Existence Paperback – 1 Nov 2012
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A masterpiece of rock-hard SF (SUN)
Cleverly argued and uncomfortably plausible (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
Brin tackles a plethora of cutting-edge concepts... with the skill of a visionary futurologist ... [conveying] the depth and breadth of his startling future. Existence is Brin's first novel in 10 years, and it's been well worth the wait (GUARDIAN)
Existence is bursting with ideas, including near-future tech, first contact with aliens, and the exploration of what it means to be human (io9.com)
EXISTENCE may be Brin's masterwork (LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS)
An impressive introduction to one of SF's major talents (Publishers Weekly)
The seriously clever Brin has spent a lot of time thinking about big questions - and has devised a highly original yet plausible version of alien contact (BBC Sky at Night)
In Existence, David Brin takes on one of the fundamental themes in science fiction - and what is also one of the fundamental questions humanity faces in this century. Since Brin is both a great storyteller and one of the most imaginative writers around, Existence is not to be missed (Vernor Vinge)
Take a world soaked in near-future strangeness and complexity . . . Add a beautiful alien artifact that turns out to be the spearpoint of a very dangerous, very ancient invasion . . . Hotwire with wisdom and wonder . . . Existence is as urgent and as relevant as anything by Stross or Doctorow, but with the cosmic vision of Bear or Benford. Brin is back (Stephen Baxter)
A groundbreaking, mind-blowingly ambitious new science fiction novel from the multiple award-winning classic author David BrinSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
David Brin takes us to the edge of a world that may - or may not, depending on your personal view - be in terminal meltdown, and then stabs it squarely in the gut. In the blink of an eye a demoralising state of existence is transformed into a wholly miserable state of existence. Surely though such a state could not come about in a normal world, could it; surely mass dependence on personal technology on the scale described would not happen to a level-headed and life-loving majority? This is the literary province of the minority geek. But it is also SF, so I suppose it can happen if the author wants it to happen, and if enough people enjoy it then it justifies the storyline. In a macabre way I enjoyed it, though I was wary of shouting out loud in indignance that society had got so rotten and anarchic. Those who read me know I am fond of the lighter side of life.
I'm wary, too, of stories that willy-nilly compress human minds into computer code and make out that it can be a more fulfilling existence than flesh and bone (I have to be careful here, I may have done something like this myself), surely the whole point of existence is the unconditional reality of being alive? And surely the point of being alive is having a functioning body to be actively alive in, a body to feel pain and pleasure, and a place to be at liberty. Most normal people would rather be dead than to live as computer code confined in some virtual environment, wouldn't they? But maybe it's useful to explore this concept if the purpose of exploration is to confirm its abhorrent character; perhaps that's what it's all about.
In 'Existence' we do not find a normal society; it is a depressed society. It is a society that paradoxically has taken a downward spiral while at the same time been equally lifted by its technology. Hoist by its own petard, you might say. (Petards are funny things, particularly when hoisted.)
I like David Brin, I always have, he has been a huge inspiration, but this is a massive departure and one that I am not completely comfortable with. This is a gloomy doomsday novel right from the outset, there's no getting there in degrees, and no American hero in red underpants fighting for freedom and democracy: from the first page you are in it right up to your neck.
The worrying part is it might be too close to the truth for comfort.
The W.D.P.S - Book One
Brin's focus is on several characters in the near future, a time when space exploration has stalled but leaps in technology are fast and ambitious. Gerald is one of the few humans in space, gathering debris from the orbit of earth and flicking it into the planet's atmosphere for annihilation - he finds an Artefact, a non-human entity that communicates through him; Peng Xiang Bin lives on the margins of survival in Shanghai, a watery existence in the flooded ruins of devastated seaside mansions - he finds another artefact, which appears to be aware of the other found by Gerald. It doesn't like it; Hacker is a rich man who seeks thrills. He finds them in space, in self-funded rockets that peek into space before falling back to earth; Hamish is a famous film maker and writer, a celebrity, who works for a confederation that seeks to turn from the stars and heal the earth through the abolishment of democracy and the emergence of a more basic society run by a rich elite; Tor is a journalist who speaks for the flashmob. Seeking to report the truth about the Artefact, Tor finds herself in the unique position of seeing humanity from the other side.
This cast, as well as many others who come and go through the pages, slowly begin to circle around the space artefact, its opposing earth artefact, and show us the world that earth has become. Hacker's rocket, for instance, crashes into the sea and the only way he can survive is through the help of intelligence-developed dolphins, while his mother and others debate the merit of technology outstripping the ability of humans. It's not long, though, before the alien voices of the artefact are added to the noise of unease and, above all, fear. The aliens bring a message and how to deal with that message is a theme of this novel. Humans, such as Hacker's mother Lacey, may have spent millions trying to detect the existence of aliens but, once they're noticed, what they have to say may not be what is expected.
Existence shows us how people behave when they learn that they, us, are not alone. Interspersed with the narrative are brief passages which examine, for example, potential methods of extinction - the other side of the coin to existence. We also hear hints of other beings, the reborn Neanderthal child, as well as pleas from one of the characters imploring alien life forms to reveal themselves.
These passages don't particularly disturb the flow of the novel because that is already fragmented by the chopping and changing between characters. This is an issue with Existence. The stories are each so vividly told that the interruption as we move from one to another is felt keenly. The fact that this matters is testament to the quality of the story telling.
Thrown into this are some fascinating ideas - we hear about Awfulday, without being given details, but it is clear that this was some unspecified nuclear cataclysmic event. There has also been a plague that has resulted in Auties - vast numbers of autistic survivors. Artificially intelligent life forms are evolving. The oceans have risen, resulting in slums on the edges of the sea. There are hints throughout of great disasters. We also have glimpses of animal life. Amongst the extinctions, there is the monkey who works with Gerald to destroy space debris as well, of course, as those most marvellous dolphins, and the emptying waters fished by Peng. Then there are the artefacts themselves...
Existence is hard science fiction. There is a great deal of contemplation by characters and the narrator about the world and universe around them. Their self awareness increases and we are a part of the discovery. This is especially true of Tor who is transformed through the novel in almost every way. She is a fascinating character.
Existence is about 550 pages. However, don't let that mislead you. The size of the font means that you may as well double the size. It's not a fast read but it is an absorbing one. I found it extremely compelling and I didn't want to be away from it too long. This was because of the characters - particularly Tor, Hamish and Gerald - but also because of some of the other themes we come across, some human and some alien. I didn't miss a word, I didn't skim a page.
There were issues for me - especially, as mentioned, the leaping between characters and, as the novel goes on, the leaping between years. The latter led to characters disappearing and loose ends loosened further. I think the novel could have been made tighter. Nevertheless, I was mesmerised by the read. This is Brin's first novel for ten years. After Existence I can only hope that we have to wait a mere fraction of this for the next.
Are we alone? Where are the others? What is the mechanism for the 'Great Filter' preventing civilisations from filling the Galaxy. In existence Brin does not attempt to exploit these for cheap drama, the book is a liesurely tour through the various theories for the Great Silence. Along the way several solutions and pitfalls are examined.
Set in the near future , an Earth under pressure is exposed to an Alien probe bearing a mesage. The message is a promise, a trap and a solution. Can or will Humanity follow the path of prior civilisations or can we navigate our own way around the 'Great Filter'.
The book is a piece of thinking fiction proposing potential real physics solutions to the questions raisied in physics. Its not the most elegant piece of SF Ive read as its constrained by real universe physics and economics. It is a fantastic sleeper novel, though it requires some patience its worth the read.
This is a book for people interested in a hard look at our real universe. Its not a light and frothy , its thought provoking and very current. Not his most enjoyable piece , but a very worthwhile read.
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Although I did not like some of the aspects. All that non-sense about neanderthals....Read more
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