I loved it, utterly, for the characters as much as the world and the main thrust of the plot line. I love how well Vinge slices through his storyline, leaving everything that supports what his characters do, and using the cumulation of all that development to make the ending work. It's really astonishingly good writing, and I really enjoyed it at that level, too.
I also gulped down all of Saiyuki Gaiden last night. I love the way it expanded the characters, and I found myself with a much deeper appreciation of all of them from it. I thought Kenren (Goyjo) was really astonishingly cool by the end of it, and I fell in love with Tenpou as someone rather different than Hakkai. That was interesting to find out.
One of the things about Tenpou that I loved was his habit of working until he passed out. I used to do that. Literally. 72 hours on a project and I finished enough of it that when I passed out under the lab desk, no one bothered me until grading time.
I dreamed, over and over, of being Tenpou on that desperate fight down the stairs, being point with just the katana (it struck me that Chinese gods were using Japanese swords I guess), with all the instant decision making and choice of leverage points (as pushing them over was better than having to kill them myself), that instantaneous feel of trained reflex taking over to get to the shock and crunch pushing through someone's abdominals, and the calm decision to just kill everything in my path. Feeling the other three at my back and knowing how Kenren was doing with each turn.
And I realized Tenpou would never take his title back from any Heaven that hadn't been clean up, not for all the diplomatic ease in the world. All he wanted was the tea, and the cherry blossoms in the spring, rather than the dying of the fall, and he'd always find Kenren, no matter where the two of them ended up. So now there are two figures in my head, knocking on the gates of Seireitei, knowing that they're going to get in with the invitation written, now, on Tenpou's soul.
After I take Jet to a card-making class and see Clone Wars with the boys. *laughs and laughs* Gah. I hate it when this happens.
I think that I liked Rainbows End because, in a way, it's about characters that have integrated their technical side with their creative sides, of being both left and right-brained and being able to use both sides of other people that way, too. It's rare to have a protagonist that can think of things both ways, and it was interesting to have Robert Gu as the protagonist. He was a poet that lost the poetic side of him as part of his cure from Alzheimer's, and he gains a technical side to himself that he'd never known before.
It's fascinating to study.