The Uplift War

Title: The Uplift War
Author: David Brin
Published: 1987

I would never recommend The Uplift War to my friends who are skeptical about science fiction. It has too many conventions peculiar to the genre. There are aliens of many races, psychic powers, galactic empires, robots, ray guns and spaceships that travel faster than light. It’s all a bit much in a single book if you’ve never read science fiction before.

Furthermore, this is not an easy read. The pages are peppered with made-up alien words like lurrunanu and tu’fluk. There’s also a sprinkling of obscure English words, such as covinous and antelucan, which revealed the inadequacy of my dictionary. As much as I enjoyed expanding my vocabulary, these terms seem awkward and gratuitous here.

In fact, I found Brin’s prose style to be quite difficult, but not particularly beautiful or rewarding. Some passages are absolutely painful, such as when the author describes a wall as “the barrier that undulated complacently over the countryside like a net settled firmly over their lives.”

If that doesn’t bother you, and if you’re already a fan of the science fiction genre, then you might enjoy this book. The tone is light and at times humorous. The alien psychologies are compelling and are probably the best thing here. And of course there’s the concept of Uplift itself — the idea that one species can raise another to sentience. This is a huge idea, and I can readily understand how Brin has milked so many novels out of it.

Brin is a scientist, and there are a number of thought-provoking speculations here. Unfortunately they are spread a bit thin over 600+ pages. The emphasis is definitely on action and fun.

A note of warning to would-be readers: The Uplift War stands on its own, but early on you will encounter some intriguing references to a spaceship piloted by dolphins that has made a mysterious discovery of galactic significance. Don’t expect to find this mystery revealed in The Uplift War. You’ll have to read Startide Rising if you really want to know.

[Crossposted to Amazon]