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88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2004
Currently, there are six books in Brin's Uplift saga. It's kind of hard to categorize these books as elements of a series, though. The first three books in the saga, "Sundiver," "Startide Rising," and "The Uplift War," are not really a trilogy or a series in the normal sense. Instead, "Sundiver" relates to the rest of the saga as Tolkien's "The Hobbit" relates to his "Lord of the Rings:" it sets the stage for all the rest of the books in the saga. "Startide Rising" and "The Uplift War" describe completely different plotlines originating from the same event far distant, time wise and space wise, from "Sundiver". In a pinch, you could read these books in any order and not really miss anything. They describe different points in time and space of the same Universe. Of course, the best order is the one listed, above.

Unlike the first three books in the saga, the second three books DO form a series. The first of this trilogy, "Brightness Reef," picks up with yet another totally independent plotline and brand new characters. However, it does contain a central character who ties the first three books into this set. Unfortunately, Brin doesn't say, specifically, who that character is until the very end of the book. Even worse, the last time the character was used was so far back in the saga that it's hard to remember anything about him. The remaining two books, "Infinity's Shore" and "Heaven's Reach," continue sequentially from the first and form a tightly knit trilogy with no breaks in time.

None of these books is "happy" or "light reading." For the most part, they're all intense, heavily detailed and fully characterized books. "Sundiver" is the least "heavy" and most lacking in the realistic feel of the rest of the books. But, for the most part, if you like "Sundiver," you'll definitely want to continue with the rest of the saga. Even if you don't like "Sundiver," I highly recommend you read at least "Startide Rising:" it has an entirely different feel to it and might be more to your liking. This saga is just too important to miss out on. As a whole, it's one of the great works of science fiction and one of the few pieces of science fiction that belong in the class of true literature.

The following are some comments on the individual books:

Sundiver: Somewhat different from the other books in the saga in that it's more of a science fiction mystery than a science fiction drama. This book sets the stage for the rest of the saga as it chronicles events that happen several hundred years before what happens in the other books. About the only thing negative I can come up with is that I wish Brin had written several prequels to it so we could read about the earlier adventures of Jacob Demwa that are referenced in this book.

Startide Rising: This book focuses on the group that starts all the other events noted in the remaining books of the saga. Though the main characters start off in a very bad way, Brin does a good job of moving them forward, and upward, throughout the book.

The Uplift War: The events in this book start from the same event that kicks off "Startide Rising." But, other than that, the two books are totally independent. Like "Startide Rising," Brin produced a gripping plot, great character development, and a good progression towards a positive goal.

Brightness Reef: This is definitely not a happy book. It starts out with many non-pleasant activities and fights its way forward from there. The biggest problem I have with it is that it's very hard to see how anything good or positive is going to happen to the main characters, no matter how much they try.

Infinity's Shore: First, the negative: once this book starts, it's very apparent that a whole lot of relevant stuff has been happening elsewhere that we missed. Essentially, there's at least one entire book that sounds extremely interesting that's missing from the saga. Brin fills in most of this back-story during this book and "Heaven's Reach." But, I'd sure like to have read that missing book. On the positive side, this book re-introduces us to old friends and subtly changes the focus to them. Everything's still happening in the same place with mostly the same characters, but the attitude changes and becomes more can-do.

Heaven's Reach: One difficulty with this book is due to how it continues from the previous book. It's merely a change of venue instead of a new set of adventures. A quote from one of the main characters near the end of this book sort of sums up my feelings about it: "...what will one more worry matter? I've long passed the point where I stopped counting them." Essentially, by the time this book and saga starts winding down (and even at the point of that quotation, it really hasn't started that yet), the reader is totally fatigued by never-ending problems. I really like these works, but the lack of a tie-up between "Infinity's Shore" and this book is grinding.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 1996
Let me give you two great reasons to buy and read this book. First, Startide Rising is probably the best space opera ever written. Some of Iain Banks' "Culture" novels come close, but let's not quibble. Second, it will be a great introduction to a series now resuming with the just-out book, Brightness Reef. Startide Rising is sometimes called the second in Brin's first uplift universe trilogy, but that is misleading. The novel Sundiver is Brin's first book in the uplift universe (where the practice of "uplifting" near sentient species to full sentience is considered a rite of passage to full citizenship in a galactic culture, and where only humans appeared to rise to sentience on their own without a "patron" race, giving them a special status). But one does not need to have read Sundiver, a lesser novel, to read Startide Rising. Similarly, the action in the third "uplift" book, The Uplift War, is unrelated to events in either Sundiver or Startide. The "new" uplift trilogy now unfolding (beginning with Brightness Reef), however, will be a true trilogy, with none of the books standing on their own. It is an open secret, furthermore, that events in Startide Rising (and possibly The Uplift War) will eventually come to play in the new uplift trilogy. So get this book, read it, read The Uplift War (heck, read Sundiver, too), and, hopefully, by that time Brin will have come close to finishing the unfolding new uplift trilogy -- some who have recently read Brightness Reef have expressed their frustration that the book leaves them hanging, as if in mid-sentence
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 1996
I'll admit from the start I have an ax to grind. I have been
weary for years of the "trilogy" concept in the science
fiction and fantasy genres. Ever since Tolkien's classic Lord
of the Rings, it seems every successful new author
in the field has been forced to shoehorn their works into a
trilogy or series format. Each subsequent book becomes
dependent, both story-wise and commercially, on the
previous books. Sometime this works, but just as often
a good novel simply gets stretched into a weak trilogy or

With Startide Rising, David Brin completely breaks this mold.
Each novel in his fascinating Uplift series stands on its own.
No time is wasted connecting the story lines of each book,
nor are readers left wondering "what's going on?" because
they haven't read the previous books. Brin simply tells
his story, and tells it exceedingly well.

Most modern SF/Fantasy series leave the reader thinking, "What
a great story, I can't wait to hear the end,"... but the end
may never come. Anne McCaffrey's "Pern" series comes to mind.
The early books are memorable and excellent, and seem to have been
written for their own sake. But the later
books seem to be part of a contrived (and seemingly endless) series, and
each subsequent book becomes less and less satisfying. And don't
even get me started on Frank Herbert's "Dune" series....

On the other hand, Brin leaves the reader thinking, "What a great story. Tell me another!"
Startide Rising is Brin's best work, worthy of every award it has received.
Read it, and you will be delighted and satisfied. But be warned: you will then want
to read everything else he has written.

On a final note: I wouldn't want to leave the impression
that I think no trilogy is worth reading, especially since
Brin's latest Uplift novel, Brightness Reef, is the first installment of a "true"
trilogy. A trilogy is a larger work than a novel, and allows
telling a greater story. If any author is capable of
meeting the full challenge of the trilogy format, David Brin is, and
the Uplift universe contains a story of mighty proportions.
Let us hope the eight-year hiatus in the series has been spent
preparing a bigger story which can, like the others, stand
on its own. But read Startide Rising and the other books of the first
"trilogy" first. It will make the new trilogy all the more
meaningful, and all the more excruciating to wait out.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 1998
Since reading Startide Rising, I have not only read everything else Brin has written, but I have bought the paperback MANY time to give to friends with MUST READ instructions. This is absolutely one of the best real Sci-Fi books written in the last 20 years and I am an avid reader of almost exclusively science fiction.
Brin's development of a galactic culture based on the raising up of pre sentient beings to sentience and the following term of indenture to the Patron race is great! It's even better because the reader can identify with the "Wolfing" human race as they buck time rusted and rigid galactic society.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The only thing I have seen lately on a par is "Ender's Game" and before that "Dune".
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 1999
I recommend this book when ever I get into the inevitable conversation about science fiction with someone I meet that is interested in the subject. I always keep a couple of extra paperback copies around to give/loan to people. No one touches my hardback copy but me. I average reading the entire Uplift Series about every other year. I'm an Uplift junkie and Brin just can't write installments fast enough for my next fix. Brin's aliens are believeable. His space battles are epic. The Uplift Series is a well woven masterpiece. If you only read one Uplift Novel, it should be Startide Rising. It is a truly visual space opra. I haven't seen a movie yet, that can compare to the way this book plays in my head.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2002
The second in the first Uplift trilogy, "Startide Rising" is an immense improvement over the first book in the series, "Sundiver". While overall not terribe, "Sundiver" was only an above-average story set in an incredible universe, and these two factors didn't mix all that well. With "Staride Rising", David Brin takes a wonderful story and places it in that fantastic universe, creating a wonderful science-fiction novel that's only hurt by its own complexity.
Unlike "Sundiver", which dealt with more of a murder mystery than anything, "Startide Rising" deals with the key factor that binds the trilogy together: Uplifting. The story mentions the possibility of the Patron race of humans, the legendary race that seeded all races in existence, and how a crew of humans and uplifted dolphins are protecting a vital secret from all the hostile races of the galaxy, just to name a few ideas.
David Brin's imagination is unbelievable. It's hard to think how he managed to create such a magnificent world without selling his soul or something. Things in the novel seem so "futuristic" and "sci-fi," and yet we believe them without question. Brin manages to flesh out a world so perfectly we can imagine it, live it, and sympathize with it. Every alien, every technological machine, and every idea has some substance in it.
Probably the only problem involves the story itself. While one of the best stories I've ever read in science-fiction, it has one tragic flaw: it's too complex. The story is overloaded with so many characters and so many plot twists that it can be difficult to keep up with everything. Readers will sometimes wonder why something is going on or who this person is, which can get a little frustrating. Thankfully, the story is so engrossing it keeps the readers interested and allows them to catch up to things on their own time.
All in all, "Startide Rising" is a marvelous science-fiction story that's only hindered by its own complex story. The ending sets up the third novel in the trilogy perfectly, although it does leave some questions unanswered in the story. Will the third novel answer them? We can only read "The Uplift War" and see...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2000
The second of Brin's Uplift books, _Startide Rising_ is good book, maybe even a great book. At the same time, it's also a flawed book, and I think it's a bit overrated by those who sing its unqualified praises.
The basic premise of _Startide Rising_ is outstanding. The _Streaker_, a spaceship crewed by humans and dolphins who have been uplifted to full sapience through genetic engineering is sent out on a mission with two simple goals: (1) to check the accuracy of the Galactic Library's reports on certain star systms and (2) to test the viability of the newly-uplifted dolphins as spacefarers (they use tools by means of cybernetic strap-ons). In the course of this mission, however, Streaker comes across a secret about the Progenitors, the mythical species believed to have started sapient life in the galaxy and beliefs about whom form the basis of most Galactic religions. This secret proves to be deadly, however, for dozens of the most dangerous, most fanatical, and most earthling-hostile species in the galaxy want it for themselves! Rather than being hailed as great discovers, the poor dolphins and humans of the _Streaker_ become like hunted outlaws, pursued throughout the galaxy by armadas of alien vessels, each wishing to claim the knowledge now aboard the vessel for themselves. As the novel begins, the damaged _Streaker_ has taken refuge under the poisonous seas of the planet Kithrup, while dozens of alien vessels fight overhead for the right to claim her...
It's a great set-up. Brin's invented Uplift Universe is clever and thought-provoking, and there *is* some good action in this. (Also, Brin really seems to have done his homework on dolphin behaviour and has done a good job at making these sapient fins still act very 'dolphin-like'. His invented ideas like the poetic trinary language dolphins use among themselves and their memories of the presentient 'whale-dream' are quite original as well). The problem, though, is this. Brin can't seem to restrain himself to just a few key characters. There must be at least 20-25 characters from whose perspective the story is told here-- and each chapter jumps to a new character who is usually doing something quite unconnected to the action/perspective of the previous chapter. Seeing so many perspectives may be nice, but it comes at the cost of giving the narrative a scattered, disconnected feel. it also results in weak and shallow characterization. Brin would have been much better off just sticking with 5-6 main characters (at most) for telling the story. Doing that, furthermore, would also have done much to improve the 'feel' of the story as well. The stress and tension aboard the damaged ship of untested dolphins, hidden underwater while enemies hunt them, has the potential for great tension, psychological development, and the like. But the scattered nature of the story, including huge jumps from someone on board streaker, to someone on an away mission on the other side of the planet, to one of the aliens on board their ships, to this, to that, before one comes back to the same character and place-- well, it tends to break up those feelings of stress and tension, or at least it prevents Brin from really *showing* them to the reader, and as such he can only *tell* the reader that they're taking place.
There are also a couple of kooky bits that Brin's thrown in here and there that he probably shouldn't have-- like 'probability drives' (how can anyone seriously use that idea after Douglas Adams!) and the Episiarch and Acceptor, aliens genetically bred so as to embody the ontological positions of negation and acceptance and who can, purely by will, either change reality around them or know the ultimate truth of it. Metaphysics and genetic engineering are each fine subjects for a sci-fi book, but they don't mix well-- at least not here.
Yet, in spite of all these failings _Startide Rising_ is *still* a very good book-- being thought-provoking as well as a delightful read. And for anyone who wants to explore Brin's Uplift books, it is undoubtedly the best place to start.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon April 28, 2002
"Startide Rising," by David Brin, is a science fiction novel that takes place about 250 years after humanity's first contact with a vast galactic civilization. In Brin's future humans, together with genetically modified, intelligent chimpanzees and dolphins, have established themselves as an interstellar spacefaring race. "Startide" deals with an adventure of the "Streaker," a starship manned by dolphins, humans, and one chimpanzee scientist. After making a monumental discovery, the "Streaker" is pursued by hostile aliens and takes refuge on the water world of Kithrup, where interpersonal struggles and further discoveries await them.
This is a fascinating portrayal of a complex multispecies community. Brin deals interestingly with the implications of genetic engineering and language as he explores the relationships among the ship's diverse crew. A central idea in Brin's tale is the concept of Uplift: that each intelligent species had a "patron" race that raised it to sentience, thus creating a chain of interspecies relationships that binds together galactic civilization. Brin fills the book with intriguing characters, action, technical information, and plot twists.
Overall, I enjoyed, and was even enriched by, "Startide Rising." But I did feel at times that Brin was packing into the book perhaps a little too much minutia for minutia's sake; it seemed like he was just trying too hard to create a Tolkienesque total world. And at times his prose got rather overripe, and seemed almost like a parody of a science fiction novel. But these flaws aside, "Startide" is a fascinating novel with a lot to offer the serious science fiction fan.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2003
The first uplift trilogy isn't. Unilike the second trilogy, all the books in the first stand on their own. Sundiver is a forgettable detective SciFi novel. Startide rising is really the first book of this series, and is in fact the only required reading for the sluggish second trilogy. The Uplift War is a spectacular adventure book that stands on its own and may be more fun to read than Star Tide Rising, but Star Tide Rising is certainly a more important book. Fun, funny, though provoking, alien, and intelligent, it is certainly a must read for anyone who enjoys, claims to understand or still ignores Science Fiction.
Above all, Startide Rising has the most gratifying ending of any book, Science Fiction or otherwise, that I have ever read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2004
I picked this book up while deployed in Kosovo and have to say that it was far better than I expected. In respects to the last reviewer - Rowling and Pullman are *brilliant* - (particularly Pullman) - but if you enjoy their style of Fantasy - you'll likely have a more difficult time with Brin's harder edged and more mature science fiction. The story of the Streaker and it's mixed dolphin and human crew is one that combines grand space opera themes, genetic uplift, terraforming, an ancient progenitor race, and a mysterious armada of giant space craft lost for millenia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and have rediscovered Brin as an excellent novelist and futurist. The guy has a PHD in Astrophysics (and it shows) - and can write with amazing fluency. If you like hard-sci-fi - you likely already know Brin. If you're a infrequent sci-fi reader and tend to lean toward fantasy - you might not get into Brin's stuff - that's too bad, as Startide Rising is a jewel.
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