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Random House LLC
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Sundiver (Uplift Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 353 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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However the actual story of this particular book is a bit weak. It really is a detective novel set in a sci-fi universe, and I am not a fan of detective novels. The whole Scooby-Do ending is quite contrived and some of the leaps you have to take to accept the explanation are far-fetched (not a spoiler, but an entire race hid a special ability for thousands of years, and no-one noticed? Really?).
You also have to accept a fair bit of pseudo-psychobabble, and as someone who studied psychology it was a bit grating. Multiple personalities are NOT schizophrenia, and 'visual glare' doesn't cause psychosis. But if you don't have a psychology background you probably won't notice those things.
That being said, I still enjoyed the read and look forward to the rest of the trilogy, which I believe do not have the same 'detective story' style.
Also a note for the Kindle edition, it contains quite a lot of distracting errors; misplaced periods, random capitalisation, spelling errors. Far more than I've experienced in a long time reading on the Kindle.
The protagonist, Jacob Demwa (a human), is the stereotypical damaged investigator- no, consider him a troubleshooter. He has previously taken assignments for some organization called the 'Center for Uplift'. The last caused him great emotional loss. His heart is presently with enhanced Dolphins, speaking their language and learning their humor (the author imagines them sharing limericks). For some reason, he is invited to meet three extra-terrestrials and accompany them to a distant outpost with several other characters (a journalist, a parapsychologist, an administrator).
Scouts have seen something- a new species? When you think of it, his group is unqualified to conduct the scientific study ahead; those on-site are already doing fine. The problem is forming hypothesis of what they have seen, and testing those hypothesis on later encounters. One of the investigators tells him:
'... Martine shook her head. She looked down and fiddled with a knob on her helmet.
"It's so complicated. I don't understood [sic] it at all. Nothing's gone right ever since we got back to Mercury. No one is what he appears to be."
"What do you mean?"
The parapsychologist paused, then shrugged.
"Never be sure about anyone... I was so sure that Peter's silly pique with Jeffrey was both genuine and harmless. Now I find that it was artificially induced and deadly. And he was right, I guess, about the Solarians, too. Only it wasn't his idea, it was theirs."
"Do you think they really are our long lost Patrons?"
"Who knows?" .... (p. 183)
Other reviewers have highlighted the scientific and the psychological errors, and its' missteps as a detective story. The characterizations surprised me- why dispatch a treacherous plotter, a spy, jealous XTs, and others on a hazardous mission? Jacob's intuition tells him that a hoax is being perpetrated. Naturally, the truth comes out during that mission. Only chance saves the evidence.
The closing chapter uses political maneuvers to solve remaining problems.
Still, you will like the images of ships descending into nuclear plasma following filaments of ionized gas. Brin certainly creates a universe unlike that of other books featuring human-centric or aliens attacking Earth.
This book left me wondering "why?" at several points. The narrative is in fits and starts; repeatedly backing away from the interesting threads just as they get truly captivating and throwing you back into dry office politics. Yeah, the office is on Mercury. But still...
The other main drawback is that this universe seems to suffer from Star Wars Cantina Syndrome in that it comes from that time in Sci Fi where authors were having great fun imagining all the different forms of life that could be Out There. And "out there" they are, from evil cold-blooded Teddy Bear Nazis to a being described repeatedly as a "walking stalk of broccolli" the cutesy poo of the aliens was ultimately alien to me.
I like the fundamental idea of hierarchies and intellect patronage and the world building vis-a-vis the societal structures of the period. But so much of the book was either childish-cute (The two space needles used to ascend from Earth into orbit are named Chocolate and Vanilla, for crying out loud) or dry speculative science on the engineering of spaceships that it was hard to find a tone to settle into, and even harder to find a plotline that could retain my interest.