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Existence
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on 5 April 2015
This is less of a novel a than collection of essays on end of the world scenarios.

The characters are shallowly drawn and uninteresting, the direction and focus of the plot changes continuously and jumps about all the time leaving no real plot in the end.

This is an academic exercise in the exploration of alien contact ideas giving reasons why they might not have happened yet and running them together to form a timescape of thought on contact.

There is some intellectual interest in the book but it is not a real novel and that makes it, by far, Brin's worst book.
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on 21 January 2014
I did find parts of the beginning somewhere between a bit slow and a bit depressing. Brin is setting up a near future world, with risen sea levels and some people living by finding drowned useful material while others have specs with many layers of overlay, so as you walk down the street you can see labels with information about anything you look at - buildings, people, goods in shops and so on. Virtual graffiti is also common. The story is multi-threaded following rich and poor, an astronaut, an up and coming journalist and a novelist. The information is put over in various ways and I liked the sort of magazine article/blog/radio programme inserts that were two or three page chapters - it was a clever way of informing the reader and added breadth and colour to the world. Due to the multi-threaded complexity of the story, the book does take a while to get properly set up and to get going, but there comes a moment when I literally sat upright, hit by a certain plot point.
The extent of Brin's imagination is fantastic, the world is built very consistently and really hangs together with great depth and there is an interesting variety of people across the different plot threads. The ending is very clever and not one I saw coming.
I read the Uplift series many years ago and have been meaning to re-read for a while. I could see some foreshadowing of the Uplift in this book and am now heading straight to read the Uplift books as I want to do that while this one is fresh in my mind.
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on 3 September 2013
This is a big book (655 pages of tiny print) with one big theme; basically the structure of future society and how it copes with extra terrestrial contact. However, rather than being a taut & gripping bit of science fiction it feels more like a disjointed series of tedious lectures loosely glued together with some fairly standard sci-fi themes.

Brinn has clearly researched the central Fermi paradox plot device in great depth but the individual narrative threads interspersed with worthy lectures completely fails to create a coherent tale. The lamentable pace and the over-clever and annoying neologisms (forcing `ai' into every possible word) further interrupts the already stuttering narrative flow making for a very hard read - not that everything should rip along at a break-neck page-turning pace but it should at least be a pleasurable experience. This book isn't; it is a slog. I don't really know why, but I'm currently slogging through the `Uplift Trilogy' - another massive Brinn tome which, although less preachy, slightly better paced and more operatic in feel is still far tooo sllloooww. I can't wait to finish it and get on to `Abaddon's Gate' for a bit of light relief.
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on 17 May 2013
At 650 pages, this is a BIG read. The plot device seemed to be a variation on "2001, A Space Odyssey" when I saw the blurb, but this book does go in a completely different direction. The style is very old. I had John Brunner's "Stand On Zanzibar" standing by as my next book to read, and I was able to confirm that this one is done in the same 1960s/1970s, dog's breakfast, "everything including the kitchen sink", New Wave style of chaotic writing. There is a story in there, and it's interesting, but it could have been done at half the length to make it a more satisfying read. One good thing is that the writer does tone down the New Wave style after an initial frenzy, and the "blah" content diminishes to a bearable level.
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on 29 April 2013
I thought that this was an excellent book, I enjoyed it very much, I would (and will) read it again and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys good, hard, consequential SF.

However, I have to agree with a couple of the comments about extraneous characters and material. Some of the background is just that - great background (Awfulday, the Big Deal) but some I don't get ... the Basque Chimera, most of the sequences involving the Chinese character's wife.

Then there were the events that were glossed over or left to the imagination. I don't want to give spoilers, but the resolution of the 'Seeker' thread was - for me - missing a few scenes I'd like to have seen.

Anyway, as I said, there were some great aspects to this book and I think it will warrant a second read, knowing which bits I can skim through and which I can focus on.
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on 10 October 2012
It's a strange book, tbh. It's main problem (imho) is that it spends far too long getting up to speed. The story is prety much coasting along for almost a third of the book, and there's a lot of "small" asides on philosophy and the "future of mankind". In many ways the book is more an essay than a novel.

The second half of the book finally starts to get interesting, and then we get rushed through things in the last third, with, I have to say, some pretty new takes on alien-human contact. I'm admit I was all "Holly Crap" when I read that.

All in all, I liked it. But I doubt I'll read it again. And if I do, I'll stick to the 2nd half. The rest is just too boring.
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on 13 April 2013
Was this too ambitious? I've enjoyed some of David Brin's Uplift novels, and the Postman (not to mention War and Peace!), but am not so sure about this. Some great bits, it certainly keeps you hooked, and it certainly deals with huge issues... but I must say it left me a bit disappointed. Maybe like Dickens, I found it had slightly too much in it for me, too many characters, too many plot strands. Also, I can't say this solution to the Fermi Paradox is very plausible ultimately, though heaven knows what is a more plausible answer!
Some of it is based on earlier short stories, and maybe that shows? A bit of a patchwork?
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on 9 April 2014
Really enjoying the book. Just about to finish.

Some other reviewers have pointed out the disjointed nature of this book. It has the feel of a Trilogy, or perhaps a magazine serialisation that has been republished in book form. I'm not sure if this is the case though.

I would recommend this book to any avid scifi fans as it explores many concepts new and old. Some brief linkup with the history of the Uplift series features which is fun. For me, this is his best book so far.
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on 11 August 2016
A great book, that makes you think and will inspire new ways to see the world.

Although I did not like some of the aspects. All that non-sense about neanderthals....and autists. Sorry, that was simply not necessary for the sake of the book.
And what was this awful day?
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on 21 September 2012
I loved the beginning of this book. I liked the end. But the middle was seriously hard work and I can't quite decide if it was worth it. The writing and the basic story / ideas explored are very good and thought provoking. The idea about alien probes being a galactic virus is brilliantly explored. The characters are of interest but there are so many of them I couldn't really get into one character's life sufficiently to become gripped. The sheer number of characters and lack of continuity in their stories left me feeling a bit irritated....I nearly gave up. It felt like reading a text book at times - interesting, but not as much fun as it could have been with a serious bit of editing!
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