200 pages in, David Brin’s Existence
Posted November 25, 2012on:
I’m about 200 pages in to David Brin’s Existence, and I can already tell this isn’t the kind of book that I’ll just be able to kick out a 700 word review. Hopefully doing a few blog posts as I get through the book will help me organize my thoughts, and see if my predictions and concerns were at least in the right direction. It’ll be fun to go back and reread these posts once I’ve finished the book. I will do my best to avoid major plot points and spoilers. I picked this up because I’ve been a David Brin fan for years and I was thrilled to learn that he had a new book coming out. this is one of those writers that I will pick up anything with his name on it. I trust him to deliver.
Existence is dense, it is sprawling, it’s sometimes completely unfocused, parts of it read like a thesis. God help you if this is your first David Brin, or if you picked this up thinking it was something to read casually.
First off, there are a ton of POV’s to keep track of. half a dozen people, not to mention the interludes and asides that serve as world building and convenient spots for infodumps. Many of the interludes are from something called Pandora’s Cornucopia. I’m not sure what exactly the Cornucopia is, but so far it seems to be a list of all the man-made and natural ways humanity could come crashing to an end – nuclear winter, flooding brought on by climate change, asteroid impacts, all sorts of morbid things, and then it goes on to say how we have or could survive them. there are some interludes by a deep autistic, and I had trouble understanding the syntax in them (perhaps that’s the point?). there is a metric-tons worth of people and places to remember, and stuff to keep track of.
The first hundred pages are incredibly slow. they are mostly observations, and very little plot development. I can see a casual reader who picked this up thinking “hey, this looks neat. it’s got a hand on the cover!” putting the book down at this point. I’m not sure where any of this is going, which plot lines are major and which are minor. Some sections have a cyberpunk feel that read like the bastard love child of Charlie Stross and Neal Stephenson. Other sections are biting observations on our addictions to tech, to multitasking, to progress, even when that same progress may not actually be moving mankind forward.
Brin is presenting more than just a story, he’s presenting an entire world, where everything is connected to everything else. I feel like a bit of a cretin for asking “but where should I be focusing? Just tell me what’s important so I can skim over the rest!”
200 pages in. the major plot has revealed itself and it’s very, very intriguing, but I’m still feeling pretty lost. Existence is a good read, and I believe it will soon become a worthy read, but so far it’s not a fun read. So sue me, I enjoy fun books.