Customer Review

90 of 121 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tale of First Contact Deserves No Contact, June 30, 2012
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This review is from: Existence (Kindle Edition)
First of all, Brin is among the foremost respected science-fiction authors on the market today. His stories have the power of an Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 series. Yet, like Clarke, Brin seems to have jumped the metaphorical shark (or dolphin, as the case may be). Put simply, this book is not much more than a re-hash of previously published stories (he follows their publication dates in the afterword to magazines to the early 80s) and stale characterization. Moreover, it's boring. I cannot think of a harsher critique for a storyteller, but that's the simple truth. Since I read it on my kindle, I know exactly at what point it became interesting. 75% of the way into the book, my interest was piqued and I began to really wonder how Brin was going to write himself out of his holes. Then, to my everlasting horror and dismay, he completely side-stepped those holes by either writing the character out of the book entirely (ask yourself what happens to Hacker, Tor, or Peng Xiang Bin), or worse, answered them in exposition in another subplot, or worst of all, seems to have let them drop entirely. The difficulty of connecting emotionally to Brin's characters seems to lie in the fact that they are simply vehicles for expositing in the most hackneyed fashion whatever philosophy Brin puts in their mouth. Interspersed throughout, moreover, are asides, interviews, chapters or quotes from books, all to add the sense of milieu that this work demands. Indeed, the milieu is the star of this story--from an inventive near-future reality that blends multiple interactive real-time layers, to the advancement of a complex inter-relationship between human beings and AIs, even the cloning of a neanteral child (I thought to preface that statement with a spoiler warning, but even though it occupies much of the narrative, it does little to advance the plot). All told, the best part of this book was the world that Brin evokes, but setting is never a story and ultimately, this story about First Contact deserves no contact.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 11, 2012 7:57:42 AM PDT
R. Kaplan says:
I have to agree with you. I have no idea what happened to many of the major characters and paged back through the book several times to check if I missed an important part of the plot.
The book has many plot threads that go nowhere. It's the worst book I have read by Brin.

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 8:01:45 AM PDT
Paul Cassel says:
**********Spoilers Ahead****************

>>ask yourself what happens to Hacker, Tor, or Peng Xiang Bin<<

Well, Tor exists right up the end of the book - in the second half - exploring asteroids. We can infer what happened with Hacker - he continued the research and created a new species of 'human' - the dolphin species. We know that because Gerald comments that he is worried that the next voyage he takes to the asteroids he'll have to sign up some dolphin (or super fish) crew.

As to Peng, he did well as flashed back in one character's memory and his daughter is very much a part of the book's second section.

That said, I agree with your review although I think you were a bit harsh on the star rating. I did not find the book engaging so rather than read through, I dieseled through in much shorter reading sessions than I would otherwise do. I found the book a bit of a grind, to say the least. Unlike you, though, I did find many of the concepts intriguing.

I was personally disappointed in the mix of imagination (first contact as a virus, for example) and mundane (manmade global warming overwhelming islands). I also think the nature of the book's end is an obvious hook for future volumes if this one sells.

Posted on Sep 1, 2012 1:10:21 PM PDT
Steven,
I have a question on the Kindle edition.
I browsed a hardback edition at a local store. I was intrigued by its use of several fonts to distinguish different situations and view points. I looked at the Kindle version on-line, it seems it only adds an italic font. Would a reader miss something without the use of multiple fonts?

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 8:49:30 PM PST
How about the entire Senator subplot, which turns out to be nothing but an excuse for a pseudo scientific rant?
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