I have read science fiction pretty much my entire life. From Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park to the Asimov universe, there’s something special about the speculative fiction we call sci-fi.
Recently I found a trilogy of science fiction books from an author I had never read before, David Brin. A quick read of the description was enough for me to get his e-books, and I did not regret it.
The Uplift Series!
What would happen if someone started “gifting” animals with higher intelligence, granting them civilization and ultimately leading them to do the same to other species? This process is called “Uplift” and is a central part of the entire civilization of the galaxy.
Humanity has learned from a fair number of its mistakes. Not all problems are solved, but as a general rule peace reigns and environmental damage is being repaired. We colonize the solar system, and send slower-than-light sleeper ships towards distant stars. We even begin uplifting chimpanzees and dolphins.
Our ships then run smack into the middle of an alien civilization. Turns out the galaxy, including our whole Local Group, is quite crowded. The particularly-interesting thing is, every single race out there was at one point an animal species which was uplifted gradually by another species, who in turn had been lifted up by an even earlier race, who in turn had been uplifted, and so on.. As it turns out, galactic civilization is ridiculously old, and humanity is an oddity, a so-called “wolfling” race, because we were never uplifted by another race. Some see this as a heresy and want to wipe us out for the crime of our existence.
The first book Sundiver is a mystery story set four decades after first contact. In my own opinion it is the weakest of the books, as it seems the author is still getting a feel for his setting. Not a bad read though.
The second book, Startide Rising, takes place a few centuries later and follows a ship crewed by dolphins. They discover something and are being chased across the galaxy by half a dozen of the most fanatical alien races as a result. I would class it as a Space Opera and it has the largest scope of the trilogy.
The third book, The Uplift War features the beginning of a full-on invasion of Earth space. It fits solidly in the “war” category of science fiction. In spite of being the beginning of an invasion, it is set almost entirely on a single planet, one of Earth’s colonies.
There is a second trilogy published that follows up on the events of the first, but I have not read it yet.
If you are into story-driven science fiction dramas, I would recommend this series. Books like Dune or the Foundation series have a similar feel. It often takes time to build to the action, but that is time well-spent establishing characters and setting the pieces. You find yourself actually caring for the characters, including the villains.
I give it four out of five stars; Sundiver drags it down a bit but again that is the author getting a feel for his story. If it helps, Sundiver does not have to be read in order to understand what is going on in the next books.