I managed to surprise myself earlier this week by picking up to read Stephen King’s new Dark Tower story. I was looking for some light reading and the nostalgia factor kicked in, I guess, sealing the deal. The Dark Tower books are special for me in the way only stories read in teenage years can be. For when you are still that young and feel nigh immortal, you read differently, don’t ya, sai? You tend to imagine and live through worlds and characters more intensely, you empathize more on a purely gut level. Even though you still have much to learn about the arts of reading and living, or maybe exactly because you are still so unburdened. Some of those worlds, not necessarily conjured by the best of writers, live on in your mind with greater vividness, fading with time, but potent nevertheless. For me, Mid-World, Gilead and the Dark Tower multiverse as a whole are such worlds. I always associate them, through the eyes of Roland and his ka-tet, with psychological images of particular poignancy, archetypal and mythical even. Continue reading
Following the release of Existence, David Brin’s first new book after 10 years of absence, Orbit will reissue the author’s best-known works. The beautiful new covers in the style of the UK edition of Existence are a great incentive to add any missing titles to one’s collection. If you like sweeping space stories fueled by bold ideas, chances are you will like the Uplift books, too (I haven’t read The Postman). If I have to recommend just one title by Brin, though, that would have to be Earth. In scope and ambition it is much akin to Existence, but slightly better focused, plus its ideas and predictions are still relevant after more than 20 years since its publication.
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After ten years of absence, David Brin is finally back with a new novel. Reading Existence, it is not difficult to imagine how that monster of a book took so much time to write. It is huge, not merely in terms of word count, but also in terms of conceptual volume. Brin’s 1990 book Earth is a similar creature – teeming with predictions, explorations and interpretations of the near future, ultimately succeeding on most levels. Existence has inherited that DNA, but the author has raised his latest brainchild with even greater ambition. It is not just the near future that is in focus here but the whole timeline of existence, its image refracted through the lens of human civilization. That’s right, the novel’s title aptly summarizes all the numerous threads that make the book, because they all eventually point to that very concept. What is the purpose of life and intelligence? Is survival in the cold universe possible? How do we even define different modes of existence and how do we understand them better? These are the questions that run throughout the text and the curiosity, meticulousness and imagination with which Brin tackles them on every page make Existence a notable event on the SF horizon. Continue reading