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"Existence" by David Brin

Elle Fanning
ExistenceExistence by David Brin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A highly stimulating, addictive, fascinating food for thought book. Loads of great ideas and quotable quotes. I usually take weeks to read even 300 page books, but I've gotten though most of this 800 page book in two days!

This book has a complex plot. It also has lots of asides and sub-plots that seem like mere social commentary or futurebuilding at first but later become relevant to the plot. But even the most seemingly pointless asides and brief mentions of things in passing turn out to be relevant to the overall story.

Also, the story is a very good, logical, complex possible answer to the Fermi Paradox.

Some of the tech lingo/slang and AI puns can get a little annoying at times, and the name of one character, Tenskwatawa, kept tripping me up because I have no idea how to pronounce it. Also, Brin drags out the suspense of certain revelations a bit too much in my opinion, but I think that's because he wants us to put the pieces together ourselves and guess the truth before it is revealed. Oh, and Professor Noozone's affected Jamaican accent is a bit off-putting, but oh well. (It is still clear than he is black, if not really Jamaican.)

THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS. DO NOT READ BEYOND IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS.

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One note: Brin covers some pretty controversial ideas and points of view in this book, but he covers many angles and lots of later things kind of mock earlier POVs. I almost gave up on this book because of the POV of one group of characters towards autistics, but I'm glad I persisted. It still contains a few old stereotypes about auties and aspies but in general the best characters have positive or neutral viewpoints of auties. Even the most controversial character group, the group that wanted to change auties to be more social, wanted to find a way to do it while keeping the positive attributes of autism, and even give those positive attributes of autism to allistics.

I also like the handling of the queerness of the Gerald character. His queerness doesn't even get mentioned until the last 200 pages of the book, so his being gueer doesn't get to shape our opinion of him. He is also part of a group marriage, but that isn't mentioned til about halfway through the book. Both references are relevant to the storyline but said in passing, just another couple layers of this complex character.

There is also an important character, Xiang Bin, who is a poor and undereducated Chinese man, and Brin does a good job of showing that he is still clever and intelligent even though he is not very educated. Bin is also endearing and funny, a true underdog type.

For a while, I wondered if this book took place in the same universe as Brin's Uplift trilogies, and maybe the same universe as "Earth," but later plot points disproved this. I wondered, because a lot of the technology in Earth and Existence (such as subvocalization) is the same, there was a hint in Earth that the black hole was made by aliens, and uplifted dolphins appear in Existence. But now it is plain that is just some of Brin's obsessions, obsessions I happen to agree with.

Best of all, the ending message of embracing diversity is lovely; allistics, auties, neo-Neanderthals, and AIs all working together in harmony. Beautiful!

All in all, I highly recommend this book!



View all my reviews

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Comments

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acelightning
Dec. 15th, 2013 09:14 am (UTC)
Tenskwatawa, "Ten-squah-tah-wah". He was the brother of the better-known Tecumseh, and, since he was a shaman, Tenskwatawa, rather than Tecumseh, is probably behind "Tecumseh's Curse".
fayanora
Dec. 15th, 2013 10:45 am (UTC)
*Snort* Figures that Brin character would name himself thus. It's not his real name, and the other thing he has people call him is The Prophet. He's the leader of something called the Renunciation Movement, which was an anti-science, anti-progress movement bent on returning humankind to feudalism.
acelightning
Dec. 15th, 2013 11:30 am (UTC)
Well, shamans usually take a new name when they experience their transformation. Tenskwatawa also called himself "The Prophet", and his movement renounced all "white men's" ways, especially Christianity, alcohol, guns, and European-style clothing; he was bent upon returning Indians to their pre-Columbian ways of life. Never mind "basing" a character on someone out of history - Brin seems to have gone all the way to outright plagiarism :-)


Edited at 2013-12-15 11:33 am (UTC)
fayanora
Dec. 15th, 2013 11:41 am (UTC)
Except that feudalism is a pattern that existed only in Europe and some parts of Asia.

Oh, and there were parts of Hamish Brookeman's character that seemed autobiographical. For instance, Hamish is a famous author who used to be a scientist, just like Brin.
acelightning
Dec. 15th, 2013 11:48 am (UTC)
I've never read any of Brin's stories, and I have no plans to ever read them. Just not my thing.
fayanora
Dec. 15th, 2013 11:57 am (UTC)
Shouldn't knock it til you try it. He is seriously the best scifi author I've ever read. And I've read Heinlein.
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