Existence – David Brin

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

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The Long Earth – Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett

When I first read about The Long Earth, this collaborative effort between Terry Pratchett and hard SF writer Stephen Baxter seemed to me… a little odd. As it did to quite a few, I am pretty sure. But now that I have finished the novel, I realize my suspicion was absolutely unwarranted. In fact, now I see clearly that this co-authorship is a match made in heaven. The Discworld series is, if anything, one of the biggest arenas for fictional thought experimentation ever imagined, be it related to technology, society, art, etc. Stephen Baxter, on the other hand, has the know-how to take Pratchett’s skill and panache for world creation to the next level – science fiction and its stricter adherence to mimesis. I am happy to say that the brainchild of the two authors delivers spectacularly. Continue reading