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Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe Paperback – June 25, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hugo and Nebula award-winning author David Brin teams up with illustrator Kevin Lenagh to offer Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe, the definitive guide for any fan of the Uplift series or, as Brin would have it, a training handbook for Terragen Field Agents. From biological and psychological descriptions of aliens (the Thennanin have "gill-like breathing slits," the Hoon are "stodgy pencil-pushers") to clan alliances and the 12 official languages of Galactic society, this volume overflows with Uplift information, not to mention humor and imagination.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Brin's Uplift Universe is one of the major hard-sf sagas distinguished by world building of the highest order and as imaginative an array of nonhuman species as has ever been committed to paper. Here we have an illustration by Lenagh of a representative member of each of those species alongside Brin's physical, cultural, and technological descriptions, which include their clan affiliations and the date and agent of their Uplift. In the tradition of such guides, Contacting Aliens purports to be a guide for human travelers in the Uplift Universe, and it induces the necessary suspension of disbelief respectably enough. Lenagh's artwork occasionally smacks of Star Wars, especially in the depiction of the Mos Eisley cantina, but thousands of passionate Uplift readers probably won't mind that much if at all. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (June 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553377965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553377965
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Brin is a scientist, public speaker and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

David's latest novel - Existence - is set forty years ahead, in a near future when human survival seems to teeter along not just on one tightrope, but dozens, with as many hopeful trends and breakthroughs as dangers... a world we already see ahead. Only one day an astronaut snares a small, crystalline object from space. It appears to contain a message, even visitors within. Peeling back layer after layer of motives and secrets may offer opportunities, or deadly peril.

David's non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with secrecy in the modern world. It won the Freedom of Speech Award from the American Library Association.

A 1998 movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. Brin's 1989 ecological thriller - Earth - foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web. David's novel Kiln People has been called a book of ideas disguised as a fast-moving and fun noir detective story, set in a future when new technology enables people to physically be in more than two places at once. A hardcover graphic novel The Life Eaters explored alternate outcomes to WWII, winning nominations and high praise.

David's science fictional Uplift Universe explores a future when humans genetically engineer higher animals like dolphins to become equal members of our civilization. These include the award-winning Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach. He also recently tied up the loose ends left behind by the late Isaac Asimov: Foundation's Triumph brings to a grand finale Asimov's famed Foundation Universe.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction and philanthropy.

As a public speaker, Brin shares unique insights -- serious and humorous -- about ways that changing technology may affect our future lives. He appears frequently on TV, including several episodes of "The Universe" and History Channel's "Life After People." He also was a regular cast member on "The ArciTECHS."

Brin's scientific work covers an eclectic range of topics, from astronautics, astronomy, and optics to alternative dispute resolution and the role of neoteny in human evolution. His Ph.D in Physics from UCSD - the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) - followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Space Institute. His technical patents directly confront some of the faults of old-fashioned screen-based interaction, aiming to improve the way human beings converse online.

Brin lives in San Diego County with his wife and three children.

You can follow David Brin:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Meek VINE VOICE on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you're like me and sometimes you have trouble keeping track of which species is which in David Brin's Uplift Saga, then this book will prove to be a valuable resource. All of the major players are listed (including those so prominently featured in the "Heaven's Reach" trilogy), along with their patrons and clients, which is very helpful in sorting out the various allegiances and alliances. Most of the entries are quite short, just giving a brief description of the physical appearances of the races, how they were uplifted and what unique gifts were cultivated, and their role or fate in galactic society. Many patrons that have retired or are being urged in that direction by their juniors are included here, along with some races that are now extinct.
The artwork is not phenomenal like you might get from, say, Jim Burns or some of today's prominent artists from graphic novels, but it's got a sly and impudent sense of humor in my opinion. This fits well with the overall tone of the book, which purports to be a field guide for agents of the Terran Clan, i.e. good ol' Mother Earth. So the text often offers up tips on which races are friendly to humans, which want to destroy us, and which are indifferent, and provides hints on how to deal with some of these. (Of a particularly violent and prosletyzing race of religious zealots, the book notes that an agent's only two options are to flee or "to convert [them] to some less noxious creed".)
Also, there are some interesting "real world" web resources listed at the back of the book.
As a general refesher for the fan of Brin's work, this works well, but it's not likely to succeed in attracting new readers to the saga. Really, it's a solid supplement to the accumulated material of the novels and can be of some use, but it's not critical to own.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. J. Spivack VINE VOICE on August 9, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To anyone that is a fan of Brin's books (I'm one, I've read them all, and re-read most several times) this is a completist view that adds visuals and some details to a picture already in their mind. To anyone else (my wife, who I've been trying to get to read his books forever) it is a bewildering index to things that never were, displayed in a way that makes sure you won't care.
David, if you're reading this...I know your name was on the book, but I'm pretty certain you were only tangentially involved in this. I liked the book, but only cause I loved your books. Write some more for us, would you?`
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Crichton on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Full of intriguing trivia about the races of the Five Galaxies, but not well edited. Full of minor contradictions and glitches, any one of which is easily ignored, but together they become annoying. Plus, the illustrations aren't very good. I would have willingly paid more for for a book with QUALITY pics, like those in Barlowe's Guide To Extra-Terrestrials (sadly, out of print). Get it if you're already a Brin fan; if you're not, don't bother, get Sundiver or Stardtide Rising instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Rand on September 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
The book contains illustrations and background history of the major and minor species in the Uplift Universe. The drawings are black-and-white pencil sketches done in a slightly humorous manner. They're accompanied by short descriptions of the species, including their history, traits, clan affiliation, patron/species, etc. The writings a bit perfunctory - the author's not trying to tell a story - but I found it all extremely useful.

I'm glad I had the book before starting the Uplift series as it help me to visualize what can be rather odd species. These sketches alone saved me time; lots of time not having to think "Are these the bearlike bureaucrats or the asparagus vegetable philosophers?" The capsule summaries gave me enough background to satisfy those niggling little "what's their story?" questions.

I subtracted one star because I would've preferred a flashier "dramatic" presentation in the illustrations and I think a more ambitious author might have tied the entries together more (the guide's like a dictionary). A five-star production, in other words, would've included elegant writing and colorful illustrations.

But this is an illustrated field guide, and it made no secret about that. Very useful, nonetheless.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is exactly what it claims to be. It is an excellent reference book laid out in an easy to read and intellectually pleasing format. It does contain a few minor inconsistincies but you can figure them out for yourself. If you play a game such as GURPS Uplift, this is an invaluable resource. Just one warning: this book does have a few spoilers in it so you might want to read the Uplift series first.
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By Nightbringer on December 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book an enjoyable read. Granted there's no actually story telling in the book, no plot, it's simply an informational guide to David Brin's Uplift universe.

Odd as it may be, I actually read this companion before I read the series and I found that it really helped fill in some of the gaps and visualize the exotic alien species. I don't know that I'd recommend everyone reading this before the novels, as it's purely informational, but I did find it helpful having this information going in to the novels. Some of the species are so odd and best as he might try, Mr. Brin's descriptions of his many alien races don't always paint the perfect picture. The illustrations in this book are great for completing that picture. I also felt like I understood the motives, quirks, charms, ego's and flaws of the aliens much better having read this first.

I'm sort of an information junkie, when I get really interested in a property I want any media/information I can get about that property. For instance, I'm a huge Halo fan and have read/watched/played everything Halo related. I love how authors can create such a rich, complex, detailed world of their own, especially ones filled with "historical" events that explain why this world they've created is the way it is at a particular point in time. So where I felt this book let me down a little was that the timeline and entries provided for explaining human history was a bit light. The author gives you some big events that happened in leading up to this fantasy future, but the details are lacking. For instance, what prompted humans to uplift chimpanzees and dolphins in the first place? What was this political/social revolution that took place on Earth centuries ago?
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