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.
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.
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.
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.
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 *****
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 *****
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.
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.