Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Mon Jun 18 21:03:01 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #67

%T Earth
%A David Brin
%I Bantam Spectra
%D June 1990
%O hardcover, US$19.95
%P 601
%G 0-553-05778-2

David Brin's new novel, Earth, is a triumph. Brin has done it again. I predict that if he doesn't win the '90 novel Hugo it'll be because the committee figures three inside of a decade's span is a bit much.

This novel is SF in the great tradition. It has exotic speculative physics, suspenseful plot, breathtaking (and coherent) speculations on the nature of consciousness, characters you can believe, a richly worked out future with a weird but plausible history and new ethical dilemmas of its own. Cosmic scope and human-scale action. Love, tears, psychological insight, madness, death, life and apotheosis. An ethical core of passionate but clear-sighted concern for the fate of our planetary ecosphere. And even an Illuminatus! reference! :-)

I'm not going to try to summarize the plot here. There's too much to fit in, nor could I properly convey the way the book gathers momentum as one reads to convey what seems like an exponential explosion of intellectual challenge and action. Also, the viewpoint shifts between several major characters with very different personalities who draw differing meanings from them, so attempting to summarize what happens would require a bio or three.

Perhaps as wonderful as the book's ostensive plot is the numerous other ways it celebrates the rich history of Earth's biosphere, our possible futures, the resourcefulness of the human animal, and even the very genre tradition within which it is written (a number of conscious allusions are acknowledged in an afterword). Brin has woven several of the most traditional motifs of SF with the most advanced thinking in physics and biology and AI and several remarkable speculations of his own. Lesser authors would have worked an entire (but thinner) novel out of just his portrait of the future of computer networks alone.

So don't wait for the paperback; pay the twenty bucks. This is probably the best SF novel you will read this year.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Mon Jun 18 21:03:01 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>