linked science fiction series by Vernor Vinge, consisting of The Peace War, The Ungoverned, and Marooned in Realtime. Across Realtime is the title of the omnibus edition containing The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime (the 1991 re-issue also contains The Ungoverned).

The major initial technology change is the invention of the Bobble, a projected sphere that completely separates the inside from the outside. This is initially believed to be permanent and lead to whoever is inside dying when the oxygen runs out. The discoverers of the Bobble form the "Peace Authority" and take over political power, Bobbling all who oppose them and enforcing an end to war (and any technological progress that might threaten their superiority).

The Peace War is set when the first generation of Bobbles begin to burst, their true nature is revealed, and the Authority's grip on power begins to fail.

The Ungoverned is set some decades later, and involves an attempt by New Mexico (one of many independent nations in what used to be the USA) to invade the "ungoverned" lands to its north. Bobble technology has become widespread and developed everyday uses, some of which are described or demonstrated.

Marooned in Realtime is set after a singularity that removed the majority of the human population. Only those who were in stasis during the singularity (including characters from both The Peace War and The Ungoverned) remain. Those who come out of stasis are slowly rounded up and brought to a meeting point further down the timeline. During one move a leader of the colony is stranded outside stasis, starting a murder/mystery investigation to discover who did it and why.

Tropes used in Across Realtime include:

  • Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit: In Marooned in Realtime, two of the characters are brothers who went into stasis as part of one of these, and woke to find that the Singularity had happened and there were no longer any banks.
  • Deflector Shields: Bobbles can function as these.
  • Divided States of America: In The Ungoverned.
  • Dying Clue: Marooned in Realtime features possibly the most epic case of "murder victim writes cryptic final message" in the entire history of detective fiction.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Marooned in Realtime uses this extensively.
  • Feudal Future: The Peacers enforced one by blaming industrial civilization for nuclear warfare.
  • Hurl It Into the Sun: Brought up as one way to kill a person who's Bobbled themself for protection. Even that won't break through the Bobble -- but the Bobble's got to pop some time...
  • Interface with a Familiar Face: In The Peace War, Paul Naismith has given his house AI the face and voice of his old girlfriend, who was the first opponent of the Peace Authority to be Bobbled.
  • Invisible Aliens: Marooned in Realtime suggests that when species attain The Singularity, they uniformly vanish from the universe, at least from the perspective of everyone else.
  • Late Arrival Spoiler: The true nature of the Bobbles is a big plot twist in The Peace War, but it's almost impossible to talk about the series as a whole (and especially Marooned in Realtime) without it.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: Marooned in Realtime suggests that by the late 21st century, governments have essentially given way to protection companies. The Ungoverned shows them in operation, and suggests that from the perspective of a protection company, a national government in war mode is just another crime gang to be dealt with the same way as any other.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: A villainous example, at the climax of Marooned in Realtime.
  • Old Master: Paul Hoehler/Naismith in The Peace War; remarkable in that he really is old, with all the drawbacks that come with advanced age.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: When the invasion starts in The Ungoverned, local law enforcement sends a request up the line for an army to come fight it. What they get is Wil Brierson.
  • One Steve Limit: Marooned in Realtime has multiple characters named in honour of the hero of The Peace War, but it still fits this trope because they each prefer a different way of abbreviating it from each other and from the original.
  • Orion Drive: In Marooned in Realtime, Della's ship has one; bobble technology makes this method of travel safe.
  • Post Cyber Punk: The Peace War
  • Ragnarok Proofing: Averted in Marooned in Realtime, where the realistic lack of this is a plot point.
  • La Résistance: The Tinkers in The Peace War.
  • Roboteching: In The Peace War, the Tinkers have come up with smart bullets that can be fired from a machine pistol. Lock in your targets, blind-fire one burst in their general direction - and twenty Technology Gestapo hit the ground minus their heads!
  • Shrouded in Myth: Wil Brierson gets a bit of this in Marooned in Realtime regarding his detective abilities, as a result of one of his descendents making him the star of a series of detective novels.
  • The Singularity: Popularized in Marooned in Realtime.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: All the characters in Marooned in Realtime.
  • The Slow Path: What the title of Marooned in Realtime refers to.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The genius hero of The Peace War plays chess in competition.
  • Sphere of Destruction: The effect of using a Bobble as a weapon.
  • Summation Gathering: At the climax of Marooned in Realtime, complete with Conversational Troping.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Peacers of The Peace War have created a world without armed conflict -- at the cost of most of the world's population, all strong governments (save themselves), and industrialized civilization.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Marooned in Realtime has people in the far future with the medical technology to eliminate all disease and aging -- but what if you outlive the civilisation?
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Hamilton Avery in The Peace War.
    • In Marooned in Realtime, Della (initially).