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David Brin's Uplift Universe

What is the Uplift Universe? Why don't we look for its reference in the glossary sections that appear in all of Brin's Uplift books?

Uplift: The process by which older spacefaring races bring new species into Galactic culture, through breeding and genetic engineering. The resulting client species serves its patron for a period of indenture to pay for this favour.

Through this central theme of his Uplift Universe, and dozens of other rich details, Brin has managed to create one of the most 'realistic' and engrossing series of science fiction books ever written. And that's not just me saying it - Brin has won the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction. That alone is a good enough stamp of approval.

And of course, David Brin is a top bloke himself. After I was pronounced 'Major General Hon' by the Brinster, he also agreed to donate a few books to a competition I'm organising.

The book covers

The Uplift books display book covers of an excellent quality. While sometimes I get the feeling they don't exactly depict what's happening in the novel beyond generalities, they still look very cool. And they're a damn sight better than the USA covers, as was attested in this email I received:

"Those are so awesome. Our American Covers sucked. Brightness Reef's had a lot of potential, but it still sucked. You don't happen to have any more scans, do you?"

You would not imagine the trouble I had with scanning and digitising those book covers. The 'David Brin' and the title of the book are all in damned reflective bloody ink. So when I scan it in, it comes out in all sorts of weird and funny colours. Now, I'm a craftsman (stop sniggering back there!). I take pride in my scans, and my website. I can't be found with sub-standard scans on my site. Which meant that I spent literally hours retouching the damn reflective ink bits by hand.

And do not try to tell me 'Oh, well, you should have used a fill with colour tolerance' or 'Why not use the magic wand?' Well, Mr. Smarty-Pants, what do you say when I tell you that the damn things were in all the colours of the bloody rainbow, and on occasion indistinguishable from the damned background around the letters? Huh? Aha, I see you've gone quiet now...

A short note about the book titles. I think they're pretty good - a lot more interesting sounding than your run of the mill sci-fi book, and they also have poetic echoes. Brightness Reef, Heaven's Reach? They sound nice.





Click here to read the book's blurb

I didn't like this book very much, at first. I'd read Startide Rising and The Uplift War first, and I was expecting pretty much the same from this novel.

(If you were wondering, the first three books are in chronological order, but you don't need to read them in order. This does apply to the second Uplift trilogy).

What I expected was a novel with multiple viewpoints, a narrative that raced along, and some good old-fashioned blowing up of things.

What I got was what I can only describe as a golden-age SF detective novel. Not a bad thing in its own right, but my first impressions weren't good. The story goes fairly slowly at first, and seems a little confusing.

In retrospect, this is only because Brin is trying to construct a believeable universe for Sundiver, and that takes time. He also needs to set the scene for the innumerable twists and cunning storyline that follows later. Bear with the book - it's worth it.

It is a good old detective novel, with the traditional roles of 'humanity is the best' turned on its head. In the Uplift universe, humanity is the underdog, millions of years behind the rest of the galaxy in technology. All we have are our wits and agents like Jacob Demwa, the hero of this novel, to save Earth.

After a second reading, this book grew on me. If I had to rate it the first time I read it, it would have probably got three stars. Then again, I tend to race through novels and don't take time to appreciate the subtleties. Don't make the same mistake as I did.

It would be good to round off this review by saying 'Sundiver is an excellent first novel for newcomers to Brin's Uplift Universe.' I'm not going to. Sundiver is a very good novel, but I get the feeling that it's meant to be a standalone novel, and it survives perfectly well on its own, thank you very much. There aren't any major plot threads that aren't tied up, and there's a pleasant sense of finality. If you want a good introduction to the Uplift series of novels, Startide Rising is as good as Sundiver.

If you look proper, honest-to-goodness SF detective novels that are well thought out, look no further than this novel.





Startide Rising:

Click here to read the book's blurb

To be completed





The Uplift War:

Click here to read the book's blurb

To be completed



To be completed

Brightness Reef:

Click here to read the book's blurb



To be completed

Infinity's Shore:

Click here to read the book's blurb



To be completed

Heaven's Reach:

Click here to read the book's blurb