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Existence Hardcover – June 19, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780765303615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765303615
  • ASIN: 0765303612
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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, bestselling author of Ark and The Time Ships

"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, bestselling author of Fire Upon the Deep and The Children of the Sky

"Existence is a book that makes you think deeply about both the future and life's most important issues. I found it fascinating and could not put it down."--Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

From the Inside Flap

Best-selling futurist David Brin returns to globe-spanning high concept fiction with Existence. 
Telepresence. Global security. Everyone watching everyone, all the time. Anything interesting draws a flash crowd of ten million eyes. One man in Afghanistan live-tweets a special forces attack, and the world tunes in. Revolutions coordinate online. And that's today! Tomorrow, you'll wear the Web, immersed in augmented overlays. Your aiware glasses will ID, name-tag, and tattle on each person you walk by, in a global village of ten billion souls.
But instant access to all of human knowledge only widens the gulf between those eager for tomorrow...and those fearing an end to human existence.
Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector, clearing a hundred-year mess, when he spots something unexpected -- a glinting crystal, unmapped and strange. An hour after he captures it, rumors fill Earth's info mesh about an "alien artifact."
Peng Xiang Bin is a shoresteader off the Chinese coast, salvaging homes abandoned to the rising tides. Under one mansion, Bin finds a secret treasure cache. One box bears a warning. Inhabited by Demons.
Tor Povlov is a new-era reporter, a genius at trolling Web and street for exciting and heart-breaking "you are there" reports. On a cross-country zeppelin tour she documents an America an world fracturing apart, torn between a future promising godlike powers for all ... and a beguiling past that might offer the only sanctuary. She does not expect to find herself -- and her million-member smart posse -- snagged by the biggest story ever. 
From a tribe of beleaguered dolphins to the highest mountain observatory, Existence asks the question: Are we alone in the universe? Does every bright new race stumble over the same pitfalls? The same, entrapping seven hundred ways to fail? 
Thrown into this maelstrom of worldwide shared experience and tension over human destiny, the Artifact is a game changer. A message in a bottle, an alien capsule that wants to communicate ... but for good or ill? The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity. 
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

I thought the characters were well defined and the plot moved well.
Michael B. Mitchell
The true nature and purpose of the communication devices makes Existence one of the most imaginative first contact stories I've encountered.
TChris
In detail, way too many shifts in context and I ended up not really caring for the characters at the end.
Robert H. Megee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

160 of 187 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Could there be a more ambitious title than Existence? David Brin earns forgiveness for his hubris by pulling off a dazzling exploration of humanity's response to the inevitable end of everything -- a redefinition of human existence. No small story, Existence strives for epic status. It is far-reaching, thought-provoking, and above all, entertaining. Existence is an idea-driven novel that doesn't skimp on plot or interesting characters. The story -- structured as a tapestry of interwoven plot threads -- changes directions more often than a miniature golf course. Since no summary could do it justice, a quick identification of the threads will have to suffice.

Operating a long bola tethered to a space station, Gerald Livingstone grabs orbiting space debris before it can do any damage. After snatching a puzzling object from orbit, Gerald eventually realizes that it is a communication device, an alien emissary. Understanding what its many voices are trying to communicate becomes a daunting task that captivates the world's imagination. Peng Xiang Bin, collector of salvage in flooded Shanghai, finds a submerged object that closely resembles the orbiting artifact. Intriguingly, the "worldstone" is communicating a different message than its orbiting rival.

Hacker, the playboy heir to a fortune whose hobbies include amateur rocketry, befriends some unusual dolphins after his reentry vehicle crashes. Hacker's mother, Lacey, is a member of the powerful clade that exerts influence over nearly everything. Tech-bashing apocalyptic novelist Hamish Brookeman is a proponent of the Renunciation Movement, which wants to slow the development of technology until wisdom catches up.
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48 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Patrick McCormack VINE VOICE on July 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is now a glut of futuristic, mildly dystopian books about humanity in the coming post-modern, near-singularity world. Vinge, Stross, Brin, and a dozen others have mined this field to the point where story telling has suffered, and ten-cent thinking has gloomed over the genre.

In this book, Brin makes two huge mistakes. He recounts a lecture delivered by one of his characters (and has another bored by it!). And he interlards a series of entries from made up guides, encyclopedias, and futuristic authors. Heck, he also from time to time has one character explain the world to another. These devices let Brin slip into his story telling a great amount of gloomy, the world is going to face challenges lecturing, and this is boring. Face it, we want to be shown these points of view through story telling, with wit and humor, not through lecturing.

When Brin does tell his story, he is pretty good. Interstellar civilizations using pellets, crystal stones that communicate. This first contact is both a puzzle and a threat. Pretty good tale, and interesting to read.

My quibble is that nobody in this book has any joy of life, any verve. Even when faced with extinction, I would hope that somebody, somewhere, has a joke to tell, or can spit in the face of death. Why write a book about gloomsters, facing gloomy situations with gloomy miens?

I liked this book at about a 3.5 stars level. I wish an editor would tell Brin to dump all lectures, all encyclopedia references, and all gloomy intonations from his next book. Tell us a story, do not lecture us like a group of sophomores trapped in a lecture hall.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend reading this book if you are interested in creative explanations of the Fermi paradox and apparent lack of Von Neumann machines as well as realistic ideas about first contact. The story is a good one, with interesting although somewhat over-the-top characters, and it hangs together in a plausible narrative.
The problem is that there's just a huge mass of subplots and characters in the first half or 2/3 of the book that do nothing to move the main story along in a meaningful way - easily 100, maybe 200 pages worth out of 500 total - stuff that just would not be missed if you hadn't known they were there in the first place (kudos to Brin for not solving this problem with a "Neal Stephenson approach" by making that extraneous material more relevant by expanding the book to 700 or 800 pages). And as you get to the midpoint or a bit later in the book where we really learn more about the crystal spheres and what's going on in the "ET scene," suddenly Brin starts moving things along at a rapid clip, abandoning the current timeline and skipping to an entirely different era without much warning or closure. Some of Brin's philosophical and technological speculations are gracefully woven into the story, other places they are forced in and strapped on with duct tape and pliers.

Not that the book is too long per se, it's very readable and could comfortably fill 500 pages or more without waste by just focusing more on the parts relevant to the overall story. And Brin is clearly capable of doing that.
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More About the Author

David Brin is a scientist, public speaker and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

David's latest novel - Existence - is set forty years ahead, in a near future when human survival seems to teeter along not just on one tightrope, but dozens, with as many hopeful trends and breakthroughs as dangers... a world we already see ahead. Only one day an astronaut snares a small, crystalline object from space. It appears to contain a message, even visitors within. Peeling back layer after layer of motives and secrets may offer opportunities, or deadly peril.

David's non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with secrecy in the modern world. It won the Freedom of Speech Award from the American Library Association.

A 1998 movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. Brin's 1989 ecological thriller - Earth - foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web. David's novel Kiln People has been called a book of ideas disguised as a fast-moving and fun noir detective story, set in a future when new technology enables people to physically be in more than two places at once. A hardcover graphic novel The Life Eaters explored alternate outcomes to WWII, winning nominations and high praise.

David's science fictional Uplift Universe explores a future when humans genetically engineer higher animals like dolphins to become equal members of our civilization. These include the award-winning Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach. He also recently tied up the loose ends left behind by the late Isaac Asimov: Foundation's Triumph brings to a grand finale Asimov's famed Foundation Universe.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction and philanthropy.

As a public speaker, Brin shares unique insights -- serious and humorous -- about ways that changing technology may affect our future lives. He appears frequently on TV, including several episodes of "The Universe" and History Channel's "Life After People." He also was a regular cast member on "The ArciTECHS."

Brin's scientific work covers an eclectic range of topics, from astronautics, astronomy, and optics to alternative dispute resolution and the role of neoteny in human evolution. His Ph.D in Physics from UCSD - the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) - followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Space Institute. His technical patents directly confront some of the faults of old-fashioned screen-based interaction, aiming to improve the way human beings converse online.

Brin lives in San Diego County with his wife and three children.

You can follow David Brin:
Website: http://www.davidbrin.com/
Blog: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/DavidBrin
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/cab801

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