My rating: 2 of 5 stars
wow, i feel like i deserve a medal for having gotten through this. when i turned the last page, i was up in the hills visiting a very wonderful and tolerant friend. i handed Existence to him and said: here’s this incredibly crappy book with a lot of great ideas.
the thing is… every “character” in this novel is a mouthpiece. a mouthpiece for a point of view, an idea, a thesis. not one of them is a character in the sense that you feel even a bit of them as moving, breathing individuals who might do something unexpected off the page.
and that’s really, really a problem in a novel.
i think that people who woo over “novels of ideas” have the bull by the tail, as it were–a novel should be foremost a novel, and secondarily a platform for ideas. and even then, the author has the duty to weave in the ideas organically, not just set up Joe B. as the avatar for Idea X. otherwise, why not just write academic papers or newspaper columns? i’m sure there are readers who live for “novels of ideas,” but this reader just fundamentally doesn’t get it.
plus, in this “novel,” the author gets sick of having to do plot and character altogether, i think, because 2/3 through he just waves a magic authorial wand and says: boom, well all that shit got solved. the book jumps forward in time and moves on to other subjects just when all the loose ends needed to be tied up. and then does it again! like, the most ADD ending i’ve ever read.
if all Brin’s books are like this, i think i’d rather read SciAm for my ideas, and find someone else who can do novels.