‘Existence’ by David Brin is a hefty science fiction that will become one of the names to define the genre of our time.
We’re in the year 2050 (or thereabouts) and everyone in the world is connected into a virtual network that requires implants and glasses that feeds them into their surroundings. Space exploration is currently on hold. We first meet Gerald Livingstone who is cleaning up space junk, and during his work he finds a strange object – a crystal – amongst the debris, an object that turns out to be a manufactured storage that contains a mass amount of different aliens that are soon completing to get first Gerald’s, then the world’s attention.
Peng Xiang Bin, a father to a young family desperately trying to create a life for them all, finds a second crystal which should offer more information to the mystery of what’s going on – yet the messenger within only claims that those inside the first found crystal are lying.
Soon everyone is out for himself or herself, pushing hard for their own personal causes and agendas, soon making the reader wonder whether the human race is ready and able to survive the results.
This book starts of very slowly, trying to introduce the world and the motivation of those we’re reading about. In order to fully appreciate the plot you need to take your time and absorb what is happening, but even then throughout the novel it is full of facts and details that become all the more important as the story progresses.
The characters are hard to define – some of the most important to the integral plot not being as easy to identify or connect with than that of several background characters who, at the end of the novel, you wonder why they were included at all. Characters such as Hacker and Tenskwatawa who were enjoyable and interesting, yet don’t seem to serve any real purpose, which is a shame.
Regardless, this book lasts long within your thoughts long after you’ve finished it. The main question this novel seems to ask ‘is humanity destined to repeat mistakes made in the past?’ (Though not necessarily by humans.)
This question isn’t ever really answered, which seems to add more to the story rather than feeling like it’s lacking.
Overall, though this is hard science fiction and may be boring to those perhaps looking for something a little more accessible, it is a valuable edition to the genre. The printed version with the holographic 3D cover is a nice touch.