Best-selling, award-winning futurist David Brin returns to globe-spanning, high concept SF with Existence.
Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an "alien artifact". Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer - a message in a bottle, an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.
©2012 David Brin (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
The story starts out slow and I was tempted to stop listening several time in the first few chapters. I recommend you keep going, a lot of interesting things will eventually happen. Unfortunately a lot of very uninteresting things also happen. It is almost like Brin had a goal of writing over 500 pages and was not going to let the fact that he only had 300 pages of material stop him.
On the plus side, the book has lots of great science fiction material, ancient aliens, machine intelligence's, high tech gadgets, and exploration of the solar system. It even has some very good characters (Human and alien). I also found his plan for how other intelligent races would contact and interact with whatever life exists in the our galaxy to be novel and well reasoned. It explains very nicely why we don't see any evidence of life when look out into the Milky Way.
Of course there are also some problems, for some reason Brin is not able to simply tell what should have been a great story. Instead he is constantly interrupting the story with whole chapters that have no relevance to the story or even any real purpose. To make it worse when reading one of the chapters that does tell the story he will invariable end the chapter as if it was the last show of the season for an action adventure series on TV. Ever one of these chapters will end with the narrator saying something like "and then she saw something that will forever change the way we think of the universe" or "then something unimaginable came around the corner" . The chapter then ends and we get 40 pages about something completely different (different characters, different plot line). By the time Brin gets back to the main plot I have almost forgot where the story left off. I can forgive an author for leaving the reader hanging once or twice, it helps to build suspense. But by the tenth or fifteenth time Brin does this is just annoying. It happens so often and with such ham-fisted prose, it becomes laughable which totally breaks the mood of the story.
Brin also goes to extraordinary ends to include elements of his Uplift books in the story. Even though they add nothing and actually impede the story. It is almost as if he had a bet with his publisher that he could include 5 chapters about Uplift without making it seem like an unrelated story. I assume he lost the bet.
Even with all the problems I am still going to recommend the book, just because I liked the big ideas the book presents.
In the Afterward for his book Earth, David Brin laments how hard it is to write a Science Fiction story set 50 years in the future, and how historically nobody has ever gotten it right. Here brin takes another pass at a near now. A future world neither Utopian or Dystopian. Just "Topian"....
Existence jumps around between its various characters in a scattered way, many are never fully fleshed out, and some simply fall off camera when they cease being interesting to Brin. Existence is a novel that either needed to be longer or shorter, cutting out the minor characters or giving them better resolution.
Still that issue aside the story is interesting and well narrated, the aliens and the threat/opportunity they represent are refreshingly original. This is however very much a book about ideas not people. The book is intended to be thought provoking, not to lead you down the familiar path of interpersonal drama.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Brin writes what I consider to be a solid ending to the story, Brin's biggest failing as an author has always been his Deus Ex Machanica endings, While there is a tiny touch of that here, it is a much better ending than seen in his other novels.
That Dr Brin took his Futurist ideas to a story
A battle on a blimp
Dr Brin is a physicist and a futurist. He not only tries to figure out where current tech is going, he tries to figure out its impact on society. In this book, he takes all that to extreme levels and tells a story. It contains one answer to the question, "Where are the aliens" With over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, there should be some around. He also includes a lot of what is happening now, such as global warming. I quite enjoyed the story he built around this.
The inexorable logic and analysis, as well as sheer human courage, that leads to thwarting a terrorist threat.
My favorite scene was the one where Tor Pavlov defeats and intelligent laser with the assistance of her AI "son", then tells him she's proud to have him as her partner. This scene sums up the book's intertwining of large concepts with human minutia.
What if at first contact, the others say "have I got a deal for you ..."?
The narration by the three voices was awesome - it really helped keep the intricate story lines and personalities straight. Great job, all!
I really need to start proof reading my Reviews before I post them.
The story is about how people learn from the mistakes from the generations before, and how they go about making their own.
Every time there was a huge leap forward in the society, you could feel the hope and wonder the population was emanating... that moment of "what if". Then that wonderful hope was deflated by the nay-sayers, who didn't want society to change, to keep everyone in the status quo for their own selfish desires.
I struggled with my this, my final paragraph, for a little while. Everything I wrote was laden with spoilers, imagined or implied. So I will say, I do hope our world can face the future with the dignity and ingenuity that was portrayed on our behalf.
p.s. this story has aliens, cyborgs, uplifted dolphins, asteroid mining, habitations in space, caste based societies, underwater treasure hunting, and dirigibles.
Hmm. The listener hears a lot of internal monologues. A lot. And philosophical speculation and what-ifs. While it is interesting, it chokes up the first 8 hours of the book, requiring perseverance. After that, things start to roll. The "real" story takes shape, characters start becoming real and the plot lines unfold.
However, I don't know if I would have stuck it out, if I had realized that this is apparently not part of a series, but a stand alone novel. At the time, I took the 8 fallow hours as investment. There are also some ideas that the author seems unable to pursue sufficiently, so maybe they should just have been edited out, or in some cases, fleshed out.
Slightly surprising, mildly disappointing
varied, intense, enthusiastic
In spite of the overall disappointment, I will definitely give David Brin's Uplift books a go. He is clearly an intelligent, deep thinker with story-telling abilities. I just wouldn't choose Existence to showcase his talent
For all the work he put into it and all the ground work the listener/reader has to endure, there should be more books building on Existence
optimistic hard scifi
Reporter in the blimp.
The description of walking down the street and the vr overlay early in the book.
No extreme reactions.
This is a really interesting book. The story is based on lots of recent trends happening in the world in science and other wise and extrapolating some really interesting permutations of where it could all lead and how the world responds to events. Transparency, the prevalence of cheap and good recording, climate, over population, direct and instant access to information, real time VR overlays, etc...
David Brin goes a different direction than many other books that take one trend or new technology and then postulates some future taking it to some ridiculous extreme. Creating some bizarre future that bears no resemblance to our own history or present. Where everyone is grown in a vat and controlled by the state or everyone lives in isolation never seeing each other, etc...
Instead he (much more realistically) presents a world with literally massive amounts of people all with their own ideas, prejudices and goals all working against and with each other. Many things like improving VR technology, cheap and easy camera technology, social networking and instant access to vast amounts of information, climate change, genetic tinkering, etc... All advance, become part of the world and blend in different ways. Causing problems, solving problems, etc... A very rich world with lots of layers and very believable. You could easily recognize the world he presents evolving from our world.
I also enjoy how he presents different peoples viewpoints. Never mocking the ideas of others but instead embracing them and respectfully presenting the validity of varied positions and the arguments they present. Very mature.
I enjoyed this book because of the many cool ideas. David Brin excels at projecting current trends into the future, and his science is solid. I didn't identify with any of the characters, but I enjoyed their stories. I liked the near-future parts a lot, but then the last several chapters got less personal and thus less interesting. Or it might just be that the later parts focused on characters I didn't like. But we were supposed to dislike them, so I can't fault the book for that. All in all, I am glad I read this. I am still mulling over some of the new ideas.
It took a while for me to get into this novel, but I got hooked and am happy I did so. It is a prequel to the uplift series, something I didn't realize. Brin has some interestingly unusual ideas about AI and its proliferation. Recommended.
I can only give David Brin's latest a 3.5 - It models itself on John Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar as a near future exploration of vital topics but the very long mixed together narratives with no character as a central focus for long ended up often putting me to sleep.
Love the ideas, the near-future forecasts, the characters individually, but it doesn't quite become the epic it should be. Most of the threads are amazing, the ideas are amazing, the whole not so much. Disentangling this book might have helped, I would like to hear "Pandora's Cornucopia" and "Aliens, Choose Why You are Silent" and some of the characters stories all in one block. The last third of the book, once people go out into the belt, could also be a great stand alone.
If you like your SF on the intellectual and hard side and are curious about Fermi's Paradox you should really get this book. Not for casual readers or listeners.
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