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Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an "alien artifact". Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer - a message in a bottle, an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.
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By Andreas Henriksson on 07-20-13
Will its universe envelop you?
Any additional comments?
I have noticed that reviewers are very divided on this book. I am one of those that found it amazingly entertaining. But might it be for you?
I had not read anything by Brin before, but will now. "Existence" tells me he is one of the authors that puts more emphasis on ideas rather than characters, sometimes even creating characters only to illustrate a philosophical notion.
To me then, he is an expert in making the philosophy I love come to life. He shows how abstract thinking might matter and he makes thinking the central activity around which the novel revolves. I would place him in the tradition of Asimov's Foundation series, although the philosophy Brin represents, is less invested in modernist and chauvinist notions of man's control over nature and the future. Brin's characters cannot control society or plan the future, but they try to matter in a universe driven by chance and that is partial to diversity.
So, if you are a lover of philosophy and other fields of ideas, you will love this book. On the other hand, if you find philosophical thinking boring, you will probably find the novel boring. Thirdly, if you are a person that have difficulty following abstract lines of reasoning, it is possible you will find the book difficult to follow and its plot full of lacunae. Many reviewers have this third kind of comments on the book, which actually made me a bit hesitant before I bought it. Although my comprehension of English is quite good, I do have difficulties following novels where timelines and plots are experimentally rearranged for some lyrical purpose. To my relief, I found "Existence" is not one of those novels. My conjecture is therefore that Brin's book is difficult to follow if you have difficulties following the ideas that are the actual core of the book. The plot does make some jumps in time here and there, and those can be irritating if you are invested in a certain character or series of events. The jumps are much more tolerable if you follow the ideas Brin develops.
There are however two slight shortcomings. Brin overuses the cliff-hanger trope. When every chapter ends with something akin to "He turned around and could not believe his eyes", it does become a nuisance. Secondly, although Brin mostly explores ideas, he sometimes starts to advocate them and does it too openly. The whole point of the plot, I would argue, is that humankind have choices and needs to embrace diversity. As that is a viewpoint I endorse, I am always hesitant when sci-fi authors advocate a certain way of doing things, rather than explore hypothetical scenarios. Brin should have excluded his postscript in particular, where he openly "explains" the thinking behind the novel and comes with some frustrating admonishments for humanity. I believe the novel is much more effective when that kind of advocacy is left out. With those two shortcomings, this otherwise brilliant novel only gets four "story stars" from me.
50 of 52 people found this review helpful
By Adam on 07-12-12
After a long absence, David Brin is Back
What other book might you compare Existence to and why?
In the Afterward for his book Earth, David Brin laments how hard it is to write a Science Fiction story set 50 years in the future, and how historically nobody has ever gotten it right. Here brin takes another pass at a near now. A future world neither Utopian or Dystopian. Just "Topian"....
Existence jumps around between its various characters in a scattered way, many are never fully fleshed out, and some simply fall off camera when they cease being interesting to Brin. Existence is a novel that either needed to be longer or shorter, cutting out the minor characters or giving them better resolution.
Still that issue aside the story is interesting and well narrated, the aliens and the threat/opportunity they represent are refreshingly original. This is however very much a book about ideas not people. The book is intended to be thought provoking, not to lead you down the familiar path of interpersonal drama.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Brin writes what I consider to be a solid ending to the story, Brin's biggest failing as an author has always been his Deus Ex Machanica endings, While there is a tiny touch of that here, it is a much better ending than seen in his other novels.
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
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By Rod on 11-10-12
Shame that the whole book is not on the download.
Don't bother. The end of the book is missing from the download.
Shame that this was not seen by Audible.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By Morgan Hughes on 12-23-12
Stick with it...
This book is absolutely fantastic. Actually, its IMPORTANT. But it took me a while to get into, and there are a few things I just had to decide to overlook (some of the language - ie it is set after some world-altering event called 'Awfulday', etc.), and in a way the book is a vehicle for the author to explore the theory and questions around artificial intelligence, alien life, and how humanity would react to first contact (which doesn't happen as you think it would!!). It is imaginative, and the further in you get, the more each thread of the story falls into place, and parts of the story that you thought may be 'filler' had intention from the start. It is my most recommended new read of the year, but you have to persevere - stick with it for rewards!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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By Frans on 04-06-16
An interesting view.
Looking at the end of this world by local or external means. This is an exploration of our motives and actions when confronted by an answer to one of the big questions. It also explores the social, political and economic effects.
Well written, very good performances and high production values provokes a high recommendation. This story is complex, involved and uses a plethora of characters. This book may need more than one reading to catch all the details.
By Thesle on 02-16-16
An interesting core with too much to wade through.
While this books central story might grab your interest Brin goes into so much detail about minutia that the art of story telling is lost. If this book was edited to one third the size it might be great, but as it is you can doze off for twenty minutes while listening and just keep listening, knowing that you won't have missed any key plot points. More bizarre is that the end of the story is rushed, skipping generations, even though the start is so slow.