A few years back I read a book which I'd like to look up again:

  • It starts in a ship.
  • It's on a tether from a space station (I think).
  • Its job is to scavenge (and clean) debris from earth orbit.
  • It's a one man operation.
  • He snags something unusual, apparently not of earthly origin which sets up the opening premise.
  • You stopped reading just when the man snagged something unearthly? So you have no idea what kind of thing it was, or what happened afterward?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 4:21
  • 1
    How many years back is "a few"? Less than 10? More than 20?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 4:22
  • Less than ten, I believe, although the book itself could be a bit older. I'd guess less than 10-15 to be safe.
    – user212553
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:52
  • I did read it but, at the moment, I can't recall the rest of the book. It was a great opening and I'd like to re-read it which is why I'm asking.
    – user212553
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


I believe you're recalling the opening chapter of Existence (2012) by David Brin.

Gerald Livingstone works in a one-man pod attached to a space station:

Gerald floated in a crystal shell, perched at the end of a long boom, some distance from the space station Endurance.

He is an orbital junk collector who uses an electromagnetically-manipulated tether to collect debris:

The bola is my arm.
The grabber is my hand.
Magnetic is the lever that I turn.
A planet is my fulcrum.

Most days, the little chant helped Gerald to focus on his job - that of a glorified garbageman.

He snags an unusual object:

Rushing towards rendezvous, the bola's camera spied something glittery, vaguely oval in shape, gleaming with a pale blueness that pulsed like something eager.

Gerald's hand was the grabber, turning a fielder's mitt of splayed fingers, reaching as the object loomed suddenly.

Don't flinch, he chided ancient intuitions while preparing to snatch whatever this hurtling thing might be.

Relax. It never hurts.

Only this time - in a strange and puzzling way - it did.

Which, when it's investigated later seems to be trying to communicate, but in no known language or symbology.

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