Can you identify the author/title of a big sprawling sci-fi thriller in which an American astronaut recovers a small alien object in Earth’s orbit? The object turns out to be an interstellar probe, one of many. Another character, a man from China or Hong Kong, is salvaging more of these probes from undersea. There’s also a woman who was terribly injured but patched together with advanced technology. A conspiratorial group is hunting down people who are in possession of the probes. The story takes place in the near future, when sea levels are higher.

I think the novel was published in the 2010s. I do recall that the author is a scientist (I don’t think it’s David Brin.)


1 Answer 1


This is Existence (2012) by David Brin.

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.

enter image description here

Main character is a garbage collector in space? Check.
Female character who's injured and rebuilt using tech? Check.
Sea levels rising? Check.
Sub-plot with Chinese character? Check.

  • 3
    You are absolutely right, thank you. So much for being sure it wasn’t David Brin!
    – Joiner
    Sep 26, 2023 at 1:28
  • 4
    @Joiner - When someone says "It's like x" or "I'm sure it's not Y", that's literally the first thing I check.
    – Valorum
    Sep 26, 2023 at 6:14

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