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The Uplift Saga #2

Startide Rising

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David Brin's Uplift novels are among the most thrilling and extraordinary science fiction ever written. Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War--a New York Times bestseller--together make up one of the most beloved sagas of all time. Brin's tales are set in a future universe in which no species can reach sentience without being "uplifted" by a patron race. But the greatest mystery of all remains unsolved: who uplifted humankind?

The Terran exploration vessel Streaker has crashed in the uncharted water world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history. Below, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles armed rebellion and a hostile planet to safeguard her secret--the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars.

Narrated by George Wilson.
1 online resource (1 audio file (17 hr., 30 min.))

458 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 1983

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About the author

David Brin

319 books3,074 followers
David Brin is a scientist, speaker, and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Existence, his latest novel, offers an unusual scenario for first contact. His ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web. A movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. Startide Rising won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. The Uplift War also won the Hugo Award.

His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with secrecy in the modern world. It won the Freedom of Speech Prize from the American Library Association.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI, nanotechnology, and philanthropy.

David appears frequently on TV, including "The Universe" and on the History Channel's "Life After People."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 800 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
November 20, 2022
Re-Read 11/20/22:

The kids are alright. Or rather, the Wolflings. Sure, a bit of atavistic regression, but damn, what a pressure cooker they’re under. :)

Honestly, I’m still amazed at how well this book holds up. I mean, across the board, it’s so intelligent, overflowing with alien species, great worldbuilding, amazing subtext on galactic-level slavery and racism, and above all… it’s deeply, deeply fascinating. I must have read this 6 or 7 times now and I’m always shocked at how rich it is, from the dolphin goddess to the blind idiot chimp scientist, to the great friendship from the young mel and fin to Gillian and Orley to our tragic dolphin captain.

It feels so personal to me, so rich, and endlessly enriching. As I keep reading this, I keep building upon it in my own imagination. It never really ends.

This is a sign of a true classic.

Now if only James Cameron or someone with his talent and bankroll could turn THIS book into a movie. THAT would be something for the ages. :)

Original Review:

I've been reading this book over the decades and I can still honestly say that it's both timely and timeless in its ideas, its story, and its characters. That's even taking into account that most SF eventually dates itself or becomes a humorous example of just how much we all eventually learn.

This one doesn't suffer at all. Since the eighties this still remains a mind-blowing and fantastic space opera of the kind I still have yet compare anything else as favorably. Even among Brin's other Uplift novels.

It's simple, really. It's a chase novel. The particulars, however, are wildly divergent from anything else I've ever read. Uplifted dolphin crew with a chimp geologist and a handful of humans made an accidental discovery of galactic proportions and after sending a brief description of fifty world-sized ancient spaceships belonging to the first galactic race to have begun the uplift process for the many, many alien races filling the galaxy to the brim, Earth replies, "Oh Shit. Run. Run!" All the races have their own legends about the progenitors and their eventual return, and most of the vilest are religious fanatics that warp reality or cruelly alter genetics of their subordinate races to atrocious effect. And since they picked up on this little tidbit, they're ALL after the humans. Besieging Earth, all our colonies, and sending the weight of entire armies after the poor hapless dolphin crew.

What an epic setup, and this is where the novel begins. :)

They've already escaped a few close calls but crash land on a fallow world and pray that the battling aliens in the system above wipe each other out. And in the meantime, we've got great dolphin and human characters and one asshole geologist who may or may not be redeemable, assuming we take away his mini atom bombs and tell him he may NOT study the new planet's structure while they're trying to hide from the galactic crazies. :)

There's so much to say about this novel and so many great things happen, but I do want to mention a few things. The whale songs and the poetry of the hybrid human/dolphin speech: It's all poetry. How often do we get poetry in our space operas? :) We've got serious ideas about uplfting our earthly relatives, too. Even dogs are on the docket. The dolphins have waldos for delicate work with arms and fingers. Mr. Dart may climb trees, but he's from a widely respected school. And the captain of the Streaker is a really brilliant dolphin. I feel the most sorry for what happens to him.

The action in this tale may be as small as simple survival on a rough world, the reveals about the strange state of this planet or the creatures living there, or even a great deal of action breaking down the basic decency of some of the dolphin crew until they revert to a slightly less civilized state. Or we could focus on the big action with spaceships blowing up and crashing into the planet. Either way, the novel is great on all levels.

It's stood the test of time, being a great tale with great characters, fantastic language and conflicts, and especially an absolutely amazing amount of beautiful world (or galaxy) building. :)

I always thought of this one as the gold standard for all big-idea and action SF. And it still is.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,612 followers
October 27, 2019
One of the most interesting ideas in this second part of the series is the evolution of language, the forming of its complex meaning and how culture defines how the habitat is perceived and described. And dolphins rock.

Some thoughts about the evolution of language and different ways to communicate:
Humans adapted to many environments with special words, cults and worshipping standing out elements of nature. Animals may develop similar attitudes and the difference between a conscious ant and a sensible reptile are immense.
In the case of animals without organs of speech, mimic and gesture may develop to the complexity of a language in combination with the quick chameleon and octopus colour changes.
Even that may not be necessary if state-building insects develop more and more complex hormone and smell controlling abilities that go so far to be used in conversations between intelligent individuals of a state.
Take biology, any kind of communication process and just mix it with evolution, genetic engineering and a bit if technical integration and so many ways to babble trivia can be imagined.

Tropes show how literature is conceived and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Joel.
554 reviews1,622 followers
May 26, 2011
A good way to illustrate the utter failure of the Star Wars prequels on just about every level of storytelling imaginable is to ask someone to describe the characters without talking about their jobs or their costumes. [Come on, try it: Queen Amidala. Oh, she looks like a Kabuki... wait, no. She's the queen... I'm sorry. Um, her hair. She's... normal?] The characters in Startide Rising suffer in much the same fashion. Aside from the fact that they are of different species, not much differentiates the crew-members: human, dolphin, scientist, dolphin scientist. Chimpanzee. This is an issue, considering the book is told in alternating point-of-view chapters from a dozen or so different characters of several species.

You are probably confused already. How can you write a book where some characters are dolphins and some characters are human and you can't really tell them apart? Well, if David Brin is any kind of example, you write it rather poorly, and then you win every major genre award for it. I should totally try!

Once again, I am being an ass. This is one of those sci-fi books, the ones where you remember why a lot of people hold their noses when they walk by the genre shelves in Barnes & Noble [note: insert funny joke about fat & unshowered nerds here later (Comic Book Guy reference?)]. It has some really cool, intriguing ideas driving the narrative. It also has a cyborg dolphin on the cover. And it is really rough to read on a sentence-by-sentence level: loaded with tiresome exposition, clumsy world-building, absolutely atrocious dialogue, juvenile sexual content.

So, then, I simultaneously really didn't like reading it and enjoyed the heck out of it. The premise is certainly audacious -- in Galactic history, no race has ever achieved sentience and spaceflight without being "uplifted" by a patron race... except for humans, who even managed to perform a few uplifts of their own, creating super-intelligent dolphins to... pilot their... spaceships. For some reason.

Even though being a dolphin doesn't seem to change how a character thinks in comparison to a human, Brin still puts a lot of effort into developing their society. Like everything else about this book, I am of two minds about this element: I respect the lengths Brin goes to, and yet I find his choices incredibly silly and annoying. For example, the dolphins have been genetically modified to speak English screw it, I don't care Anglic, but the language gives them pause, so they stutter. So all their dialogue has extra consonants. Which is still preferable to their native tongue, Trinany, which is, obviously, Flipper-type screeches, which it turns out are actually, when translated, quite poetic and haiku-like. There are a bunch of humans who can speak Trinary too, and I am really glad they never made this into the movie that was planned in the '80s, because it would be even more ridiculous if I had to see it rather than just roll my eyes as I read about it.

One thing I did appreciate was the surprisingly limited scope of the story; despite the length, the plot is this: ship is damaged in a firefight, ship crashes on a waterworld (thank goodness!) and must be repaired, and any escape must avoid the now-warring factions of the various pursuers that are hanging out in orbit. I liked it mostly because it resulted in a 100-page climactic action/escape sequence that managed to be the most interesting part of the book. I did not it because it also provided lots of pages for narrative dead ends and dolphin sex scenes, which aren't the selling point you might imagine. At least, not for me.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,931 reviews3,403 followers
November 20, 2022
One of those classics of the genre that my buddy-reader said I HAVE to know. I can see why.

We are in the future. Humanity has been "uplifted" (getting smarter and better equipped, not least thanks to access to the mysterious "library") and thus spread to several different planets. Moreover, humanity eventually uplifted species themselves: chimps and dolphins.
This book is about the neo-fins (the name for the uplifted dolphins).
You see, Earth managed to build their first spaceship without using tech knowledge from the library. The captain is a dolphin. Then they stumble over a relic fleet and even manage to recover a "mummy". Might this have been the fleet of the mythical Progenitors? The very first species that didn't need to be uplifted but started all the uplifting business (yes, it'S a business as the uplifted become "clients" of their uplifters)? Oh, the possibilities, the knowledge to gain, the weaponry they could have had!
That's what everyone is thinking so the ETs (yes, extra-terrestrials is the word for all uplifted species not from Earth) so they are converging on the poor Terra-ship, Steaker, wanting at least a piece of the pie and thus endangering the crew.
The rest is evasion, tactics, hide-and-seek, betrayal, discovery, ...

The most impressive thing is the novel's age. It was penned and published in the 80s but starts off with a gay couple on the Streaker. It also nicely shows very entertaining and in no way surprising futuristic racism. We get religious fanatics, purists, and an assortment of very weird species!

I'm not sure which I liked more: the characterization or the worldbuilding. Though it's probably the latter despite the fact that certain acts had me shocked and almost teary-eyed a d there have been some less riveting parts. I also commend the author on his very creative and enjoyable revenge on a certain asshole. Muhahahahahahaha!

I can see why this is one of the classics of the genre and I think there should be a (new) compendium of all the races, perhaps new editions of the books or even an adaptation. Yes, we need more good scifi and this would be the perfect starting point.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,150 reviews1,119 followers
June 10, 2020
I don't know how to rate it, 4 or 5. It's more 4.5 but I'll give an extra 0.5 for the dolphins.
It has everything I want from adventure (cool action scenes included), compelling characters, very fascinating world building. And the setting itself, makes it a winner. I need to read more Uplift stuff!
Profile Image for Clouds.
228 reviews632 followers
May 4, 2013

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).

New book?
What’s it about?
Space dolphins
What, like dolphins swimming in space?
Don’t be silly. Dolphins flying spaceships filled with water.
Oh. Sounds cool.
I know!

Sometimes it’s easy to make me happy.

Startide Rising is the second book in David Brin’s Uplift Saga. The first, Sundiver , is nothing to write home about, but this one was a runaway critical success – taking the Locus, Hugo and Nebula awards in 1984 (the year I was born).

The Uplift concept offers a superb backstory and a galactic framework with a huge amount of potential (see Sundiver review). I’m not sure Brin takes full dramatic advantage of what he’s created (can you imagine the Uplift universe in the hands of Peter Hamilton or Dan Simmons?) – but what Brin does create is a tremendously enjoyable adventure (if you’re not too cynical).

Mankind has uplifted chimps and dolphins to sentience. The Streaker is an exploration ship, crewed and captained for the first time, primarily with dolphins. They discover something (big coincidence time, shhh) ancient, valuable and powerful. Word gets out and suddenly every bug-eyed alien wants a piece of Streaker. They run, hide and crash on a water world. While they try to repair and escape, the different ET factions scrap it out in orbit for the right to capture Captain Flipper and his arcane treasure.

It’s a bit ‘sci-fi light’, but golly-gee it made me smile. The writing isn’t amazing, but the characters are likeable, the action fast paced and gripping, the scenario imaginative and the book skips along in quick, tasty little chapters.

Brin does use a lot of perspectives, both within the crew and between the various hostiles in orbit – some people may find this off-putting – but it wasn’t a problem for me. I loved the little snapshots of the different alien ships. I loved the different dolphin crewmembers. I wasn’t half as fond of the human crew (been there, done that – give me more dolphins!).

Startide Rising is my favourite book of The Uplift Saga – it’s probably a 3.5 affectionately rounded up to a 4 – but definitely worth checking out. Just keep your expectations in check – this is a fun book, but not a brilliantly written book.
Profile Image for Guillermo  .
80 reviews80 followers
July 17, 2014

I just couldn't get into this enough to merit me reading over a hundred pages more to get to the conclusion. I have no problem using different points of view to tell a story, ala GRRM, but if the characters aren't in any way engaging and have no personalities to speak of, it just becomes a jarring and disconnected experience. This is the second Uplift novel I read, the first being Sundiver, and while I love the concept and the universe of Uplift, concept alone is not enough to keep my interest for 300+ pages.

Sadly, I really do want to know what happens to the crew of the Streaker. What happens to the injured Captain? Do they get off that planet and escape the nefarious aliens fighting over them? What exactly does that ghost fleet mean to the galaxy, and what's up with that weird alien corpse they found? I'll just have to head over to Wikipedia for a plot summary.

Unfortunately, Mr. Brin is full of great ideas but is bereft of the ability to execute them into a truly engaging experience.
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
948 reviews90 followers
June 12, 2020
I enjoyed this quite a bit and raced through it (especially given I don’t have much alone time to listen to books)!! The narrator was painful slow and deliberate, so I was able to boost the speed to 1.6x original speed.

I found that if my attention wandered I tended to miss things, like from whose POV the chapter was written. Then, as a result, I was often confused about what was going on.

This book tested my usual lack of visualization and forced me to do so, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t helping my general confusion. Maybe I should’ve listened to it slower. Or maybe it’s just a book that I should’ve eye-read.

At any rate, I enjoyed the interpersonal relationships among the crew of the Streaker and it was eye-opening how the Galactic patrons treated their patrons. Especially now.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,889 reviews428 followers
July 13, 2022
'Startide Rising' by David Brin is the best of the first two novels in the Uplift Trilogy! I was much more engaged with the characters of the second book in this series than I was with the first, 'Sundiver'. But both books have the linkage of the same world building and speculative science fiction, plus 'Startide Rising' makes the most sense if the first novel is read. The action takes place two hundred years after the first book in the series.

Despite that I am throwing a little shade on 'Sundiver', I think this is a wonderfully entertaining series. The basic platform of a patron species genetically tinkering with animals to give them the gift of sentience is not original, but Brin takes off with this dream of scientific Mankind and "goes where no one has gone before!"

I copied the book blurb because it is accurate:

"David Brin's Uplift novels are among the most thrilling and extraordinary science fiction ever written. Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War--a New York Times bestseller--together make up one of the most beloved sagas of all time. Brin's tales are set in a future universe in which no species can reach sentience without being "uplifted" by a patron race. But the greatest mystery of all remains unsolved: who uplifted humankind?

The Terran exploration vessel Streaker has crashed in the uncharted water world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history. Below, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles armed rebellion and a hostile planet to safeguard her secret--the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars."

While uplifting has changed animals into intelligent and literate beings, they retain certain atavistic characteristics of their species. Brin has brilliantly conceived a very likely set of results of the extending of those characteristics into believable non-human sentient cultures. There are also many political subplots and swirling currents of emotion which build up slowly to an explosive finish. Readers can feel like they are drowning in the complexities of individual human/dolphin/chimp characters and plans! But I thought the space opera was very engaging even when it was a whirlpool of inventive ideas. I am still feeling a bit swamped by the dozens of warring alien lifeforms, but the book never became unmoored from its science fiction roots. Brin enjoyed himself particularly in developing space alien species. I loved the funnily wicked Soro's bitch! That mating claw was awesomely chilling. Ffs, "mating claw"!

I suggest reading H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau to see how difficult it is to uplift away from one's basic DNA -whatever the original animal! "But somehow the things drift back again: the stubborn beast-flesh grows day by day back again." -the crux of the problem for Doctor Moreau, and from where the headwater for Brin's waterfall of fictional uplift dramas stream.

Alien, human, dolphin or chimp - we are all uplifted today from a seabed of older and more primitive beasties! Jump into the book gentle reader, the water's fine!
1 review1 follower
July 25, 2007
Undoubtedly one of the stupidest books I've ever read. I'm not sure what's worst, the talking dolphins who can smile, the chimpanzee planetologist who smokes a pipe (I think), the horribly written dialog, the fact that the aliens are more believable characters than the humans, or the fact that somebody thought it would be a great idea to use dolphins to run starships since, as we know, such a large percentage of planets have water on them that obviously we want aquatic creatures who can go out and swim as explorers in the obviously safe and un-bacteriologically contaminated waters of said plentiful water worlds.

And you thought the Postman was bad.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
495 reviews65 followers
September 26, 2021
4.5 ⭐️ rounded up.

This was a very satisfying re-read of one of the scifi books I remember reading in Danish as a youth (it was divided in two volumes, for some reason).

It’s perhaps best compared to a “light” version of Kim Stanley Robinson. Not as socio-politically fascinating, but a lot easier to follow, despite it’s multi character cast. The focus here is more philosophical, more eco science, more humane, I guess. It’s clear David Brin has lots of science knowledge, but mostly he has thoughts on racism and evolution of our souls and of how our history affects us (eerily relevant right now). The animals we have touched have mythology, memory and dreams.

I loved the idea of a parent race helping other races to be “uplifted”, evolve into sapience, like how humans have uplifted dolphins in this one. Human beings, though, do not seem to have a guardian race that helped us evolve, and that is one of the speculative points in this one. What does that mean for us? Is it good or bad? Are we not mature enough to undertake the uplifting outselves, with no guidance?

I was obsessed with dolphins as a kid, and I remember being fascinated by the fact that the way dolphins talked was closest to haiku, which also sparked an interest in Japanese.

All in all, I’ve rated books I liked less than this 4 stars, and books I loved more than this 5 stars, so I’m landing at 4.5 stars. It also won’t be my last David Brin.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
914 reviews405 followers
June 8, 2020
Si lo que siempre habéis querido es leer una historia con delfines astronautas y chimpancés científicos, no busquéis más, esta es vuestra historia. En serio, no busquéis porque no debe de haber otra.

Y ojo, que las dos estrellas no son por eso. El planteamiento que hace David Brin en el que la Galaxia está poblada de razas alienígenas que tutelan a otras, como es el caso de los humanos que han elevado a la conciencia a los delfines y a los chimpancés, es lo mejor del libro.

Pero al igual que le ocurre en Navegante solar, en lugar de desarrollar ese universo se centra en una historia que no viene a cuento, con una forma de escribir que no termina de gustarme porque usa muchísimos capítulos muy cortos, de un par de párrafos en algunas ocasión, en los que vuelve a contar el mismo hecho desde la perspectiva de otro personaje. Esto da la sensación de querer alargar la historia y termina cansando.

Y para colmo, no se resuelve nada al final y habrá que leerse La rebelión de los pupilos para enterarse de lo que pasa después.

Todas estas vueltas y pérdida de tiempo echa por tierra las cosas buenas que tiene la novela, como son los delfines, con su lenguaje en formato Haiku que reconozco que es un gran trabajo de Brin...pero no le luce nada bien.
Profile Image for Gabi.
694 reviews120 followers
June 16, 2020
It had a lot of great ideas with the uplift theory, the progenitors, the library, the dolphin society, the interaction of Terran uplifted species, the multitude of non-Terran species and their features, the biology of the waterplanet, spacebattle, ground battle, romance stuff, introspection, genetic experiments, whale dreaming ... etc.

But - what perhaps already can be seen by the recital above, it was too much crammed into the story. Carefully plotted the ideas in this book would have made for certainly 5 other novels. For example I would have loved to get to know the different species better that fought around the planet (and who frequently were referred to as 'monsters' - which was another quite jarring point). Brin touched extremely interesting topics of their evolution, social structures, reality perception …, but they felt like some dearly longed for drops of water on a hot stone.
Too much introspection and exposition in this way on the Terran species side, way too many POVs (all the more chance to write yet another introspection), some of them only had one or two chapters (what for?) when there was no real sense to yet again change the POV.

I also would have loved to see more discussion about the downside of an approach of playing god, deciding whom to genetically alter to make them 'more intelligent' without their consent. E.g. Dolphins were deemed to be worthy of uplifting, while the higly intelligent octopi were used as food. There was one really good chapter on this topic as the uplifted chimpanzee geologist mused about it and about tokenism in an introspection (what else?). More of that would have been great.

It took me a lot longer to read (listen) through this book than it usually takes for this number of pages, because I couldn't manage to entirely get involved in the Story. There were parts that had my attention and then it drifted again.

Great idea, left me wanting in the execution.

Profile Image for Josh.
390 reviews17 followers
September 2, 2014
When someone who doesn't like science fiction explains why, the most common reasons are:

1. The plots are incomprehensible or boring
2. There ideas were too fantastic to relate to
3. The characters aren't interesting

And if we're talking about Startide Rising...they are completely right. This is the kind of book I would recommend if I wanted to cement a non-SF-reader's dislike of the genre. It's disappointing because the premise in the Uplift Saga is solid. There's an interesting universe here that was just hinted at in Sundiver and I was looking forward to Startide Rising. But sadly, this book is mostly a mess.

Sometimes hard science fiction suffers from the author being more in love with the ideas than the story, and the reader is left with what is essentially gripping technical documentation. Good SF weaves its fantastic ideas into the story, so you get drawn into the unusual world and believe in it. I want to be able to say the book is a good book, not just a good science fiction book.

Didn't happen here, at all. I'm bailing about halfway through.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews782 followers
August 14, 2011
I like this book well enough but I feel like I should like it more than I do, it has everything a good sf novel should have. Vastly imaginative, epic, some humor and good characters. Unfortunately I have a problem with the structure of this book, the cast of characters is too big and the author switches character POV too frequently. This type of structure reminds me of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, except that the GRRM books are longer and the characters are better developed. Also most of the chapters are short and some are super-short (like a single paragraph). The way it is done here is quite disorienting for me, every time he does it I become a little detached from the story because I have to keep a tally of who is who and doing what.

While reading the first few chapters I thought that characterization was going to be a problem with this book because I didn't get the feel of any of them. As I read on however I began to realize that the characterization is actually quite good, the problem is that there are just so many important characters and it takes time to attune to any of them. The large number of plot stands and the short chapters make the novel seem fragmented.

With all that said I love the concept of the Uplift universe and can not help but plan to read more. Hopefully the structure of other volumes is not so fragmented.
Profile Image for Gendou.
585 reviews262 followers
November 21, 2011
Dolphins in space, wielding psychic powers, hide from a diverse gang of aliens on a watery planet.
They uncover some unlikely mysteries, and fight some bad guys.
I did like the Tandoo "acceptor" race, they were pretty awesome.
Aside from the two pages dedicated to the acceptors, the book is shit.
It should really be classified as fantasy, because science only serves as a vocabulary reference pool.
The only clever moment in the book was when the dolphins vented their on-board water out the airlock, which acted as a relativistic weapon against pursuant space craft.
That one, at least, got a golf clap out of me.
The characters are dolphins, for Christ's sake, so it's kind of hard to relate to them.
The whole space-dolphins thing was tolerable in the first book, when it was a novelty, but in this book, it made for several skimmed chapters on my part.
Since very little of the overarching plot was revealed, I consider this installment a giant tease, and hate Brin for wasting my time, yet again.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
February 10, 2010
3.5 stars. A science fiction classic that doesn't quite live up to the title of masterpiece. The concept of "uplifting" and the manner in which David Brin incorporates it into the universe he has created in these novels is brilliant and definitely worth checking out. Writing is just okay. Still, great world-building, fascinating aliens and a pretty good plot. Not Brin's best but worth reading, Recommended!!

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1984)
Winner: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1984)
Winner: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1984)
Named to Locus "All Time" Poll for Best Science Fiction Novel (#16)
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
763 reviews1,477 followers
January 3, 2017
After 2014’s SFWA ‘censorship’ kerfuffle, I hadn’t planned on reading any David Brin… but that wasn’t something I remembered when this book showed up at the library used bookstore, and I’m weak for the idea of sentient dolphins in sci fi, so… here I am.

The big ideas of this book were what intrigued me: the concept of uplift, the mystery of the Progenitors who uplifted the first other species, and the question of what the planet Kithrup had to do with anything. The problem is that, while all those big ideas are discussed, there’s just… not a lot of resolution given. Many characters are left hanging mid-plotline by the end of the book, many questions asked but not answered, and those that are given answers (like Kithrup’s history) are only shallowly explored. Overall, I left Startide Rising feeling like David Brin had made promises to his audience that he didn’t bother to keep.

One of the factors that contributed to that was the sheer number of points of view. Honestly, I couldn’t even try to count the different third-person-limited (with occasional divergences into third omniscient, to my annoyance) perspectives Brin used. This meant the cast ballooned out of control rapidly, and even at the beginning it was difficult to track everything that was going on. What’s more, some perspectives didn’t even have a bearing on the plot whatsoever: several chapters were told from the POV of an alien ally to humans, who then died a few hundred pages later without having actually done anything. I found myself comparing this approach to POV with that used by Brandon Sanderson in The Stormlight Archives - while it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I find that Sanderson’s limited main cast and brief interludes to other viewpoints worked well for me. I wish that Brin had managed something of the same grace.

The unfortunate effect of the bloated cast list was that, because no one got a lot of pagetime or introspection, I just wasn’t emotionally invested in any of them. Character deaths or noble sacrifices had no resonance, because the narrative never spent enough time with them to establish them as individuals.

I think the final straw for me, personally, was a marine biology failure. Brin somehow managed to completely confuse pygmy killer whales ( Feresa attenuata ) with orca whales ( Orcinus orca ). Now, I know this was published in the eighties and phylogenetic trees of Cetacea weren’t available at the time, but surely it’s not too difficult to look at those two species and realize they’re not even that closely related? And surely it’s not too much to expect a science fiction writer to actually bother to do some basic research into biology - for instance, the fact that mammal-eating orcas don’t vocalize while hunting.

After that colossal mistake, it was all too easy to find other logical holes in the story. The societies of the Uplift universe carefully manage planetary resources, and yet a Terran geologist has access to atomic bombs to facilitate his research; the sexual element of the human-dolphin interactions on Streaker’s crew was redolent of John Lilly’s work; Brin completely failed to explore the patron-client relationship between humans and dolphins, even when there was ample opportunity to do so.

Overall it just… it felt cluttered, incomplete, and flat. Any one or two of its plotlines could have made their own book, but together they were less than the sum of their parts. And while it’s possible that some of my questions were answered in Sundiver, after the disappointment of this book, I’m not inclined to bother reading anything else of Brin’s.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews131 followers
April 21, 2015
I haven't read the first book Sundiver in Brin's Uplift Saga, but this novel seems to work pretty fine as a standalone novel.
It is one of the rare books to win three awards - Hugo, Nebula, and Locus - in a year. Back in the 80s, I've read huge amounts of books, but missed this one. I'm very happy to have filled this gap now, since I liked this planet opera very much.

Planet opera? It isn't really a space opera, because not much is happening in space - a couple of pages focus on alien races' siege ending with an interesting escape by our human/dolphin escape combined with a rant and rave at the aliens. 90% of the novel is acted out on a water planet - fitting for our "uplifted" dolphins. The planet was left alone as a resting place for some fading away culture, and doesn't seem to contain much of interest at first glance. Our heroes land on this planet only to repair their ship because they are on the escape knowing that the whole galaxy is on their heels - they found a hundred millions years old fleet of space ships of some progenitor race and everyone wants to know exactly where it is. The further fate of this discovery isn't made clear, because the novel concentrates mainly on the fate of the human/dolphin/chimpanse crew.

Brin switched rapdily the POVs - every couple of pages the emotions and reasoning of a different crew member is used to draw the reader nearer. The plot evolves quite interesting - they crew discovers several unexpected elements on this barren planet. Brin combines it with a discussion of dolphin culture with its whale dreaming, their playfulness, singing and rhyming nature, their stress resistance, and some genetic experiments that shouldn't have happened. In consequence, a part of the dolphin crew tries a mutiny.

Brin builds a great setting some 400 years in the future but doesn't use it to its fullest. Lots of details are left for discovery in the next novels. And the ultimate fate of the ship's captain and a couple of his crew isn't clear.

I recommend this book as a distraction from the many dystopian SF novels that seem to be mainstream these days. Congenial dolphins, lots of vicious and fascinating alien races, a couple of mysteries are enough to make this book worthwhile. Worthwhile especially for readers in the 80s when the time was right for intelligent dolphins. I can imagine that the topic doesn't fit the taste of contemporary readers that well.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,862 reviews369 followers
January 12, 2015
Very engaging sequel to Sundiver, although it takes place 200 years in the future from that book and some of the threads that I would have liked to see pursued got dropped in the process. Oh well, this was still an excellent book {and better than the first one IMO). The dolphin crew of the star ship makes for interesting technology and the crew themselves makes for a lot of Machiavellian drama, as we explore the perils of fooling about with the genetics of another species. I wonder if, as Brin states at one point in the novel, cetaceans would not choose to go back to their unaltered state. The Whale Dream that the injured leader drifts back into sounds rather idyllic.

Lots of action, lots of intrigue, lots of potential for future novels.
Profile Image for Chloe.
349 reviews539 followers
September 2, 2012
This is a book that could only have come from that special chunk of weirdness that we collectively call the 1980s. Only in this era was there the necessary mixture of Utopian dreams, crystal-wearing self help-addicted Gaia worshipers, and rampant amphetamine abuse to make a story about genetically uplifted dolphins piloting spaceships through the galaxy sound like a good idea. Mind you, this is the same decade that brought us Spock swimming with humpback whales in an attempt to preserve life on Earth, so it's not as though David Brin was breaking new ground with his second tale set in the Uplift universe.

Set 200 years after the events in Sundiver, the first book in the series, humankind has continued with their genetic tinkering with the DNA of both dolphins and chimpanzees and the cetaceans are beginning to step out from their accepted role as one of humanity's client species and starting to create some amount of self determinism for their kind. The first step in this comes with the Streaker, the first completely dolphin-crewed space vessel that sets out on a test run to observe the stresses of command on both ship and cetacean. Unfortunately, what the crew had not banked on was discovering a derelict fleet of ships in a backwater section of the galaxy that may or may not belong to the long-fabled Progenitors, the race of aliens that originally set forth from their homeworld to seed intelligence throughout the stars and setting the model of Uplift and indentured servitude by which the galaxy continues to run to this day. Pursued by fleets of fundamentalist extraterrestrials all seeking to claim the Earthling's prize as their own, the Streaker finds itself battered and blasted, necessitating a need to take shelter on an isolated water world far from home. As the dolphins and their minimal human crew hide from the ETs fighting a long and pointless battle in space above them, the crew is put through stress levels the likes of which they were not designed to withstand on a planet that is far more than it seems.

Brin does an admirable job tying together the disparate plot threads- teasing out the mystery of the water world and fleshing out his Delphine characters to the point that they seem incredibly human (albeit humans that use echolocation as a primary tool for viewing their interactions with the world). Some plot threads are left hanging, characters are introduced and then killed with no purpose that I can see other than to flesh out the page count, and some major problems are resolved off-stage in very anti-climactic asides, but on the whole this novel hangs together far better than its predecessor and it's easy to see why Startide Rising snagged both the Hugo and Nebula awards the year it was released. Still, space opera is a hard thing for me to enjoy as fully as I once was. These days it's dystopian visions of science run amok or humans seeking their own obliteration that pepper most pages that I read, fitting with the general atmosphere of end-times dolor that informs so much of our society in these tumultuous times, but it's certainly interesting to return to the sort of sci-fi that I used to read with a religious reverence and see how I react to it once the optimistic gleam of youth has been worn off a little. I will certainly be seeing this series through to its end.
Profile Image for Joaquin Garza.
533 reviews631 followers
November 7, 2021
Siempre es interesante leer los viejos ganadores del Hugo a Mejor Novela. Siendo éste un premio otorgado por los asistentes de la WorldCon, su condición de premio otorgado por fans acérrimos le ha dado probablemente el mayor prestigio en la ficción especulativa; pero también nos sirve para entender los cambiantes gustos y visiones de estos fans entre los fans.

Marea Estelar (Startide Rising) es una Ópera Espacial en la serie Uplift de David Brin. Su concepto central es que ciertas especies son capaces de "elevar" a otras a la consciencia y en el caso humano esto ocurre con los chimpancés y los delfines. La primera expedición piloteada por delfines se encuentra una sorpresa a la deriva en el espacio y al transmitir las noticias desata la furiosa persecución de varias especies que no son muy amigables con los humanos.

Lo que encontré más interesante del planteamiento es que casi el 80% de la novela ocurre en el agua, en un planeta donde la susodicha nave humana-cetácea ha venido a parar. Luego están los delfines, que tienen unos areneses que les dan manos y fuera del agua se mueven en una especie de arañas mecánicas que tienen cápsulas con agua. Y lo más bonito es que Brin se inventa que las vocalizaciones de los delfines en realidad son un lenguaje y lo traduce en haikus. Qué bonito.

Si bien resulta divertida e interesante, hay varios factores que le juegan en contra. Unos vienen sin mucha sorpresa por tener casi cuarenta años y otros vienen de la escritura propia. De los primeros hay entre cosas leves (extraterrestres sacados de la más pura ficción de pulpa que me imaginé representados con los típicos trajes de látex o como las criaturas de Carlo Rambaldi) hasta cosas como el machismo casual (la joven científica que en una misión de trabajo anda por la nave en bikini sólo porque sí o el acoso al que ella misma es sujeta por un delfín y que se trata con humor). De los segundos está la decisión de narrar en muchos puntos de vista al estilo Martin pero sin desarrollar mucho ciertos personajes (los delfines), una prosa que no es estelar, el uso de referencias culturales extrañas y explicaciones que llegan a ser confusas. En lo particular algo que no me logré imaginar era cómo estar en una nave espacial llena hasta la mitad de agua sin que ésta se estuviera agitando y salpicando con el movimiento.

Pero fuera de eso, vale la pena. Hay puntos cinemáticos que dar y el final tiene su emoción clásica de batalla espacial
Profile Image for Mark.
76 reviews18 followers
February 27, 2010
In reading my way through the Hugo Award winning novels, I've come across many books that I loved, and many more that were well worth reading. There have been a handful of disappointments, books that failed either to live up to their potential or to earn their accumulated praise. But I've enjoyed none of them less than Startide Rising.

This is a comprehensively unsuccessful work. Brin's failure here is not merely one of imagination, though the post-Star Wars universe of the Uplift books is decidedly derivative. Rather, this is a novel in the hands of an inept craftsman. Startide Rising not only boasts some of the most awkward sex scenes in the history of the genre, it also features bad poetry, thinly imagined characters, and descriptions of malevolent aliens so ham-handed they would embarrass a 9th grade creative writing student.

It's a novel that begins after its only interesting event has already occurred, and spends the entirety of its 400 pages watching the protagonists accomplish exactly the plan Brin introduces in the prologue. The "twists" along the way are distractions, exerting no actual influence on the course of the story.

The only good thing to be said about Startide Rising is that its occasional attempts at humor are only slightly less awful than its literary pretensions. But when jokes about engineers having watched too much Star Trek is the best that can be said for your SF novel, it's time to go back to the drawing board.
Profile Image for prcardi.
538 reviews74 followers
January 12, 2017
Storyline: 4/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 2/5
World: 4/5

Everything that was wrong with the series first, Sundiver, is still present here, albeit diminished. Everything that was good with the predecessor is still here in Startide Rising, albeit amplified.

There's still a problem with a) too much going on, b) too many far-future, new-fangled contraptions and abilities, c) cartoon-like creatures, and d) difficulty making all the components fit.

Some of the ideas here (many carried over from the first), are just so good! a) Uplift. The whole politics surrounding it is teeming with implications. It was worth reading the book just to dabble with the possibilities there. b) The Progenitors. Here Brin approaches Arthur C. Clarke territory in wonder. c) Humanity. It was so much fun belonging to the human race and reading this book. We're far from perfect, but Brin shows us we can be proud. d) The Library. The value of received wisdom is a great philosophical notion scattered through all the aforementioned. Brin doesn't approach this or contend with it in any deep-sense, but it fit perfectly into his universe and was highly entertaining.

Brin had more control over the story and the components this time, but it was still something of a jumble. If anyone values coherence, continuity, or order, this is going to be a challenging book. From what I've read so far, I'm never going to love the Uplift Saga, but if it continues like this, I'm going to find a lot to like in it.
Profile Image for Bryan at Postmarked from the Stars.
211 reviews22 followers
March 2, 2016
Should you read this book? Yes.

Do you need to read the first book in the Uplift Trilogy, Sundiver? No, but it's also dope and I think you probably should because Brin is a genius.

Does it have biologically uplifted dolphins as a majority of the main characters? Yes.

Did it win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards when it came out? Yes.

Did it deserve to? ABSOLUTELY!

Mankind's place in a cosmos is fascinating in the Uplift Trilogy. So if you're in for a great science fiction book chock-full of big ideas, I definitely encourage you to check out Startide Rising.
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,134 reviews6 followers
October 30, 2017
This book started a bit slow for me. It took me a bit of time to get used to Dolphins operating a spaceship. I skipped the first in the series because this book, the second in the series, is on the list of best sci-fi books ever of that the members of Sci-Fi Aficionados GR group have identified. I've been slowly working my way through that list. It worked well as a standalone for me. Loose ends were not left hanging - yes, there are some things that weren't resolved but there was no cliffhanger.

The dolphins are a species that is being raised up by homo sapiens. They are the second species on earth that the homo sapiens have raised up. The first species were the chimpanzee. Each species in the five galaxies has been raised up by a more accomplished species and legend is that at some point in the very distance past there was a progenitor species that started it. The strange thing is that no one knows who raised up the homo sapiens.

Getting back to the space ship, it is a survey ship that seems to have discovered a fleet of very old spaceships and a skeleton. When the ship reported to the Terrain government about its find, it was ordered to run because when it sent the message to Earth, all the species in the galaxies heard it and will be coming after the survey ship. And sure enough, come they did. The survey ship managed to escape but it was damaged. It is in hiding underwater on a planet about which nothing new appears in the ship's mini library since a few millennium ago. Repairs are being made as fast as possible because the other species in the galaxies have gathered around the planet and are engaged in battling each other because they all want to know the location of the fleet of old spaceships. While looking for materials needed to make repairs, members of the crew are saved by a new species that appears to be at the cusp of sentience.

On the survey ship are six humans and one chip in addition to the 132 remaining dolphins. Two of the humans seem to have been test tube creations. They are partners - Jillian and Tom - and speak many languages, including the three spoken by the dolphins and various versions of the Galactica language. They also seem to have some degree of physic power. Most of the dolphins and the other humans love them and the dolphins believe that they are really the ones in charge, despite being told no.

Things get pretty dicey for everyone. Some of the new type of genetically manipulated dolphins that were snuck onto the ship by one of the humans (he faked their test results) go mad. The executive officer leads a mutiny but gets thwarted. There are battles, murders, obsessed scientists, and other things going on, providing lots of action.

The narrator was good, although he seemed to be tired in the last quarter of the book and probably needed a break.
Profile Image for Josh.
182 reviews31 followers
June 18, 2022
The 2nd book in Brin's Uplift Saga is a sure improvement over Sundiver. It has the same great universe and alien heirarchy that Sundiver introduced, but this time there is plenty of action and a story that actually feels complete.

A brief synopsis:
Startide begins with a ship that's crash landed on a planet consisting mostly of water. This ship is crewed almost entirely by Uplifted dolphins. The ship is on the run from a dozen or so alien fleets who are after a discovery that they have made. The discovery is an ancient derelict fleet of fifty thousand ships hidden inside of a gravity well, each roughly the size of a moon. This fleet may belong to the first starfaring race in existence.

This book is incredibly entertaining. The humans and dolphins of this crashed ship struggle to remain hidden while the alien fleets crash and battle in orbit above them for rights to claim the ship and its secrets.

Read this book if you're a fan of any kind of sci-fi.

*edit* still incredible after the third read. Now to finally read the second trilogy.
Profile Image for Tam G.
419 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2017

Dolphiiiins iiiinnnnn Spaaaaaaaaace.

Really that's almost everything you need to know.

The Good: The visual of dolphins piloting starships and riding around with robotic tool-hands. Dolphin language like Haiku. A whole rigid universal hierarchy. Genetic manipulation. Intense complex world-building.

The No-so-good: Like all things we love the Good has a flip side which annoys us. Probably too long for what it is. Too many characters sometimes doing the same things. Little plots that seem to go nowhere. Takes awhile to really get into the full story (so if you don't like the characters or situations immediately it's easy to put down early on). Loose ends. Stupendous luck.

Recommended if you're a fan of epic world-building space operas...or dolphins. Not for everyone.
Profile Image for Valerie.
2,018 reviews164 followers
August 8, 2009
I am fascinated by the idea of aquatic pilots---I think that they would understand space differently because underneath is not a hard stop. All of the details about how a mixed aquatic and non-aquatic crew could live and function on the same ship were fascinating, I also really liked the communication difficulties.

I can't wait to read more books by Brin, this one gave me so much to think about.
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