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Billions of planets may be ripe for life, even intelligence. So where is Everybody? Do civilizations make the same fatal mistakes, over and over? Might we be the first to cross the mine-field, evading every trap to learn the secret of Existence?
Astronaut Gerald Livingstone is an orbital garbage collector, clearing a hundred-year mess, when he spots something unexpected — a glinting crystal, unmapped and strange. An hour after he captures it, rumors fill Earth's infomesh about an "alien artifact."
Peng Xiang Bin is a shoresteader off the Chinese Coast, salvaging homes abandoned to the rising tides. Under one mansion, Bin finds a secret treasure cache. One box bears a warning: Inhabited by Demons.
Tor Povlov is a new-era reporter, a genius at trolling Web and street for exciting and heartbreaking "you are there" reports. On a cross-country zeppelin tour she documents an America and world fracturing apart, torn between a future promising godlike powers for all ... and a beguiling past that might offer the only sanctuary. She does not expect to find herself — and her million-member smart posse — snagged by the biggest story ever.
From a tribe of beleaguered dolphins to the highest mountain observatory, Existence asks the question: Are we alone in the universe? Does every bright new race stumble over the same pitfalls? The same, entrapping seven hundred ways to fail?
Thrown into this maelstrom of worldwide shared experience and tension over human destiny, Livingstone's Artifact is a game changer. A message in a bottle, an alien capsule that wants to communicate ... but for good or ill? The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.
indiebound.org US: paperback
Kobo.com US: ebook
Brin reads Chp. 1, "Amphorum"
For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and Gerald Livingston has to clean up the mess. Only... there's something spinning a little bit higher than he expects.
and Chp. 2, "Aficionado"
It is an Age of Amateurs, where passionate citizens take their hobbies to new heights. Hacker Sander and other rocketeers hurl themselves skyward for the thrill of it. Meanwhile, other citizens fiercely monitor the environmental toll.
and Chp. 3, "Sky Light"
Aice reporter Tor tries to mine Sandiego for one more exclusive before assuming her new job center-frame in Restored Washington.
and an interlude
Why do folks in every age and culture seem fixated on the World's End? From Ragnarok to Revelation to comets... a short but thorough (and amusing) tour of this perennial obsession with doomsday!
Is Existence: an uplift "prequel"? In many ways, yes. David Brin's bold newest novel explores the ultimate question: Billions of planets may be ripe for life, even intelligence. So where is Everybody?
The Uplift series is one answer.
An illustrated companion to the series, Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide To David Brin's Uplift Universe, is a fun tour of the many alien races in the Uplift Universe.
Learn more about all of Brin's novels and books here.
These shorter stories are also set in the uplift universe. Learn more about all of Brin's shorter fiction here.
In the novella, "The Smartest Mob," a news reporter finds herself aboard a passenger Zeppelin that might — perhaps — have been turned into a weapon of terror. No one will listen — not the government or the Zep company. No one, that is, except a semi-random band of amateurs, scattered around the globe.
"Aficionado" takes you on a wild rocket ride — the new sport of the super-rich in 2050. Hacker Sander is spoiled, temperamental and a champion rock-jock, expert at the game of Space War... till a crash landing throws him into lethal peril. His sole hope? A tribe of strangely savvy sea creatures, with a secret need of their own. (This story is also available as a podcast.)
In "The Shelter of Tradition," it's 2050 Shanghai, and a mother and her child must flee dark forces in broad daylight while evading the gaze of a hundred million cameras on every ledge and lamp-post. Her only hope is assistance from a strange little boy... and the refuge of the Wonderful World of Disney and the Monkey King.
Another novella-excerpt tells the story of a brave Chinese man trying to make a life in the flooded boundaries of Shanghai, who stumbles upon a great and terrible discovery, in "Shoresteading."
Here's an 'Interlidolude' that describes how we will keep our 'machine mind' offspring loyal to us humans.
Brin posted this excerpt-chapter at his blog, Contrary Brin. It's set at a transhumanist convention in the year 2040, and the point of view character is using a LOT of augmented reality (AR) gear as she strolls the aisles, sampling hot new tech trends. Not the most action-packed scene in the book... but still, geeks, especially, will be amused.
Novels of the near-future explore present-day themes and issues, and Existence is no exception. Here are a few articles and interviews that touch on them:
... that's already racking up predictive hits! This article (by Steve Outing), examines how journalist Tor "relies on credible smart mobs and ubiquitous connection" (and tru-view glasses suspiciously similar to Google Glass!) to break a story.
"In Existence, David Brin takes on one of the fundamental themes in science fiction — and what is also one of the fundamental questions humanity faces in this century. Since Brin is both a great storyteller and one of the most imaginative writers around, Existence is not to be missed."
"Take a world soaked in near-future strangeness and complexity... Add a beautiful alien artifact that turns out to be the spearpoint of a very dangerous, very ancient invasion... Hotwire with wisdom and wonder... Existence is as urgent and as relevant as anything by Stross or Doctorow, but with the cosmic vision of Bear or Benford. Brin is back."
"Existence is a book that makes you think deeply about both the future and life's most important issues. I found it fascinating and I could not put it down."
"(Existence is) all about the chaos and passion of adolescence — the designs we make for our lives when we're young, before unforeseeable events send us spinning into strange new orbits.... It also proposes that the best way to confront these answers is deeply human: to be creative, diverse, compromising, curious. That to reach Heaven — or something like it — requires that we look beyond ourselves, beyond humanity (all six species of it), and into the universe beyond."
"Featuring memorable characters and masterly storytelling, Brin's latest novel provides food for thought and entertainment. Fans of Vernor Vinge and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as Brin's own sizable fan base, will enjoy this multidimensional story."
"Brin's thoughtful, multilayered story explores a first contact scenario where every twist reveals greater peril. His longtime fans will especially appreciate that this story could be read as a prequel to 1983's Startide Rising, while those not familiar with his work will find it an impressive introduction to one of SF's major talents."
"Science fiction fans were finally given what they crave: Real science explained and possible science dreamed, all wrapped up in an excellent story. After reading it, you feel like you've done an A-level and experienced a cultural event. Daring yet plausible, challenging yet rewarding, it raised the bar for grown-up alien contact sci-fi."
"So, if you like thinking about Big Ideas in novel form, buy Existence. And, if you would like to retain the Fair Information Principles in a near future of surveillance in public, consider Brin more carefully when you imagine how life will and should be in the coming decades."
"Some books make grand claims in their titles that seem impossible to satisfy — but David Brin's Existence is completely justified. The award-winning futurist (his other novels include Earth and The Postman) is interested in nothing less than humanity's past, present and future in his complex new novel.... Whodunits are a sure thing in publishing — just about everyone loves a good mystery — but Brin's multifaceted novel proves that another question resonates just as powerfully with most people: Are we alone in the universe?"
"Brin's narrative navigates the globe as his large cast of characters deals with the prospect of what the aliens have to offer. There are shocks to come, including the existence of competing artifacts (these aliens are a contentious lot), as well as the disturbing possibility that it may all be a hoax."
"I recently listened to David Brins latest novel, Existence, a very large novel — in ideas, content, and pages — about the not-too-distant future of humanity. It hooked me right away and I've been running a lot more lately because of my looking forward to listening to the novel. Now I've finished it I'm not sure I can find a similarly enthralling listen."
"In his usual fashion David Brin has written an understated masterpiece that is a truly amazing complex piece of literature. Brin is a fantastic writer who has gone back to the well and delivered an absolute gem..."
"Set mostly in the mid-twenty-first century (though the plot extends for several decades), Existence is, among other things, a veritable encyclopedia of SF concepts and subgenres. An inventive alien-contact story lies at the heart of the novel, while much of its science-fictional technology derives from the legacy of cyberpunk but moves beyond most cyberpunk to contemplate the potential of a genuinely posthuman future. Along the way, Brin also injects elements of political intrigue, space opera, media satire, class warfare, and post-disaster (economic, environmental, and nuclear) recovery efforts."
"If you are among those who have complained that there is insufficient hard science fiction, imagining a future that is a realistic extrapolation based on what we now think are genuine possibilities and genuine constraints, David Brin's novel Existence may be what you have been longing for."
"I would consider Existence to be a triumphant, epic Science Fiction novel on many levels. It stayed with me after I set it aside for the day, continues to simmer in my mind now that I've finished reading it, and has opened up a gateway to Brin's novels I'd wanted to enter for a while. Brin achieved an excellent gestalt of character, big ideas, and narrative energy. Existence is my top SF novel of 2012 and I recommend it without hesitation."
"But admirers of this type of novel — and I'm one — can take renewed hope with the appearance of David Brin's Existence. It's an overt claimant to the [Stand on] Zanzibar throne, and a worthy one, Version 2.0 of his similar performance in 1990's Earth."
"Science fiction is as much a literature of the moment as it is of the future. This book, then, is both a warning and an encouragement: a novel that engages with the world we're building and tries to show us a way to become a mature civilisation rather than a raggle-taggle band of individuals. Technology has libertarian roots, but in the end we build the tools that construct a civil society. In Existence Brin shows us the world our technology is building, and then poses one of the biggest questions: what is it all for?"
"Brin tackles a plethora of cutting-edge concepts — such as the Fermi paradox, the ascent of artificial intelligence, and the evolution of technologically enhanced humanity — with the skill of a visionary futurologist, and while his extended cast of characters is set up to articulate ideas, they come to life as distinct individuals. If he does resort to long info-dumps, it's necessary in order to convey the depth and breadth of his startling future. Existence is Brin's first novel in 10 years, and it's been well worth the wait."
"Ultimately, the book is a call to explore and delight in not only the beauty and the diversity of the entire universe, but especially our own home planet and all that reside here."
David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More
Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More
Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More
Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More
David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More
Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More
Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More
Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More
Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's community pokes at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate and infuriate.
reviews and recommendations
"Even the more advanced and older alien races are not just godlike beings of infinite wisdom, anymore than the Gubru and similar nasties are simply scientific demons. Brin's gift for diversity and for showing paradoxically the human side of alien races is something extremely rare in science fiction authors."
— Fantasy Book Review
"This is a fun novel, rich with ideas, that examines on a very human level the ramifications and side effects of our ambitions and the things we take for granted. It's also a hard-boiled murder mystery with levels of physics and metaphysics that work your brain. But for me, as always, it's David Brin's characters that really pull me into the story and keep me up until three in the morning."
— Barnes and Noble Review
"Brin's canny sensitivity about the complexities of human nature transcends gender barriers in a novel that is not so much about 'women's issues' as the necessity for change and variability. As in Earth, the author demonstrates his ability to empathize with all his characters. This complex and gripping tale belongs in most libraries."
— Library Journal
"Brin is a fantastic author, who has created a dense, complex futureverse with generally amusing alien races and uplifted Earth races, who amuse even during the most dramatic events. The crux of the story is how does mankind carve out an autonomous existence in the face of alien races with much more advanced technology? Who assists them and what odds do they overcome to succeed?"
— Amazon.com customer review