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Existence Hardcover – June 19, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 292 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765303612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765303615
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (292 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 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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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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Format: 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.Read more ›
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