Existence

by David Brin

Hardcover, 2013

Status

Available

Publication

Tor Science Fiction (2013), Edition: Reprint, 896 pages

Description

In a future world dominated by a neural-link web where people can tune into live events and revolutions can be instantly sparked, an active alien communication device is discovered in orbit around the Earth, triggering an international upheaval of fear, hope and violence.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Shrike58
Part of the current wave of "in-system" space opera that dispenses with technological magic such imaginary faster-than-light drives, I would have hoped that Brin as a working scientist would have topped novels with comparable themes by Kim Stanley Robinson, Paul McAuley, Charles Stross and the like; in that respect I was a bit disappointed.

In examining the impact that the arrival of an alien probe has on a world culture that has basically given up space exploration, the biggest problem here is that Brin has tried to shoe-horn all his concerns with current and near-future events into one book. This contributes to a plot that feels overly involved to no real point and is too didactic for its own good. There are no lack of worthwhile ideas but some ruthless editing was in order.

To put it another way, I'm inclined to believe that I got more out of Brin's contributions to the mini-series "Alien Encounters" then I got out of this novel and that's unfortunate.
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LibraryThing member fpagan
The vintage Brin we remember from _Earth_ (1990) -- this novel is comparably long and epical, intelligent and idea-packed, lexically clever and agreeably organized. Set in a time some decades ahead and involving ubiquitous AI and VR, elevated sea levels, runaway economic inequality, a conspiracy to end the Enlightenment, discovery of alien artifacts housing the uploaded personae of extraterrestrials, .... Spectacularly good -- seems to me that no one should be capable of writing more than two tales like _Earth_ and _Existence_ in a lifetime.… (more)
LibraryThing member rivkat
I missed Brin, it turns out! This is century-spanning space opera (though largely set on Earth), with big time-jumps, multiple species of humanity (including Neandertals, “auties,” and AIs along with dolphins), and attack memes from outer space. As with much big idea sf, it’s about our present problems: climate change, the apparently unstoppable power of wealthy elites, and more generally whether we will make it as a technological species over the medium term. The people are recognizable but outsize, and they hold different viewpoints; each is the hero of their own narrative. In short, it’s fun and a little bit thought-provoking (did I mention the attack memes from outer space?).… (more)
LibraryThing member rakerman
Basically a long exploration of the Fermi paradox. I found the structure of the book somewhat jarring as after 420 pages of following one set of characters, it abruptly jumps 20 years into the future and off of the earth, with many plot threads only eventually loosely closed. After 507 pages it jumps again to a different character grouping. Part Seven (starting on page 421) seems a bit awkwardly grafted onto the main book.… (more)
LibraryThing member seanvk
Appreciated the focus on the many risks to species survival beyond earth. The emphasis on sublight travel created a number of opportunities for a good story. But I felt that the author failed to capitalize on character development. I also disliked the story's jumping ahead many years and answering the questions / past conflicts in passing. It is a creative work but lacking in key elements to make a great novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member joeyreads
One star might be harsh, but I have to do it because I stopped reading this halfway through, felt relieved to be done with it and then somehow went back to it, and wish I'd not ended up finishing it. The infuriating thing is that any individual chunk of this is likely not bad, and some of them are pretty good, but the whole is just not there. (And the editing .. well, it's a modern 700 page novel, with dangling plot threads, so no, there was no editing.)

If it had a "warning: fixup novel" in the front matter, I'd give it 2 stars. But it's a stealth fixup, not done well. Be warned.
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LibraryThing member BrianSchweitzer


So far, about a fifth in, and the summary's Gerald has had only one short section. Seems like this will have many many sub stories converging, ala Neil Stephenson. It's definitely taking its time getting to any coherent main plot...

Completed now; this book is high thought, but far too slow to be interesting.… (more)
LibraryThing member eichin
A very good bit of "universe building", and some glorious extrapolation the internet and human nature in the face of the lightspeed limit. Doesn't have the forced anti-privacy elements some of Brin's earlier works have - they're just woven in as convincing inevitabilities of taking today's social-connected-everything forward a few steps. I'll leave it at that - don't want to spoil any of the intertwined setups for entertaining reveals (the book has a number of startling reveals that on further thought, "huh, I really *should* have seen that coming...") which I very much enjoyed. The story, and the universe, were both "well constructed".… (more)
LibraryThing member Fledgist
Brin does one of the most interesting takes on the alien contact story possible. This is a fascinating, entrancing, complex, and amusing novel. Well worth waiting for.
LibraryThing member jerhogan
This book is chock full of SF ideas and interesting musings. However it is a bit long at 650 pages.
LibraryThing member AlanPoulter
Existence is a door stopper of a book but big is not always best. The tragedy is that if this work had been slimmed down drastically and published as short fiction it would attain classic status for its inventive riffing on the Fermi Paradox: if there is life out there, why have we not found it yet? Yet as a bloated novel, which is padded out by way too much authorial riffing around the core theme, and some very wooden story vignettes which add very little to the overall concept, it becomes a bore. Another option would be to make a film of it, but as a novel it is a bloated, plodding dud.… (more)
LibraryThing member skraft001
A grand book full of novel ideas.
LibraryThing member clark.hallman
Existence, by David Brin, has gotten many very positive reviews. One reviewer from SFF World stated, “Existence is my top SF novel of 2012 and I recommend it without hesitation.” Well, I strongly disagree! Existence is a “first contact” science fiction book in which Brin presents some interesting and unique concepts that could have been woven into a very informative and interesting story. Unfortunately, Brin failed to accomplish that because the strangely disjointed narrative throughout the book did not provide a natural flow to guide the reader through satisfying experience. Brin includes a large number of interesting characters, long segments of their dialogue with each other, and even longer passages of their thoughts. Many of these passages were very interesting, but many of them did not seem to be relevant to any continuing story for the reader. In addition, after suffering through these long and seemingly irrelevant portions, many of the characters that the reader becomes acquainted with just vanish from the book without any explanation. In addition, the extreme length of this book combined with the lack of a coherent narrative exacerbates the reader’s confusion. I kept thinking that Brin would eventually pull everything together to provide the reader with an epiphany of understanding about the book. However, that never happened for me and I was very disappointed by this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tumler100
Existence starter ut med å beskrive livet til mennesker i forskjellige sosiale og økonomiske strata. Snart blir det funnet objekter som stammer fra andre kloder. Historiene begynner å konvergere og vi aner at boken utforsker evolusjon og de komplekse forutsetningene for liv.
Det viser seg at utsendingene fra rommet har flere agendaer og etter som tiden går får vi flere a-ha opplevelser og dypere innsikt i vansklighetene vi står overfor. Som ellers i David Brin's verk er det noen av historiene som ikke avsluttes men blir mindre viktige når nye faktorer trer inn. Nye problemer presenteres med løsninger, og kanske en triumf til slutt.
Existence ønsker jeg å lese om igjenn snart, for å forstå de skjulte lagene i denne glimrende boken.

Bakrunnen kan minne litt om Gregory Benford sin Galactic Center serie, men med et persongalleri verdig Vernor Vinges «Zones of Thought».
Boken markedsføres som en «stand alone» og ikke som en del av Uplift universet. Litterært har den også en helt annen tone. Dette er ingen heseblesende jakt mellom stjernene, men en kamp mellom intellekter og grunnsyn.
Brin leker denne gang mer med ord og perspektiver enn siden «Startide Rising» og gir en mangefasettert og spennende opplevelse.
5 av 5 stjerner *****

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Existence starts out describing the life of people of different social and economic strata. Soon objects from other worlds are discovered. The histories start to converge and we realise that the book explores evolution and the complex contingencies for life.
It appears that the envoys from space has several agendas and as time goes by we get several a-ha experiences and deeper understanding of difficulties we face. As in other of David Brin's works some of the substories are not closed off, but dwindles into oblivion as new factors enters the scene. New problems are presented with some preliminary solutions, and mayby finally a triumph.
"Existence" is a novel I would like to reread soon, to delve deeper into the complex layers of this glimmering novella.

The story setting reminds me of the Galactic Center series by Gregory Benford with a character gallery worthy of Vernor Vinges «Zones of Thought».
This novel is beeing markeded as a stand alone, and not as a part of the Uplift Universe. The tone of this book is also quite different. This is no pell mell hunt through the galaxies, but a joust amongst intellects and their world-views.
Brin plays more with words and perspectives than he's done since «Startide Rising» and gives us a many-facetted and thrilling experience.
5 out of 5 stars *****
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LibraryThing member MikeRhode
Packed full of ideas like a Brin book usually is, but I didn't think it cohered well, especially the last two chapters which took jumps in time away from the main story. A friend told me the last chapter was originally a short story so it may be that writing the novel around it didn't really work.
LibraryThing member Karlstar
I am normally a fan of David Brin's work and in whole this book was good. However, there are a couple of problems that cause me to have reservations about it. First of all, I don't know how to categorize this book. In the beginning, this felt like near-future SF, with a tremendous emphasis on VR/internet personal technology, artificial intelligence and some spaceflight. By the middle, it felt like a prequel to his Uplift series. Then it morphed into a first contact novel. By the end, I wasn't sure which it was. Its certainly near-future, but was all the time spent on it in the beginning just to set the stage for a first contact book? The second problem was that it is tremendously difficult to get into. The first 300 pages are spent introducing 4 main characters - 2 of which turn out to not be main characters at all by the end, while one new character almost takes over. There's just so much in that first 300 pages that was hard to read. After that, the pace picked up, but I'm still not sure this book came to a satisfying conclusion, by then it felt like there was another book coming. It never did quite match up with Sundiver or the other Uplift books, almost as if Brin decided he needed to revise some of his technology in those books and this is how he decided to start on it. Overall I liked it, but mostly because I'm a big fan of the Uplift books.… (more)
LibraryThing member mainrun
Big concept book with many exciting action scenes. The destruction of a Zeppelin, the person saved by dolphins, the political maneuvering, and anything with the Peng Xiang Bin character were well done. To be honest, sometimes I was not in the mood to read the 'big concept' parts: ways we are going to die, taunts to ET about contacting us, enhancing dolphins with human intelligence, collecting space junk, are we alone?, artificial intelligence, and SETI; just to name a few. I thought about them when I was in the mood, so all is good. It was a blast reading the Jamaican dialog out loud in my head.… (more)
LibraryThing member KarenHerndon
I love SciFi and I have loved all the other Brin books I have read, but I didn't love this one.
It took me forever to finish where I am usually a very fast reader- but I'm not sure why.
In the beginning I got lost in all the characters and even had to write them down to remember just who was who. Then just as I am really getting into their individual parts in the story, he moves the time head enough here several of these characters are not around anymore.
Then the ending- rather blah I thought.
Wouldn't recommend it to my reader friends sadly.
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LibraryThing member Guide2
Full of bright interesting ideas about the near future, mixed with alien colonization ideas. Very good read. First part of the book was really amazing, only the last few parts would ahve needed a bit more stitching together I think.
LibraryThing member leo8
Waaaay too long....
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
I may have to stop what I'm reading and read this...I like Brin and saw him talk at a bookstore (Borderlands) a block away...
LibraryThing member JudyGibson
Stimulating ideas about the long-scale future of humanity; the story's a bit choppy in order to explore the ideas. Many interesting characters. Going to think about this one for awhile.
LibraryThing member DLMorrese
This is a rare work in that it is intelligent and thought provoking. Unfortunately, skipping between POVs and issues with pacing can make it a slog to read at times. Still, the ideas and overall optimistic tone of the book make it worthy of the attempt. This isn't your typical sci-fi adventure. It takes a bit of effort on the part of the reader, but I recommend it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kevin678
Riding rockets as a sport, childish. Implausible storyline. Didn't get past 10 pages.
LibraryThing member chaosmogony
I waffled between three and four stars for Existence, but I'm going to give it the four even though I think it's more in the 3.5 range.

The cons first: the book is sprinkled with what read to me as indulgent author-insertions in the form of monologues and infodumps. As a regular reader of Brin's blog, which is quite good and thought-provoking, I found that not only his ideas but his blog-voice were creeping in far too often. This would be fine if it were limited to the pseudonymous narrations book-ending each chapter, but I found Brin often speaking in the inner thoughts of his characters as well.

I didn't like heavy-handed authorial intrusion when Dan Simmons did it in Flashback and I don't care for it here. It isn't the views espoused per se, as much as it is being jerked out of the story with the occasional eye-roll because you're suddenly hearing the author rather than his creation.

That out of the way, I thought the story itself was imaginative, thoughtful, and at least some (perhaps of the majority) of the characters were interesting enough for me to follow. There were a handful of sub-plots that felt out of place and never really went anywhere, but the story as a whole was creative and interesting enough for me to follow. There's a jarring transition around the last third to quarter of the book, after which some characters vanish along with their sub-plots, but being that this is ambitious SF I'm used to that and consider it part of the ride. The conceit of this book is...well, I'll say unique and leave it at that (on the most positive possible note).

Brin is, to me, always worth a read and Existence is no exception if you're into speculative fiction with a more optimistic slant.
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Language

Original language

English

Barcode

6697

Other editions

Existence by David Brin (Paper Book)
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