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on 15 August 2017
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on 2 March 1999
The Uplift series kicks off with Sun Diver which introduces Brin's Uplift universe. Uplift refers to a process where a patron race nurtures intelligence in another race to help it reach sentience. In return, the uplifted race must serve the patrons for some considerable time before it's allowed independence and participation in patronage. Mankind, only recently "discovered" by the alien races, seems to be lacking a patron, without which sentience is deemed unachievable. The "natural" development of the human intellect is considered by some races as heresy, whereas others step to defend humans and sponsor their entry into the federation. Sun Diver deals with the intrigues surrounding this situation, which is complicated even further by the existing uplift process of dolphins and chimps, that humans initiated before any alien contact. The plot centers on human expedition into the Sun's corona, where signs of possible sentient life have been found, thus adding another twist in the tail. The expedition was made possible by rapid adoption of alien technology, and indeed, there are alien observers on board of Sun Diver, the probe that becomes the stage on which the tensions between the races are given its release.
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on 30 April 2017
Just not my kind if SciFi book, I just couldn't get into it
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Two billion years ago, the Progenitors commenced the process of 'uplift': genetically engineering the more intelligent animals of many scores of worlds to sentience and intelligence. They in turn uplifted other races, and then others, in an unbroken chain that would eventually span aeons and no less than five galaxies. Each 'Patron' race would receive 100,000 years of indentured servitude from their client races before the clients would be allowed to uplift species of their own and become Patrons themselves. The Progenitors are long gone, as are many of the races they sired, but the process of uplift goes on. When a race is discovered in a tiny corner of one galaxy which has no Patrons and claims to have evolved naturally without outside intervention, it sends shockwaves through galactic society.

The Solar system, 2246. Humanity has narrowly avoided being given to another Patron race to 'complete' their 'long-abandoned' uplifting. At the time they were discovered, humanity had already uplifted chimpanzees and dolphins to sentience, and were able to claim Patron status for themselves, to the fury of many, far older races. When a scientific mission is launched from Mercury to investigate lifeforms discovered living in the Sun's upper layers, several other alien races are furious with humanity's temerity: the Galactic Library states that life cannot exist in the atmosphere of stars, so their claims are clearly lies intended to bolster their own status. Jacob Demwa, an expert in uplift, is called in to help clarify the situation, but he finds several human and alien factions battling to control the information about the discovery for their own ends, and some of them may be willing to kill to achieve their ends.

Sundiver (originally published in 1980) is the first novel in David Brin's acclaimed Uplift Saga, a space opera series running to six novels. The series has won two Hugos, two Locus awards and a Nebula for Best Novel, and is highly regarded in the SF canon. However, most of these plaudits are aimed at later books in the series (particularly the second and third volumes, Startide Rising and The Uplift War). Sundiver itself tends to get a little overlooked in the mix.

Sundiver is a totally stand-alone SF novel. It's set about 240 years before the other books and features no ongoing storylines or characters. Readers are in fact often encouraged to start with the superb second volume and disregard this one (there are also a few minor continuity issues between Sundiver and the other books), which is a bit of a shame. Though Sundiver is the weakest book in the series and the most forgettable, it's still a reasonably entertaining SF mystery novel.

Our primary POV in the novel is the conflicted character of Jacob. Jacob is suffering severe PTSD after saving one of Earth's space elevators from destruction through various feats of derring-do, which has led to various mental problems that he has to deal with through conditioning. This makes for a highly unreliable narrator, who often pauses to wonder if his own psyche is undermining his efforts to solve the mystery. This introduces an element of uncertainty into the story which is effective at being unsettling and forcing the reader to re-examine everything that's going on. On the other hand, Brin isn't as good at doing this kind of thing as Gene Wolfe or Christopher Priest and eventually it turns out that the amount of misdirection going on is rather slight compared to the potential. Still, it's a nice idea.

The mystery itself is at the centre of the book: what is going on with these newly-discovered lifeforms floating above the Sun? There are your usual assortment of false leads, red herrings, enemies turning out to be good guys and vice versa, but the reader is not given sufficient information to solve the mystery by themselves (always a slight problem with a mystery-based narrative). The mystery is solved through the application of scientific principles, which is quite enjoyable, but the way Jacob gathers everyone around to reveal the secrets in a scene straight out of Columbo is a little bit cheesy. Luckily, the characters other than Jacob are a colourful and interesting bunch (though the annoying journalist with the outrageous French accent borders on caricature), and Brin is already doing his signature trick of giving us really bizarre and 'different' aliens but also making them relatable as individual characters, something that will come out much more strongly in the later books.

Sundiver ( ***-and-a-half ) is a reasonably solid SF mystery novel, though the solution is a little bit too neat and the story's full potential is not realised. The book's biggest problem is that its sequels are so vastly superior they tend to outshine it, which I suppose isn't the worst problem in the world to have. The book is available now in the UK and USA.
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on 30 March 2003
Sundiver is the best book I've read in the last 10 years.
If the premise of the book is at all interesting, I recommend trying the book.
This is my favourite book in recent memory because of the individual quality and interplay of many factors.
First, David Brin creates a very interesting story with entertaining and plausible twists.
Second, the universe David Brin creates is a complex, dense, and consistent society that is intriguing even for well read SF readers, yet this context does not supercede or overwhelm the story.
Third, Brin manages to to develop likeable (and detestable), full and rounded characters unlike almost all SF writers.

Fourth, the book effectively can be read as commentary on scientific development and cultural evolution, which is interesting in its content and expertly expressed in the detailed exposition. (I must admit I generally care nothing for this stuff, bur Brin does it so well, I became intered in it for this series. Also, this side of things only interested me after I had fully enjoyed what a great story it is with great characters in such a weird universe)
Fifth, the interplay of the above as well as Brin's creative approach give the book an overall richness and depth that is reminiscent of the best works of Tolstoy, Doestoyevsky, and Solzhenitsyn.
So far, I have only read the first three books in the series, since the books are so good that I want to space them out for as long as possible though I'm always very eager to read the next book.
I hope you enjoy these books as well. They are a very fun read.
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on 19 January 2010
I picked up Sundiver on impulse after hearing that David Brin's Uplift Saga was a good one to read. I subsequently found out that although this is an Uplift book, it's the first and is separated from the main story. I wasn't too bothered about this as I could see whether I enjoyed this one before going on to the rest of the books. However, I was also told that this wasn't as good as the two sequels that garnered much praise. Because of this I put off reading Sundiver for a while, but suddenly had this urge to pick it up. I'm glad I did...

The central concept in Sundiver is an interesting and clever one: all intelligent races in the galaxy have been uplifted to sentience by a parent race, although humanity is the exception to this as it appears they haven't. What they have done though is uplift two of Earth's other animals to sentience, the Dolphin and Chimpanzee, and in doing so have become a parent race themselves. With this done before they were discovered by the other races of the galaxy, humanity have been given a status that some within the galactic society believe they are not worthy of.

This is the backdrop to Sundiver and introduces the universe well, but it also shows that not everyone lives in total harmony. The universe throws up some interesting things - the galactic library that has details of all technologies and discoveries that all races share; the arrangement given to races regarding the planets they live on; the whole arrangement between parent and client races after they have been uplifted. I could go on a long time, but suffice to say that this is a setting that very much appealed to me and gave a great seansawunda.

I've detoured a little here and gone into more detail about the setting than I have about the story. Sundiver is, essentially, an investigation story to find out what exactly is living in the Sun and whether or not it has any relation to humanity's sentience. On the whole I enjoyed it and will quite happily go ahead with the other books in the Uplift series, although I do feel that most of the characters were a little forgettable. Don't get me wrong, they suited the story and worked well with the situations they were put in, but ultimately the setting is by far the most interesting and intriguing aspect of this book.

I would personally recommend that this is one to read - get a feel for the story, the setting, the aliens, but most importantly read it so you know that you've got another series to read that has much praise heaped upon it. Brin is an author I will be reading more of in the future.
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on 9 March 1999
Don't get me wrong, good old "Startide Rising" is the centerpiece of the Uplift novels. If the idea of "uplift" makes perfect sense to you right away, then perhaps you should go straight to Startide. However, the Brin universe took a little "getting aquainted" time (for me, anyway). Here we have a nice bite-size mystery dealing with humans that make about as much sense of this "uplift" thing as the reader. Find out why certain Galactics hate our guts, and why others want to give the poor wolflings a chance in this crazy universe. Unlike later Brin novels (which are drop-dead amazing), this one is a quick sip...you won't need to devote weeks of reading to it (hey I read slow, so sue me) and you'll be ready to plunge right into the next to installments and get the hang of them much better. Bring it along the next time you're on a plane and enjoy this refreshing yarn.
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on 12 April 2006
David Brin's "Sundiver" stands out through taking an established idea -that of older, sentient, often alien races fostering the development of emerging sentient races- and constructing a thrilling narrative with well-developed characters around it. Not all his aliens and anthropomorphic - some are truly alien in novel and interesting ways and it's a pleasure to observe the differences in their thinking.

Jacob Demwa is not into politics, but a little persuasion by a good friend entices him to join an expedition to Mercury, where Earth's first sundives are taking place with both human and uplifted chimpanzee pilots and crews involving both humans and aliens. Political tensions run high, because humans are a wolfling race, having achieved spaceflight and considerable technological and scientific advance without the help of alien sponsors; humans an aliens are still negotiation terms of technological aid as well as humans' standing in the galaxy. Humans want to prove their science while some alien factions may turn out to have different agendas.

"Sundiver" is the first of the "Uplift" series and it's certainly made me want to buy the next one some time soon.
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on 3 May 1999
Sun Diver lays the foundation for the rest of the uplift series by setting the scene for the inter galatic intrigue to follow in the other books. Humans have run into Galactics, other spacefaring species, and have caused a stir as they seem to have gained sentience without the aid of outside help. The plot follows Jacob as he joins an expidition into the upper reaches of the sun. There, forms of life appear to have been discovered, possibly the lost patrons of humans. Attempts at communication fails however as the Solarians turn hostile, threatening the expidition with loss of life and the prestige of human science. Can Jacob save the expedition from failure, and are the Solarians the only cause for concern? The book is let down by a few too many plot twists, jumps in the narratives, and blatant copying of stereotypical plot developments from other genre's, particularly crime books. Despite this, the book is still a good read, even unputdownable toward the end, and has got me hooked to both David Brin and the Uplift Novels, which work even better than Sun Diver.
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on 16 January 2001
This book is the first of the universe of Uplift of David Brin. The story is located a couple of centuries before the facts of the other five books, and it shows the first steps of Earth in the difficult Universe of the Uplift. The wolfling human race and their clients begin to endure the hard task of surviving in the five galaxies without a patron.
Nice book, well written as anything I read from Brin till now. A complex story with lot of suspence and surprises, and a brilliant final solution. It is a must in every science-fiction fan bookshelf. After this, you would not hesitate to buy the other books of the Five Galaxies serie.
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