Existence (Review)

Existence (Review)

I really didn’t think about how far distances were in space until my friend Jesse and I started working on Solar Trader, a game to be released off our Gridsims.com site eventually.

See, Solar Trader deals with flying around this solar system. It’s done with squares, and the distance between Earth and the sun is nine of them. That’s cool, until you work out that Pluto (yeah, still a planet – I’m a purist) is something like 530 squares out (and I’ve flown it – it’s a long haul). The Ort Cloud (where the comets hang out) is something like 4000 squares out (and not in the game, so don’t try).

In this scale, our nearest star beyond our system is Alpha Centauri, and that’s something like 2.39 million of our squares away. So, yes, space is a really big place.

A point David Brin makes in his wonderful book Existence.

Hyperspace and warp drive are fantasies – let’s put those to bed. If you are going to cross the void, you do it the slow way, too slow for anything to survive. And so one day, gritty astronaut Gerald Livingston is out roping space trash from high orbit and he finds himself in possession of a black orbish pod, one that (when touched by both sunlight and his hand) allow images of aliens, many many aliens, swarm up to the face of the rock and try to talk to him. The thing is, this doesn’t seem like a unified galactic federation – they are all pushing and shoving. And from there, the book gets more curious by the page.

Brin does a wonderful job exploring all manner of scientific questioning, like if there were aliens, why haven’t they communicated with us before this? And how can you spread your race across galactic distances and time? And just what sorts of pitfalls exist that can doom a tech-budding race (so, so many…)? I’ll be just finishing one jaw-dropper when another pops up. In a way, it reminded me of my old favorite Snow Crash, all grown up and thoughtful.

In between all this, we get a glimpse of his older stories, of the first uplifted dolphins and the hint of things to come.

So if you like scifi that’s thoughtful and poignant, and storytelling that occasionally trashes main characters (Brin seems a follower of RR Martin in this respect), I’d strongly recommend this book.

Hell with strongly. Get it! It’s brilliant!