Updated Thursday, 18 October, 2012
David Brin is one of the best authors I've had the pleasure of encountering. His is not a perfect world, and he really makes the reader think. He raises philosophical and moral questions that are not always easily answered. With the sole exception of Otherness, I highly recommend all of the books I have read by him. Otherness is a collection of short stories and essays. Parts of the collection are great, but other parts are a struggle just to get through.
A microscopic black hole has accidentally fallen into the Earth's core, threatening to destroy the entire planet within two years. Some scientists are frantically searching for ways to prevent the disaster. But others argue that the only way to save the Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct: to let the evolutionary clock rewind and start all over again. (from the back cover of the book)
Young Maia is fast approaching a turning point in her life. As a half-caste var, she must leave the clan home of her privileged half sisters and seek her fortune in the world. With her twin sister, Leie, she searches the docks of Port Sanger for an apprenticeship aboard the vessels that sail the trade routes of the Stratoin oceans. On her far-reaching, perilous journey of discovery, Maia will endure hardship and hunger, imprisonment and loneliness, bloody battles with pirates and separation from her twin. And along the way, she will meet a traveler who has come an unimaginable distance--and who threatens the delicate balance of the Stratoins' carefully maintained, perfect society.... (from an Amazon.com review)
Heart of the Comet (with Gregory Benford)
In 2061, the governments of the Earth team up to launch a group of astronauts to colonize Haley's Comet as it makes its next flyby. The group of astronauts is made up of not only people from all over the world, but includes genetically normal "Orthos" as well as genetically enhanced "Percells". As the group gets to work on digging into the comet, they start running into complications. There is also a building resentment between many of the Orthos and Percells. The Percells feel discriminated against because all of the top-level positions on the expedition are held by Orthos, and the Orthos don't like the genetically enhanced nature of the Orthos. Then things start to get really interesting when indiginent life is discovered. Too bad that life seems intent on killing everybody.
In "Dr. Pak's Preschool" a woman discovers that her baby has been called upon to work while still in the womb. In "NatuLife" a married couple finds their relationship threatened by the wonders of sex by simulation. In "Sshhh . . . " the arrival of benevolent aliens on Earth leads to frenzy, madness . . . and unimaginable joy. In "Bubbles" a sentient starcraft reaches the limits of the universe--and dares to go beyond. These are but a few of the challenging speculations in Otherness. (from an Amazon.com review)
The Practice Effect
If you are a physicist (like this reader), you will be rolling on the floor laughing. If not, you will simply find the book very, very funny. Brin sneaks in everything, from parodies of Star Wars to bad Latin puns. So it falls in the standard hero-goes-to-strange-country-and-makes-good, complete with Helpful Sidekick and Beautiful Damsel. So what? Brin obviously had great fun writing this one. (from an Amazon.com review)
Gordon Krantz survived the Doomwar only to spend years crossing a post-apocalypse United States looking for something or someone he could believe in again. Ironically, when he's inadvertently forced to assume the made-up role of a "Restored United States" postal inspector, he becomes the very thing he's been seeking: a symbol of hope and rebirth for a desperate nation. Gordon goes through the motions of establishing a new postal route in the Pacific Northwest, uniting secluded towns... (from an Amazon.com review)