Show #9: Pre-show Discussion

For Show #9, we head back to the bookshelves to examine the first book in David Brin’s Uplift Saga, Sundiver.

The main premise behind the tale is that no sentient species ever became that way without having had a little bit of help from another sentient species, visitor or indigenous. But no one knows if the humans achieved it from a species that didn’t stick around, or if they managed to uplift themselves… it’s a mystery.

What questions do you have about the book, or the overall trilogy that we might be able to address?


  1. Don’t think this one made it to OZ, so I am interested in hearing about it.

  2. I’ve read the three (that I know of) books in the Uplift series. IMHO, “Sundiver” is the worst of the lot. The background universe is fascinating, and Brin explores it to better effect in “The Uplift War” and “Startide Rising”. I’ll be interested to hear what the Ninjas say about it.

  3. Dude, don’t tell me that! :)

    I have a bad experience with first books of that bent. See my commentary on “Hyperion” for example.

  4. No, trust me, the other two are ripping good yarns. I’m a big space opera fan, and “Startide Rising” and “Uplift War” deliver. I actually read those first, then picked up “Sundiver” – and was greatly disappointed.

    From your “Hyperion” discussion, sounds like your problem was the density of the prose. My problem with “Sundiver” is that it ultimately comes off as bogus.

    But read it, and make your own judgements.

  5. I’ve read all six of the series, and let me tell you I wish I had stopped after #3.

    I started with Uplift War, which I think is #2. The other two are good reads, but Uplift War is the best of the lot, for characterization and plot. I’ve re-read it several times. Startide continues on with another plot thread, and while Sundiver makes reference to actions in the other books, I don’t know where it fits chronologically.

    All of the books have a at least a little deus ex machina going on at the last minute: stuff happens that all the alien species think is logical and exceptable, but for our little bands of humans (including the reader) may feel a little like a shortcut to the words “the end” – you’re building to something, then it just takes a left and stops.

    (sidenote: I feel later-Arther C Clark does the same thing, which annoys me ’cause the ride was so much fun, yet the ending seems like the publisher says “that’s too many words – stop here”)

    Sundiver seems to actually use this sort of left turn as a device to purposely leave the reader as unsettled as the characters, but I somewhat agree with Tim that it “ultimately comes off as bogus”.

    The second trilogy, BTW, starts strong, with fun characters that Brin does horrible things to, and you get to watch them work their way out of things, then “a miracle happens here” and we get to watch the second coming or something – I was never sure what was happening.

  6. I didn’t read sundiver, I was told the second book in the series was the best one. So I reviewed it first. Now the idea that an “uplift” of intelligent life is necessary in order to create sentient and spacefaring races is cool idea. Also cool is the idea of a “patron species” and a “client species”. The overall premise of “uplift” is interesting, and would definitely be worth reading about, except for one minor issue. Startide Rising is a horrible novel. Its very very very talky, there are way way way too many characters – virtually every scene that might be of interest takes place off-stage, in the past or is happening at the time but being related by a third party indirectly! A cast of dozens of characters talking endlessly about events that just happened, are happening elsewhere or happening now but being related by a no-name character reading a sensor bank really is not fun.

    I am shocked that it won a Hugo and a Nebula. Shocked.

  7. Huh. Apparently I had the order of the books wrong. The first trilogy in order is “Sundiver”, then “Startide Rising”, then “Uplift War”.

    Wikis can be so cool.

  8. I strongly disagree with Jesse. Sure, there were a LOT of characters in that book, but I what I think one thing Brin showed was this – that even within three or four major groups, there are divisions and dissentions. The alien groups, constantly jockying for position, was echoed within the human/dolphin groups. My biggest gripe with “Startide Rising” was that Brin never revealed the nature of the catalysmic discovery made by the wolfling humans. I expected that to be revealed in “Uplift War” but alas, he gave us a different (though also entertaining) story.