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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 ‘The Postman’

Civilisation: are we doomed? SKYFALL and 3 other ways of looking at it . . .

The poster for the latest Sam Mendes bond movie Skyfall, starring Daniel CraigLast weekend, along with millions of other people I’m sure, I went to see the latest Sam Mendes Bond movie, SKYFALL. I found the film highly entertaining – with some very impressive action scenes, a slickest of slick opening sequence, a surprisingly believable plot (for an action movie I mean…), and a rather irresistible performance from the easy-on-the-eye Daniel Craig.

But I also found it interesting (with my Orbit hat on) that this time, 007 wasn’t having to save the world by disarming a nuclear warhead (think MOONRAKER or THUNDERBALL) or stopping the spread of a deadly virus (think ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) or prevent an evil communist plot (think CASINO ROYALE and a whole host of other Bonds).

This time, Bond’s role was to combat the destruction looming from the leak of confidential information – by the world’s most sophisticated cyber-terrorist. Highly believable in this age of Wikileaks and hackers being potentially extradited for infiltrating US military systems.

It seems that the disasters befalling the various James Bonds have been evolving through the years – seemingly to keep up with the ways in which our world, our technology and our political and social struggles have been constantly changing. Because it appears that as we progress as a species, the potential pitfalls waiting to bring down Western world and civilisation itself seem to be constantly evolving too – and growing dangerously more numerous by the day. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

First contact with alien life . . . how will the world react?

David Brin's new science fiction novel EXISTENCE, about first contact with alien lifeDavid Brins upcoming science fiction novel EXISTENCE (UK |ANZ) centres around the discovery of an alien artifact floating high in Earth’s Orbit. It also boldly suggests that our continued existence was never a given. So we wanted to ask, what could First Contact mean for mankind? Are we on a tipping point? Read on for a collection of short excerpts from the book – and see this instance of First Contact from multiple angles . . .

In all of human history, only a few cultures ever managed to guide themselves across such a transition after making contact with superior outsiders, without first passing through long generations of intimidation and victimhood. Or tearing themselves apart . . .

 THE MOMENT OF DISCOVERY

Gerald Livingstone is a galactic garbage trawler, clearing up the residue of mankind’s now long-forgotten forays into the galaxy. The strangely alien artifact he stumbles across calls to him subliminally . . .

Could this really be a messenger from some alien civilization?

Bare fingertips hovered over the translucent surface, causing ripples to flow, as if preparing to meet him at the point of contact. Whatever lay within . . . it somehow knew. It sensed the nearness of living flesh.

What if it really is alien? And dangerous?

He couldn’t help suddenly imagining the oblong ovoid — gripped between his thighs — as something out of science fiction. A cuckoo’s egg. Perhaps a Trojan Horse. “Contamination” could work both ways. Might it be a terrible mistake to touch the thing? Read the rest of this entry »

David Brin on EXISTENCE, Google’s Project Glass and the transformative power of science fiction

Cover for the near-future science fiction novel EXISTENCE by David Brin, author of the Uplift novels - with a limited-edition 3D coverAt the end of last year, we here at Orbit received a very exciting treat in our inboxes . . . a new manuscript from the critically acclaimed David Brin.

Author of the classic UPLIFT series, EARTH and THE POSTMAN (made into a major motion picture), he’s widely lauded not just for writing thrillingly addictive science fiction, but also for his track record for accurately predicting the future within his novels.

It’s been ten years since the release of David’s last book, so the arrival of the manuscript for EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ) really was quite an event. And it’s no exaggeration to say that this could well be his pièce de resistance.

It’s an edge-of-your-seat novel of the near-future, where discovery of an alien artefact throws the world into chaos. The absolute compelling nature of this book, and the sheer breadth and brilliance of the ideas expressed within it made me want to find out more about David’s thought processes behind it (beyond the usual questions I’d ask as part of our author/editor relationship!). Read on for an insight into what lead to its creation . . .

David Brin, author of the near-future science fiction novel EXISTENCE - credit Cheryl Brigham

David Brin - photo by Cheryl Brigham

AG: Despite your incredible success as a writer, you’ve mentioned elsewhere that being an author wasn’t your first career of choice. Tell us more?

DB: Writing was the first truly verifiable, repeatable and effective form of magic. Picture how it must have impressed ancient people to look at marks – on papyrus or clay – and know they conveyed the words of scribes and kings long dead. Knowledge, wisdom and art could finally accumulate, and death was robbed some of its sting. Writing still is magical. To create strings of black squiggles that millions of others can skillfully de-code with just their eyes – into emotions and thoughts, or the struggles of believable characters.

Still, every culture had storytellers. I was drawn toward a much newer kind of profession, that only gained real momentum the last few generations. Science. A shared endeavor to find out what is true, despite our preconceptions.  Wow, that too is amazing! And I managed to contribute a few new bits of knowledge.

Still, when a chance came along to combine the two? Who wouldn’t grab such an opportunity?

AG: It’s been almost a decade since the release of your last novel. Have scientific developments over the last 10 years forced you at all to reassess the vision of the future you’ve held in previous books?

DB: Well of course. But remember, good science fiction isn’t about any static view. It should offer thought experiments about change.  How it transforms real societies and realistic characters.  Change has been the one, great constant of modernity and its rate is accelerating.  Many of our social and political squabbles spiral around this one fact. A lot of folks don’t like the staccato pace of disruptions and new ideas, even good ones. 

But if we don’t poke ahead, peering into the fog, how will we ever find our way?  Read the rest of this entry »

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