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Descent by Ken MacLeod

DESCENT Ken MacLeod

Author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century – what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother?
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THE LASCAR’S DAGGERGlenda Larke

The start of a brand new epic fantasy trilogy from the author of the Stormlord series – full of scheming, spying, action and adventure.
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Posts Tagged ‘Infinity’s Shore’

EXILES, Uplift and a message to any lurking aliens out there

Exiles, an omnibus edition of the Uplift Storm Trilogy containing Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach by the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Campbell award-winning science fiction author David BrinToday Orbit UK is proud to release EXILES (UK | ANZ), an omnibus edition of the critically acclaimed science fiction trilogy, the Uplift Storm series by David Brin. It contains BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY’S SHORE and HEAVEN’S REACH.

These novels, like all books in the multi-award winning Uplift universe, revolve around the theme of biological “uplift” – which is where one species genetically enhances another species to make it sentient.

The intergalactic civilisation called the Five Galaxies is made up of a multitude of sentient races, with each species having its own “patron” race, responsible for uplifting it. But it’s a mystery why humanity seems to be the only species in the universe that hasn’t been uplifted by another patron race . . .

This theme seems to reflect many fundamental questions we have about our own existence. Why do we appear to be alone in the universe as the only form of intelligent life? And if there are other intelligent life forms out there – how will they view us?

Being an active member of SETI, the organisation which conducts scientific research on life in the universe, David Brin is very qualified to talk on this subject. I thought Orbit readers might be interested to read David Brin’s recent post “An Open letter to Alien Lurkers”. It’s his plea to intelligent alien life forms to make sure they don’t get the wrong end of the stick about us humans. To paraphrase a few of the messages within this great piece:

—> If you’ve been monitoring humans’ TV, radio and internet for years now – please be reassured: we’re not all THAT crazy, violent or extreme. Our fiction exaggerates our actions, and our news just covers the bad stuff. But most of us are actually quite relaxed, stable, peaceful beings.

—> If you’re seeing us as dangerous competitors – please don’t. The more civilised we get, the more we realise that competition and cooperation aren’t mutually exclusive. We might be able to add something to the galactic community – and a little bit of competition is always healthy. So please can we talk about it before you either overlook us or blow us to smithereens?

—> If the reason you haven’t contacted us yet is because you’re waiting for us to reach some milestone level of cilivisation, then please could you give us a helping hand with this? We’re very keen to learn!

Trust me, it’s very worth checking this brilliant piece out.

EXILES (UK | ANZ) is the final in a number of beautiful reissues we’ve produced for some of David’s most prestigious and best-known titles, to celebrate the release of his recent masterpiece EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ). All of these books can be seen below in their full glory.

New covers for some of David Brin's most classic and award-winning science fiction novels : UPLIFT (containing Sundiver, Startide Rising and The Uplift War), Exiles (containing Brightness Reef, Inifinity's Shore, Heaven's Reach), The Postman, Earth and Existence

The Uplift Omnibus – making monkeys smarter . . .

The Hugo, Nebula and Locus award-winnign UPLIFT, an omnibus edition from science fiction author David Brin, containing SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WARThis week we’ve released UPLIFT (UK | ANZ), an omnibus edition of the first three award-winning Uplift books. It’s one of the most highly regarded classic science fiction series ever written. And it’s no surprise – because I can’t help but seeing signs everywhere that David Brin seems to get things so very right . . .

In the Uplift universe, humans have the technology to enhance the intelligence of other species – such as dolphins and apes – and they have raised these animals to our own level of consciousness. In fact, in these books no species has ever reached a level of sentience without being genetically “uplifted” by another race. But humans are the only ones who have seemingly never been helped out in this way . . .

This book raises some very interesting questions. Why does humanity seem to be the only species on Earth to have broken through what you might call a “glass ceiling” of sentience? What makes us so different to all the other species? And if we could genetically “uplift” other species – should we?

This question is much more pertinent now than you might think.

Recently, as reported by the New York Times, scientists have been experimenting with increasing the intelligence of monkeys by using brain implants. Granted, the research is aimed at helping people who’ve had their brain damaged through dementia, strokes or injury – rather than trying to help out the little furry dude involved. And for the moment, it’s just a case of the monkey being able to match up some objects and pictures a little better than usual – rather than hold a conversation about the meaning of life and the universe.

But the question arises – how long will it be until we really can raise an animal’s intelligence level to that of a human being?

Perhaps not that long, according to an article from the University of Edinburgh. It claims that a new gene has been discovered that might have played a crucial role in our development towards using tools and language. This gene is unique to humans, and seems to have developed after we evolved from apes. What’s more – it seems to have come from nowhere. It emerged fully-formed, over an incredibly brief period of time, from DNA thought to be “non-coding”, or else termed “junk DNA”. (David Brin asks, of course – might it have been “donated”?)

The very isolation of this gene, which brings us a step closer towards working out what makes us human, could also bring us closer to being able to artificially create it within other species. And if we can do this – what might these new, more intelligent animals be like? And what could we learn about the world and our place within it? But what risks might we also take by doing so? Planet of the Apes, anyone?

EXILES, an Uplift Storm omnibus from the Hugo, Nebula and Locus award-winning science fiction author David Brin, containing the novels BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY'S SHORE and HEAVEN'S REACHIf this question interests you as much as it does me, check out David Brin’s Hugo, Locus and Nebula award-winning UPLIFT (UK | ANZ), an omnibus containing SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR – out now.

And don’t forget that in January we’ll also be releasing EXILES (UK | ANZ), an omnibus containing the three Uplift Storm novels BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY’S SHORE and HEAVEN’S REACH.

And if you’re really keen, check out this awesome Uplift merchandise. A great Christmas present for a nerd near you!

Talking whales? And David Brin on…MTV? Something’s up…

Is it just me, or is science fiction starting to get more of the attention it deserves? It’s great to see that even MTV are getting in on the action – by filming David Brin at WorldCon 2012.

The topic was: why haven’t more species on Earth naturally self-uplifted to full sentience? With dolphins and apes sharing a similar intelligence level, and with parrots, crows, sea lions . . . and even prairie dogs being not too far behind, is there some kind of sentience “glass ceiling” that prevents bright creatures breaking through? And, if so, how did humanity manage to break through it and progress so far?

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The questions David Brin is asking are timely. Because a recent discovery suggests that perhaps certain animals have the ability to push their limits further…

Research shows that a beluga whale called NOC made vocalisations that sounded extremely close to human speech. What’s more – this wasn’t exactly easy for the whale involved. As an io9.com article explains further, it had to adjust its own vocal mechanics and inflate part of its blowhole (through which it usually breathes) to make these sounds.

Is this an example of a whale trying to reach out to us and meet us halfway? Could this open up possibilities for communication between different species?

And then that raises an even bigger question. Should it now be our duty and obligation to offer other “pre-sapient” species a helping hand? We do, after all, now seem to have the tools of science to be able to do so – as shown by this article on making monkeys smarter using brain implants. Or would that just be the ultimate form of arrogance?

These are among the questions being raised not just in the interview above, but also in David Brin’s classic and award-winning Uplift books, which are soon to be re-released in the omnibus editions UPLIFT (UK | ANZ) and EXILES (UK | ANZ). And he also portrays the beginnings of the uplift process in his latest book: EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ), released as a paperback this November.

EXISTENCE by the award-winning author of the Uplift novels, David Brin, a science fiction book featuring the beginnings of genetic uplift of animals by human beingsUPLIFT: an omnibus edition of the three science fiction novels SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR, by the award-winning author David Brin, and featuring genetic uplift of animals by human beingsEXILES: an omnibus edition of the three science fiction novels BRIGHTNESS REFF, INFINITY'S SHORE and HEAVEN'S REACH, by the award-winning author David Brin, and featuring genetic uplift of animals by human beings

 

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David Brin, award-winning science fiction author of EXISTENCE and the UPLIFT novels

David Brin – photo by Cheryl Brigham

== Essential Questions About Alien Life ==

And now the news from Alpha Centauri . . . (oh, I’ve waited for so long to utter those words! News. From Alpha Centauri) . . .

After an incredible decade, in which the number of planets known beyond our solar system increased from zero to several thousand, astronomers have detected an Earth-sized world orbiting between the two stars nearest to our system, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. Much too hot to sustain life, it nevertheless will help in narrowing down the search space for others. Moreover, now we have a target for the first interstellar probes, which are already under discussion. Indeed, the youngest of you readers may live to see the launch.

Ah, but this raises the perennial question. If planets are more common than we ever thought, then what about life-worlds? And even alien intelligences?

EXISTENCE by the award-winning author of the Uplift novels, David Brin, a science fiction book about first contact, the near future and a possible coming apocalypseI have been involved in this topic all my life, having grown up in Southern California, the part of human civilization least rooted in the familiar, traditional or . . . perhaps . . . sane. I am best-known today as an author of novels and stories about our many possible-plausible futures, including some that explore a wide range of possible extraterrestrial civilizations. My scientific career, ranging from optics to astrophysics, led to papers about SETI in the 1980s that include what is still the only full review article in the field, compiling all then public theories for what I called The Great Silence, but that is now more widely known as the Fermi Paradox.

(See a collection of articles and speculations about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI))

The Fermi Paradox refers to a question posed by the great physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1940s, demanding: “If it seems so likely the universe may host other life forms, how come we haven’t seen any signs?“  Not just of radio beacons, but of mighty structures that our own descendants might someday build out there in space. Or leakage from chatty commerce between civilizations. Or indeed, any trace that the Earth was visited during the 2 billion years that it was “prime real estate” with an oxygen atmosphere, but nothing higher than slime molds to defend it. Read the rest of this entry »

Cover launch! EXISTENCE and the new-look David Brins

EXISTENCE, a science fiction novel from the award-winning David Brin, admired by Stephen Baxter

This November, we’re releasing the paperback edition of David Brin’s science fiction masterpiece EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ). It’s his first novel to be released in ten years, and he’s truly returned in triumphant form.

It’s a breathtaking novel about First Contact – one that asks ‘why are we alone?’ and ‘are all civilisations doomed to fail?’ And it does it in spectacular, imaginative, mind-boggling, heart-thumping style.

See the paperback cover to the left and just a few of the reviews this unmissable book has been receiving:

‘Cleverly argued and uncomfortably plausible’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘A masterpiece of rock-hard SF’ SUN

‘Brin tackles a plethora of cutting-edge concepts…with the skill of a visionary futurologist’ GUARDIAN

‘Bursting with ideas, including near-future tech, first contact with aliens, and the exploration of what it means to be human’ i09.com

‘Existence is my top SF novel of 2012 and I recommend it without hesitation’ SFFWORLD.COM

But it’s not just EXISTENCE that we’re releasing this winter. We’re also giving a makeover to some of David Brin’s most classic titles. See the new-look covers below in all their glory…

New-look covers for David Brin's classic science fiction titles EARTH, POSTMAN, the UPLIFT trilogy and the second Uplifgt triology, called EXILES

See more info about each title below! Read the rest of this entry »

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