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Sundiver by David Brin, a Review

Sundiver is a book that I have been meaning to read for most of a decade. I just never quite got round to it for some reason. David Brin’s first novel is also the first in his highly acclaimed Uplift Saga, a series of books all set in the same universe.

Brin’s clever concept is that all intelligent species in the galaxy have been uplifted by an already existing intelligent race. All that is except apparently for the human race. Of course that unique situation puts humans in a rather precarious position on the galactic stage. Despite apparently not being “uplifted” themselves, humans have managed to uplift chimps and dolphins, however in this book at least these newly uplifted species do not play a major role.

This is a largely self contained novel that relates only generally to subsequent books in the Uplift Saga. The core plot is essentially a mystery with our protagonist trying to figure out what is going on and why. There’s no shortage of good science fiction concepts here though. Creatures that live around the sun, ships that can dive towards the sun, other uplifted races, a galactic library.

There’s a lot to like about this book. The universe it’s set in feels complete, not only does earth have a detailed history leading up to this event (complete with realistically complex politics), but Brin scatters little ideas and information throughout the story. We only get a few glimpses of the larger galactic politics, but it’s enough to convey that humans position is very precarious indeed and that there are other cultures out there who will be only too happy to squash them.

The central character is somewhat unique too, having apparently a split personality. However, he is almost annoyingly smart, incredibly athletic and maybe just a bit too all round wonderful.

There are other problems with Sundiver too and I wonder if some of them relate to it being a first novel. It reads in a very choppy fashion. We jump from view point to view point but none of the other characters ever get very developed. It’s almost as though some scenes were edited out of the book too, because in places characters were referring to things that we hadn’t seen happening.

These flaws definitely detracted from my enjoyment of the book. Brin showed a huge amount of potential with his ideas, but they mystery plot wasn’t particularly strong and the actual structure of the book seemed to work against his best ideas.

That said, there’s enough here that I am eager to read more books in the Uplift saga to see how he expands on the concepts that he introduces here.

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Eoghann Irving is amongst other things the creator and Editor of Solar Flare. He has a life long interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy and a pressing need to share this interest with anyone who will listen. Find out more at his personal website

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