Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Existence” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.77  ·  Rating details ·  6,229 ratings  ·  860 reviews
Bestselling, award-winning futurist David Brin returns to globe-spanning, high concept SF with Existence.

Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital map
Hardcover, 553 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Tor Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Existence, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Roger Neyman The paperback edition has 884 pages including 18 pages of supplementary material ("Afterword" and "Follow-up Resources") after the official end of the…moreThe paperback edition has 884 pages including 18 pages of supplementary material ("Afterword" and "Follow-up Resources") after the official end of the book.

The hardcopy is listed as 560 pages long, but I do not know if that includes the supplementary materials.

It's a longish book but, once you get the hang of the complex narrative style (multiple POVs) it moves right along. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,229 ratings  ·  860 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Existence
Steven Mclain
Jun 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
First of all, Brin is among the foremost respected science-fiction authors on the market today. His stories have the power of an Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 series. Yet, like Clarke, Brin seems to have jumped the metaphorical shark (or dolphin, as the case may be). Put simply, this book is not much more than a re-hash of previously published stories (he follows their publication dates in the afterword to magazines to the early 80s) and stale characterization. Moreover, it's boring. I canno ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
An alien artefact is found orbiting the Earth and salvaged. The astronaut who found it became famous mostly because the Artefact seems to respond to the first one who touched it. Inside there are several species of aliens and humanity is trying to establish a communication with them.

50 pages in and I said to myself: I have found another favorite, yey! However, my excitement didn’t last long. Such a promising idea lost on the way because:

1. There are too many side PoV which add nothing to the sto
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While more essayistic and less intense than Earth, Existence reinforces David Brin's position as one of my favorite writers and thinkers. With the exception of another David (Zindell), I cannot think of a contemporary who has envisioned better and brighter futures, over and over again. At the Human Library, we're about to announce a contest for short stories looking at precisely these kinds of futures--and looking for the ways to get there. Both Brin and Zindell are at the top of our list of rec ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
This is one of the hardest books to talk about and rate because on the one hand it is very ambitious, the author put a lot of time and thought into it and it is the kind of sf I really would love more, but on the other hand I found about 90% of the book so misguided and infuriating that I felt like slagging it badly and giving it the rare 1 star rating I reserve for the truly atrocious novels from one point or another.

Below are some raw thoughts on why:

Let's start with the Afterword where after
Alan Denham
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: just-paper
Oh dear! I used to really admire David Brin. The first three books in his “Uplft Universe” are among the all-time greats (at least, in my reckoning). “Earth” is truly outstanding.
“Existence” . . . . Sorry, Dr Brin – this one just doesn't make the grade.

Of course, having said that I must now attempt to justify my position.
Well firstly let's cover the good bits. The background is a near future, extrapolated from current trends and is in the best traditions of 'hard' SF. So far so good, and an ar
Alexander Popov
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
(Originally published on my blog:

After ten years of absence, David Brin is finally back with a new novel. Reading Existence, it is not difficult to imagine how that monster of a book took so much time to write. It is huge, not merely in terms of word count, but also in terms of conceptual volume. Brin’s 1990 book Earth is a similar creature – teeming with predictions, explorations and interpretations of the near future, ultimately succeeding on most leve
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, sci-fi, 2012
I fell in love with David Brin back in 1985 when a co-worker turned me on to Startide Rising. That book was so phenomenal, I started reading every book I could get my hands on. I loved it all. In 1993, I was able to go to a book signing for Glory Season. I found that Brin is an extremely well-read man who manages to juggle an astounding number of ideas in his head. In 2002, he released Kiln People, I book that took me a couple of attempts to get through and which I really disliked. However, I co ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Clear the decks. A new book from David Brin goes to the top of the stack

OK, half way through now, and I think this is the most enjoyable book from Mr Brin in a long time. Some is familiar to me (Hacker's story), but so much is new, and often i will finish a section and just think about the ideas that come through. As a bookseller, I cannot wait to introduce customers to this book. (And hopefully, most of his backlist.)

Finished. What a great book. It was worth the wait. It kept me hooked until th
If I had to reduce this book to a few epigraphs, they’d be:

The relentless drive of evolution drives on relentlessly.
Deception is sometimes a darn good reproductive strategy.
So is competition.
So is cooperation.
Being sentient means we have some influence on which strategy we use.
But not as much as we’d like to believe.

This is Big Book written by a master of Big Ideas. An astronaut with a helper monkey finds a crystal seed in orbit. Turns out it one of billions, maybe more, that other intelli
Allen Massey
Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Big ideas, good science fiction, frustrating style

The story starts out slow and I was tempted to stop listening several time in the first few chapters. I recommend you keep going, a lot of interesting things will eventually happen. Unfortunately a lot of very uninteresting things also happen. It is almost like Brin had a goal of writing over 500 pages and was not going to let the fact that he only had 300 pages of material stop him.

On the plus side, the book has lots of great science fiction mat
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Existence is a couple short stories, a couple essays and an old Usenet post woven into a longer framing novella, most dealing with transhumanism and the Fermi paradox -- if we're not the only intelligence in the galaxy, then why can't we see signs of the others?

I didn't know that a good portion of the novel -- its short stories and some of the essays -- had been published before until I got to the end, where Brin explains it and I have my "aha!" moment -- so THAT'S why there were so many dropped
May 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Sandi's review nails it when she writes "Existence is a giant mess of a novel."

At its heart, this is another attempt to resolve Fermi's paradox, which asks the question, "Where is everybody?" The basic resolution is reminiscent of Alastair Reynolds's in his Revelation Space series. And I liked that aspect of the novel, and, if Brin had contained himself to that story, then I might have been be able to give it that extra star.

But he doesn't. This book is all over the map with multiple story lines
Matthew Fischer
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love Existence out of respect for David Brin and his previous works.

Overall it enjoys a rich setting inhabited by interesting but fairly uncomplicated characters who are driven by an overwrought plot more than internal motivations. The concepts and conflicts are compelling and interesting, but the narrative fails to engage fully.

The first half of the book is the problem,in my view, as there is entirely too much detail put into what are essentially tangents related to politics. Insi
Aug 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
this giant tome turns out to be at least half a dozen old stories the author wrote a decade or more ago and now mashed together like they were all one story of unrelated people and events.

i only kept going thinking there was going to be some way it all came together in some amazing way. it did not. a few of the stories were completely unrelated to the main story of the book. like red herrings. 100's of pages of red herrings.

like another reviewer here wrote, it was as if brin was determined to wr
Kevin Veale
I love David Brin's books. Normally. I really do. I need to go back and review more of them here.

Anyway, this is not a good book. There are good seed ideas here, but if anything 2 stars is generous.

The core premise is that the world is a little further ahead in time than we are now. Huge disparity between the rich and the poor, conflict over power and control, all sorts of things we are dealing with now but intensified. Into this mix comes an astronaut cleaning up earth's orbit who finds an alie
Jun 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I’ve been trying to catch up on classic science fiction as of late. Recently, I read through Isaac Asimov’s I Robot collection, which was written to an audience with a different set of expectations than readers today. Fifty-plus years ago, science fiction was largely a genre of ideas — where plot and characters took a back seat to shear innovation. In I Robot, the short stories serve mainly as a series of logic puzzles that explore the what-ifs of robot psychology. Today’s reader, on the other h ...more
Mårten Ericson
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of “Existence”, Brins first novel in about ten years I think, is a complex multi character, multi idea, multi side story based rather complex super hard sci fi work about deception. Again, this is hard SF. It is as far from any soapy space opera you can come and the wide variety of characters in the story includes (among others) a Chinese slum family, a Rastafarian pop-scientist (really cool by the way, wish we could have seen more of him), an author, a super intelligent news reporter ...more
Tim Pendry
I found this a very disappointing book after all the hype from the transhumanist community about Brin and the constant appearance of the book on my social media.

There is some interesting and innovative thinking here (although perhaps less so to anyone who has actually 'worked' Second Life'). Brin can also write well about character in short bursts.

This is overwhelmed by the standard faults of contemporary scifi - too many ideas not taken to a conclusion, an inability to take a stand that is not
This is a big book with a lot of big ideas. The time is the mid 21st century and the world has become wired in a way that involves constant virtual reality. AI's are crossing the line between smart computers and true sentience. In the midst of these changes, a space garbage collector discovers an odd object that turns out to be an alien space probe.

I loved the ideas in the story and the way the story kept moving in directions I didn't expect. What does it mean if we aren't alone in the universe?
Clark Hallman
Oct 18, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Existence, by David Brin, has gotten many very positive reviews. One reviewer from SFF World stated, “Existence is my top SF novel of 2012 and I recommend it without hesitation.” Well, I strongly disagree! Existence is a “first contact” science fiction book in which Brin presents some interesting and unique concepts that could have been woven into a very informative and interesting story. Unfortunately, Brin failed to accomplish that because the strangely disjointed narrative throughout the book ...more
The opening scene of Existence, David Brin’s long-awaited return to novel-length science fiction, is a great set piece that’s meaningful in a number of ways: astronaut Gerald Livingstone is working on the border of Earth and deep space, literally between heaven and earth—and helped by a monkey, no less. The symbolism couldn’t be clearer if he waved a flag depicting the Sistine Chapel’s God’s-hand-reaching-down-from-Heaven scene.

What Gerald actually does in orbit seems, at first, much less uplift
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Bravo! David Brin has written a masterfully polished work that contemplates deep ideas about a vast universe that manages to be a compelling page turner of a read.

The nested, parallel story lines and fragments of TED-like texts makes for a dense and richly populated world. One that seems to constantly teeter from the brink of falling into any number of traps that could doom humanity. A world that is self-aware enough to pull back from each catastrophe before it completely unfolds. Few authors h
Tom Merritt
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it

A fun read. Brin never fails me. A little frantic for some I expect, but I like the feel and breadth of the story. My only complaint is the dolphins seem to get left hanging.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So far as I can recall, I have never read anything by David Brin before, but I will definitely be looking for others of his works. It seems just a short while ago that I declared I did not give five-star ratings to fictional novels, but I seem to have done that a few times over the past couple years, and I certainly have to do so here. Having said that, I have no doubt at all that most people would not agree; most people, in fact, would say I am out of my mind. That is certainly true of most of ...more
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
This is one of the densest books I've read recently, both for better and worse.

The good: There's a rousing story here, with numerous subplots, characters, and ideas. It has everything but the kitchen sink: a near-ish future with plenty of personal virtual technology; AI; uploaded personalities; alien contact; Neanderthals reconstructed from old DNA; Uplifted dolphins (a homage to Brin's Uplift series, but not the same universe); autistic savants who are almost a separate advanced species (they'
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
David Brin has been too long absent from the list of New Publications, but he is back, and on form! This is science fiction doing what it does best - asking questions about what it means to be human, and about what we are doing wrong and could do better. This is what I expect from my science fiction: if I haven't been made to think, I've been wasting my time.

Earth touched on the Fermi Paradox (roughly: since it seems likely that intelligent life is common in the universe, where is everybody?), b
Sarah (Workaday Reads)
This book seemed like disconnected, vaguely related collections of stories that were pieced out in short snippets. Each chapter focussed on one storyline, but was short and cut abruptly to the next one.

I found it hard to figure out and keep track of all the storylines. Mostly because I only liked a few of them, mostly the ones that had some action happening like Peng Xiang Bin's story, or Tor's zepplin adventure. The majority of the time it seemed that nothing much was happening.

Another feature
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, hard-sf
Existence was a tough read. The opening chapters are kind of slow going and it didn't help that I didn't much care for any of the characters at first. So why five stars? Partly because it got better, things started to come together eventually, and the characters grow on you at least a bit. Partly because Brin's writing style is solid as always. But mostly because this is a mind blowing epic of a book.
Neo-Feudalism, the Fermi Paradox, the problems with AI, transhumanism, and all the ways the wor
Read it for an hour, and only got 20 pages off. Small font or dense prose. It resembles a school textbook. Seems pretty dazzing, at least the parts I understand. I like it when a book is just a little bit over my head. It would take me about 26 hours to finish the compact 553 pages. Think of the book as really having about 774 pages.

Virtual page multiplier *1.4

I'm tempted to get the ebook, but it looks like this book has a variety of font effects and even some diagrams, which tend to look worse
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Moved to ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Existence by David Brin 3 213 Sep 04, 2018 10:09AM  
SciFi and Fantasy...: Existence-December 2012 11 65 Dec 31, 2013 09:24AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Ender's Shadow: Command School
  • 2312
  • Guardian (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #3)
  • Earth Unaware (The First Formic War, #1)
  • The Skinner (Spatterjay, #1)
  • A Forest of Stars (The Saga of Seven Suns, #2)
  • Proxima
  • Redemption Ark (Revelation Space, #2)
  • The Accidental Time Machine
  • Noumenon (Noumenon #1)
  • Heaven's River (Bobiverse, #4)
  • Flood (Flood, #1)
  • Distress (Subjective Cosmology #3)
  • Flour Power: : Trail-laying Theory and Practice, for the Hash House Harriers
  • Your Short Game Solution: Mastering the Finesse Game from 120 Yards and In
  • The Light of Other Days
  • The Naked God 1: Flight (Night's Dawn 3)
  • The Golden Age (Golden Age #1)
See similar books…
David Brin is a scientist, speaker, and world-known author. His 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.

Existence, his latest novel, offers an unusual scenario for first contact. His ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends

Related Articles

Andy Weir takes his readers on interstellar journeys that explore science, survival, and the solar system. His characters have been stranded on...
168 likes · 22 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“... science demands a terrible price - that we accept what experiments tell us about the universe, whether we like it or not.” 9 likes
“We aren’t a curse upon the world. We are her new eyes. Her brain, testes, ovaries . . . her ambition and her heart. Her voice. So sing. (556)” 7 likes
More quotes…