By David Brin
In 1995, the late Barry Horton (then Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) called a book to our attention as we prepared for our second Highlands Forum. It was a surprise to say the least—Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. We had never read much science fiction, and the thought of both a novel and a science fiction novel at that, as a foundation for our Forum conversations was a bit jarring. As usual, Dr. Horton was correct. Over the years we have been fortunate to have Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Orson Scott Card, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Charlie Stross, David Brin and others join us in Forum sessions and interviews to add great insight and perspective to our conversations. Dr. Horton also called Brin’s novel The Postman to our attention—a great story (and unfortunately a not very good movie, one in which Brin himself had no role), and that was the beginning of several appearances by David Brin at the Forum. Brin has given us another gift to enjoy this year, a new novel aptly titled Existence, a story that is sweeping on a grand scale. The Los Angeles Times suggests that this may be Brin’s masterwork. The story is set in the not too distant future, and features (as one might guess from the title) a discovery of other life existence. There is a reverent thread, perhaps an homage to Clarke, with the discovery by a “space garbage collector” of an object waiting for “contact”. Existence contains multiple story lines that will fascinate, infuriate, and resonate (particularly with reference to politics and the wealthiest few). Along the way Brin’s wonderful imagination kicks in with curious technologies, adventures, and cautionary moments. In sum, this is classic Brin. Thanks to Barry Horton for setting us on this path eighteen years ago. It has enriched us all.