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Existence (Kiln) Hardcover – June 19, 2012
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“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.
Top customer reviews
Sure, there's plenty of space opera, it is Brin, after all, but lots of speculation and enough philosophical questions to keep discussion groups buzzing for a long time. Like many of Brin's books, it takes a while to meet and get a feel for all the characters, but well worth it. One of the best things is that the character development is deep and revealing, even among the "aliens".
I tried not to read it at a gulp, and it is rather weighty, but digesting section at a time and giving myself time to think about them. Also, hidden among the verbiage are a number of sneaky references to popular culture which range from insightful to hilarious. The culmination, you can't really call it a climax, is incredibly optimistic, though perhaps not as resolved as many of his works. Brin believes humanity is capable of learning and growing. I hope, for all our sakes, that he is right.
A pertinent bit of biography regarding David Brin: he's an author with a mission. Successful authors ply their craft for quite a variety of reasons, ranging from personal profit to polemics, from sheer love of wordsmithing to sheer love of self. And a few write to try to change the world a bit. Henning Mankell, the terrifically successful Scandinavian mystery writer, for example, spends a good deal of his creative energy, a significant part of his time, and no little amount of his money on promoting the social good as he perceives it. Brin fits easily into the "change the world a bit" category, as a quick visit to his website will confirm. An optimist (and a carefully reasoned one), Brin is not afraid to touch what was long a third-rail in anthropology: in his opinion evolution appears to be GOING somewhere. In Existence, Brin makes a nuanced and sophisticated case, absent of sentimentalism or species chauvinism, that the universe is unfolding itself in a fascinating way. Humans, should they choose to thread an endless procession of catastrophe needles, just might get to play a role in this. The sophistication and depth of Brin's approach to this notion is the stuff of a five star novel. Worthwhile as the book is, though, it doesn't shine with five star luminosity.
My favorite creative writing teacher in college would have handed Existence back to Brin with an A for content, and a C+ for writing. One mild to moderate detraction is the liberal cut and paste approach that Brin used (maybe as a labor saving device)to graft previouly published material into Existence. The result falls short of seamless. Secondly, the characters don't play second fiddle in this space opera, at best they're part of the stage crew. Much like Kim Stanley Robinson in his latest hard sci-fi opus, 2312, Brin seems to frequently place the plot and characters in cryogenic suspension while he expounds (albeit entertainingly) on theories, conjectures, and technological tours de force that he has clearly been ITCHING to talk with us all about.
So....an "A" and a "C+" averages out to a high "B", does it not? The book is a must for those of you that were nerdy enough to download the SETI program that enlisted millions of home computers to (unsuccessfully) help search for evidence of ET's (yes, I was one of those nerds). The additional bonus of Brin's conjectures about the future of AI makes this an almost mandatory read for the hard sci-fi buff. But if you're into a story that flows synchronously, or into narratives that explore the intricacies of human relationships and social intercourse, and don't care all that much about the Great Silence (you really ought to!), you can pass this one by.
I found the writing ponderous, without the freshness of the Uplift books. It almost seems like "established" scifi writers feel a need to be ponderous and deep, profound and cautionary, controlled and admonishing. That's the way Brin comes across here. In that regard, he follows in the footsteps of Azimov and Clarke (who were always somewhat that way), Banks, Hogan, and others who grew too large for their own heads.
The book is readable, well-written, and mostly clever. However, it seems as though the author tired of it about 75% of the way through, and abandoned the structure he'd created, in order to get it done. In that regard, some of the [potentially] interesting ideas were left a bit underdeveloped. Perhaps Brin got too busy with TV cameos.
The book is worth reading for the novel ideas. But you won't close it after that final page and say to yourself, "that was great!" Because, simply put, it wasn't.
Definitely worth a read if only for the fascinating survey it makes across the solution space for the Fermi paradox, but don't get emotionally invested in the individuals... this isn't their story.