Sirk TV Book Review: EXISTENCE [Tor]
The revelry in “Existence” [David Brin/Tor/560 pgs] is approaching perspective with a whole new set of psychological eyes meant to balance that in which we see with that which we don’t. After the advent of big science fiction from “2001” to “Star Trek” to “Star Wars”, the balance has always been on where we can get to and how fast. The narrative here speaks more of an inner source but not the kind that comes from spiritual awakening though that sometimes is the overall impact. While bustling at a long running time jumping around in textures of vignettes that sometimes never get completed, the insistence is to make the ending of the implementation one of your own. This works supremely well in the character of Tor, a journalist who suffers a catastrophic accident on a zeppelin at the beginning of the book which opens her up to a whole new means of vessel representation,. The precept of the book hinges on the aspect of cylinders sent out through the cosmos being discovered as emissaries from long dead alien civilizations. However their intention (or at least the element below those intentions) are not fully clear in terms of what they are really trying to represent. As the book continues along, the question becomes whether to adhere to the request of the idea of downloading personalities into a glass capsule no bigger than a book and sending it across the cosmos for million of years with consciousnesses that seemingly never die. Add to this progression, the burgeoning of AI intelligence with more humanized traits and it does create the “existential” interlude both figuratively and philosophically. Later in the book, Tor, over-fitted with a bionic body that simulates even her face, finds a long dead bio-centric type of civilization that seemingly underwent a interstellar war of sorts where one of the battles was in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. Within this action, these beings were also trying to genetically fashion biological life to survive on Earth though the ultimate reason is unknown. The logical end is the actual perception of personalities of themselves downloaded into the capsule whose ultimate destination is quite intriguing. The novel in all essences does create a distinct, populated world though sometimes the narrative is disjointed (in the form of many jump cuts) but that indeed is the point of the story: to not spoon-feed the audience. The imagery is not overly done but perceived just enough to give from the AI ware to the bionics to other types of technology a slight sense of the world. While dense at times, the internal musings of the characters provide a balance of emotion and drama though sometimes the tech talk overcomes any higher chatter. Despite any of this and because of it. “Existence” is quite intriguing simply and, in many points, because of its approach to the material which takes a different road than many before it.