There are books that give you a warm happy glow at the end, ones that make you cry but understand how and why it had to happen that way. Some make you angry because you don’t understand or feel that the author made a bad decision. Existence has so many layers and is on such a completely different level that I’m struggling for words right now. Satisfied, elated, saddened, optimistic, thoughtful? There’s a start!
I’ve been glued to the book for the past two days and for some of that time I kept repeating to my husband, ‘I’m gripped and absorbed but still not sure what is actually going on’. It’s not because it’s confusing but because of the clever way it’s written and the fact that the reader and the characters learn about what’s going on at the same pace. It definitely feels like a shared journey.
The premise is very simple; is our existence guaranteed? Do we take it for granted and will we bring about our own destruction in some way? In our endless search to know we aren’t alone in the universe, that we aren’t just a grand fluke, what would we do if we found proof? And what would be do if that proof confirmed our greatest fears – that all technological civilisations die.
Do we accept that? Do we go quietly into the night? Do we fight, try to change the inevitable?
Actually the premise isn’t very simple at all is it?
This book has gotten so thoroughly into my head that even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about what I’d read.
At first I found the seemingly disparate cast a little confusing but as the book progressed, it made increasingly more sense. They aren’t people that are connected by family or associations in a traditional story sense, but by circumstances and a drive to solve the same problem. Each of the major cast were clearly defined and compelling in their own way. However, David uses the characters as a vehicle for exploring the book’s premise, which doesn’t detract from my enjoyment or liking of them, but does make different reading to more traditional character driven stories.
I found the technology fascinating. Existence is set in the near future, and I really enjoyed seeing David Brin’s vision of future technology. Existence is a good blend between hard and soft science fiction, the science feels real but the book’s core philosophy is around the social and psychological impact of that science.
The story is interspersed with excerpts from fictional contemporary articles and books, which add flavour and help build the story. They provided a fascinating insight into the sociology of the time and probably has relevance today! Another nice touch I loved were references to real authors and books from our time, viewed by the characters in the book as historical pieces, and a few of those made me chuckle.
I’ve not read anything by David Brin since The Postman when I was in my late teens and I loved that book a lot. I want to go and read his back-list now because his ‘voice’ is such a powerful one and he has a very clean, clear way of writing that even a pulp fiction junkie like me can understand.
Thought provoking but mind-blowing sci-fi at its very best.