Customer Review

42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There is a glut of these books, now, and this one is OK/Fun., July 2, 2012
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This review is from: Existence (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 14, 2012 5:42:57 PM PDT
"Nobody in this book has any joy of life, any verve."

Do you recall the character named Tor Povlov?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2012 4:43:02 AM PDT
Yes, and I give you a point here. She had some verve, in those short scenes where she was popped into the narrative and then she was popped out again. But this sort of makes my point, too, because she was episodic, and her "verve" came from the settings she was popped into, not in any intrinsic character she was given by the author. In fact, in the end she became quite wooden...err, metallic.

Posted on Jun 23, 2013 8:01:27 AM PDT
I agree that Brin slightly overstates his dystopic case but the stories without 'editorials' are damn good.

Posted on Nov 24, 2013 1:50:06 PM PST
Judith says:
>> 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

Would love to know a few others that you recommend, if there are any.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 26, 2013 8:24:31 AM PST
Stross: Accelerando.

Snow Crash.

I will try and think of others.

Posted on Dec 29, 2013 10:47:07 PM PST
DJ says:
I like Brin's "lectures, encyclopedia references, and gloomy intonations", and I hope his next book is loaded with them, intermixed with story, just like in Existence and Earth.

Posted on Jan 22, 2014 10:26:54 PM PST
Good point. As a reader I gravitate to Storytelling, not lecturing. My favorite Brin books were Startide Rising and The Practice Effect. Both were top shelf mind candy roller coaster rides. Don't explain or justify aliens or villains: just keep that thrilling pandering ride rolling along. Neither Startide Rising nor Practice Effect really had any edifying, educational, or enlightening purpose or end point. Just clean SF fun.
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