Customer Reviews of Startide Rising
A Must Read Sci-Fi Classic!!!!
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".
Not Just Another Trilogy Segment
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 series.
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.
This book is just cool. Brin's style reminds me of Asimov with an edge and a poetic touch. It has great characters, especially those of a different species. Human's have 'uplifted' dolphins and chimps to sentience. "Startide" has mainly human and dolphin characters (plus one chimp, and glimpses at a number of alien races). Each character is well developed, and the dolphins and aliens are well developed as a whole. Brin does well developing the psyche of the different species.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book is the dolphin's language and mentality. The dolphins speak a language called trinary, which is in effect speaking in Haiku. This speech develops, in part, from the strange dolphin philosophy of the "Whale Dream". I can't go on enough about Brin's ideas in this area. He is masterfully adept at creating the worldviews of non-humans.
This book, to me, was the prize of the first Uplift trilogy, but the other two are both good reads as well.
With Brightness Reef out, time to reread this great classic!
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
Dr. David Brin really ought to stop wasting his time with astrophysics: he's an absolutely gifted writer.
"Startide Rising," although not the first book in his "Uplift" universe, is one of the best. In this story, you'll learn that the civilization of five galaxies is home to many races of aliens, all coexisting along with the grand tradition of Uplift: they believe that no sapient spacefaring species can exist without being "uplifted" by a patron species through genetic manipulation and breeding. In return for the gift of sapience, such a client species owes thousands of years of servitude to their patrons. Mythical progenitors who uplifted themselves started the process millions of years ago.
Enter humanity: stumbling onto this civilization in their first extrasolar spacecraft and with their own genetically advanced chimpanzees and dolphins, they throw the universe into disarray. Most everyone would just as soon have them exterminated than given them any recognition, but are prevented from doing so because of a dolphin-crewed spacecraft's discovery of a fleet of gigantic derelicts that could lead to the secrets of the fabled progenitors.
This is just the backdrop to a grand tale that Brin weaves with deft skill. Brin's characters go deep and have strong motivations and emotions. You'll find yourself thinking like a dolphin as Brin describes their language, their interactions with the human and chimpanzee crewmates, their dreams, and their flaws. They and their crewmates struggle to survive the pursuit of the civilization of the five galaxies, and you'll find yourself unable to put the book down as the story progresses.
The story itself is a rich tapestry: Brin presents the alien pursuers and their client species in brief flashes, making them more sinister. Other alien races that support humans, dolphins, and chimpanzees receive more attention and detail, and make intriguing characters.
But "Startide Rising" isn't only about character development: there's exploration of racial tension, galactic politics, artifical intelligence, spatial phenomena, and romance. This riveting story satisfies and yet leaves the reader hungry for more.
Luckily, there are a few other stories out there set in the Uplift universe. And if we're lucky, there'll be more to come.