You'd expect a novel focused on the nuclear standoff between the USA and USSR to age poorly. This one has been improving over the past twenty years. The discussions of the continuity among the Mongol, Czarist, and Soviet governments of Russia are useful guides to Putin's regime. The comments on American culture ("Don't try to sell them parachutes, just have the splints ready") also hold true. The space development story line holds up, more because the lack of progress we've made than any prescience on Kingsbury's part. The best reason for rereading is the characters--they're real, and I like them, even when they're being idiots (a small portion of the time).
Professor Vinge wanted to write a monograph on user interface design given the technology of 2025, but didn't think anyone would read it. So he gave us this novel instead. It'll probably look bad ten years from now but it's a good extrapolation from now. On first read I was put off by the very unsympathetic protagonist. He's another variation of the SF trope of the guy from the present brought to the future so all the characters have an excuse to explain the things they're used to. Instead of freezing him or throwing him through time, Vinge rescues Robert Gu from Alzheimer's-induced senility. He becomes our guide to a very strange--but believable--world. Telepresence, virtual reality, and data overlays over our view of the real world are constant. A big political event is the equivalent of Warcraft and Pokemon fans clashing over whose imagery will be used to decorate a library. Terrorists are empowered even more by the new technology, while the good guys scramble to stay a step ahead of them. The book's biggest danger comes from someone seeking to control us all for our own good.
Highly recommended to everyone planning on living another fifteen years or more.
Watchmen (the comic)
I read Watchmen after the movie came out. Ugh. Comics fans are more nihilistic than I'd feared if this is one of their revered classics. It's an example of Lois Bujold's comment on Ser Galen: "the anguish of making the hard choices always appealed to the romance in his soul." Given Dr. Manhattan's powers there's multiple ways to avert nuclear war if anyone can convince him to bother. Ozy was in a perfect position to convince him, but wanted to reserve playing god to himself. Moore would rather write about horrid situations requiring brutal choices than make the effort to find a solution that doesn't need millions of innocents killed.
Edit: There will be no further discussion of Watchmen here, because it's unpleasant and I've already spent more time thinking about it than I want to.