Judging a book by its cover #5: “Existence” by David Brin

(image via mybiochemicalsky.wordpress.com)


The object of this series, which I am running in conjunction with my wonderful friend, Elle, who blogs at Inkproductions.org (well-written, entertaining and thoughtful articles on all things writing and blogging-oriented) is to grab a long-neglected unread book off our shelves, speculate on what we think the book’s about based solely on its cover and then – ta dah! – reveal what the book is really trying to say.

Is it unfair to judge a book by its cover? We’re about to find out!

A French philosopher, alone in his tiny Montmartre apartment and trapped in an unending loop of existential crises, finds himself  unable to express his pain through a wordy poem or lengthy impassioned treatise.

Expressionistically-constipated (almost as painful as the physical ailment but without a creatively-targeted Metamucil-equivalent to relieve the symptoms), he begins to agonise over whether there is any colour left in the world and if he will ever see it again.

Deeply agonised, and mistakenly believing his sense of monochrome isolation to be indicative of the state of the outside world, he unwittingly draw all colour to himself, draining the Earth of all its vibrancy, its creativity, and its ample stocks of cheaply-printed art prints on sale at souvenir kiosks everywhere.

As he drowns in his tiny apartment, now full to bursting with paints, crayons, rich textiles and Dulux colour charts, the Earth, bereft of even a gaily-decorated postcard, sinks into monochrome blandness, barely visible against the cloying blackness of space. (Although that doesn’t stop the endless queue of aliens seeking to invade us, who find us just fine.)



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 maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artifact.” 

Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.

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