Existence by David Brin
Existence by David Brin
Paperback: 896 pages
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction
Language: English
ISBN : 978-0765342621

Plot Summary:

In the 21st century the world is changing at an ever faster pace and seems to be teetering on the edge of a precipice. Whether that precipice will be oblivion or the Singularity, no one can really tell, until one day an astronaut garbage collector, using an orbital tether to lasso and collect space junk, picks up something that he was very much not expecting. And the world begins to change.

An alien artifact containing the uploaded minds of numerous races, the crystal ovoid at first seems to be an emissary of galactic civilization. But all is not as it seems, as things develop a story emerges of cosmic history, evolution, and the rise and destruction of civilizations. Add to this a plot by the worlds elites to end democracy and return civilization to a feudal social system (with themselves at the top of the heap of course), ecological chaos due to global warming, the development of both uplifted animals and lazurogened Neanderthals, a possible super-intelligence (derived from a rat) living in the Web, autistic people forming their own shadow civilization, and just maybe some sort of other dimensional beings who may or may not live in the places we can’t quite see and you have quite a mix.

By the end of the book, we have been treated to enough adventure for a solid trilogy and the sense of the cosmic destiny that Brin does so well.

OA Relevance: Low to Moderate

The future depicted by Brin is definitely not very hard science, but there are elements that would readily fit into the late Information and early Interplanetary Ages. And the sheer sense of madcap diversity and scale that begins to be presented in the latter part of the book might feel somewhat ‘OAish’ in spots.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Brin is a very skilled writer and if you aren’t bothered by the soft science SF (which I’m not, the book makes no claim to being hard SF and so shouldn’t be held to that standard), Existence is a rollicking good read.

The biggest problem I had with it, to be honest, is that Brin introduces so many concepts and plot threads and sub-stories that a single book is really insufficient to do them all justice. As a result we have a number of major events simply glossed over by an abrupt jump of many years in two different spots toward end of the book. I would have greatly preferred if Brin had simply written a trilogy (or even a tetralogy) and taken his time working through all the stories he has going. I would think an author of his stature could certainly wangle that kind of deal if he wanted it.

Overall Rating: A good solid and entertaining read that ends much too soon.

If you can get past the sense of the book rushing to its conclusion about 80% of the way in, you will greatly enjoy the vast and interesting vistas and implications that it opens up.

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