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Startide Rising (1982)

by David Brin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: First Uplift Trilogy (2), Uplift Saga (2)

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3,869512,547 (3.97)92
When Streaker -- the first starship designed and crewed by dolphins -- discovers a derelict ancient armada with evidence of the first sentient species ever, she sets off a war between dozens of galactic races eager to use the information for their own advancement. Trapped on a hostile planet while six alien fleets battle to decide their fate, Streaker's crew seeks some way to escape and return to Earth.… (more)

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English (48)  Finnish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)

Startide Rising won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and after reading it I am inclined to agree that it deserved them. This is a hard science fiction space opera which manages to be action-packed and thought-provoking at the same time. The premise is one of the most original I have encountered in my reading of science fiction literature. There are sentient species scattered across the Galaxy, and some believe that all life originates with the mythical Progenitors. When races reach a certain level of development, they are entitled to 'uplift' other species which are on the verge of sentience through genetic engineering. The survey spaceship Streaker, with a crew of humans and uplifted dolphins, makes an unexpected discovery during its trial mission, and is then pursued by hostile aliens and forced to hide on the ocean world of Kithrup. The tale is about how humans and their dolphin clients work to outwit their foes and make their escape so that they can deliver the details of their discovery to those who will handle it properly.

When I first began to read about dolphins piloting a spaceship, I was doubtful if I would be able to maintain the suspension of belief required past the first few chapters. However, I was quickly convinced by the vivid and believable descriptions of the interactions between humans and their uplifted clients, and by the intriguing plotline. Although it was written in the 1980s, the technologies envisaged do not seem in the least dated. The dolphins have their own culture, logic, and poetry, and these add depth and realism to the story. In short, David Brin was able to take an idea which seems ridiculous on the surface and turn it into a classic of science fiction by creating an immersive world complete with history and philosophies. The only minor flaw might be that since the story is told from the point of view of many different individuals rather than a single narrator, character development seems to have suffered slightly. In addition, if the reader prefers more action-oriented traditional space operas, parts of Startide Rising may seem a little sluggish. For me, though, the tempo was just right, and I found it to contain the perfect blend of action and rumination. ( )
1 vote Hoppy500 | Dec 1, 2021 |
This is my review of David Brin’s ‘Startide Rising’, copyrighted in 1982 and published by Bantam in 1985, and according to the copyright notice parts of the story were published in May 1981’s Analog. So, parts of this story are almost forty years old as at the date of this review! It’s the second book in Brin’s Uplift series and you can catch up with my other reviews of books in this series through the links at the end of this video.
In terms of genre, Startide Rising is pretty much Space Opera/Military Science Fiction, with a bit of mystery thrown into the mix. The crew of the Streaker, the Terran starship, who are at the centre of the story are mainly uplifted Dolphins, along with a small number of their human patrons and an uplifted chimp. The Streaker’s mission was basically to go out into the greater galaxy and see what was there and see how it compared to what their Library unit said should be there. What they found in an out of the way spot was a fleet. A very, very old fleet. And some very, very old, and very, very dead bodies. All this is off-screen, as it were, and our first encounter with the Streaker is after the ship has sought sanctuary after suffering a series of ambushes as it tries to flee back to Terra with one of those bodies hidden aboard. The discovery of the fleet and the ambushes are mentioned in enough detail in flash-back to make it clear why the Streaker has gone into hiding on the water world of Kithrup where her captain not only hopes to make repairs to the damage caused by those ambushes but to hide from the massed battlefleets of the various alien races who have followed the Streaker to the system, in the metal rich waters of the planetary ocean.
The book is broken down into various sections, with the first one looking at events on board the Streaker and in the alien fleets fighting for an advantage above the planet, with the chapters themselves told from the point of view of various characters aboard the Streaker, or from the aliens. The chapters written from the aliens’ points of view are in italics, presumably to indicate that they are separate from the main flow of the story. We cycle through the characters aboard the Streaker reasonable regularly, though there are a few favoured characters, and we do tend to see things from the same alien commanders (where they survive!). As the book continues and we get to different sections, it becomes clear that the crew of the Streaker are almost as divided as the aliens. This starts off being a disagreement between those who believe that the aliens were reasonable and would allow the Streaker to go if they handed over all the things they’d found in that fleet. Other members of the crew, including their captain weren’t that… naïve, and when an alien ship crashed on the planet, they came up with a, well, one has to admit it, wild arsed escape plan, but this meant stripping the Streaker of all the most competent crewfen and those left behind either had their own agendas or were just not up to the pressures their new responsibilities put on them, with a few exceptions – mainly the Captain, Creideiki. When an accident severely injured Creideiki, this left Takkata-Jim, his vice-captain, in charge. Takkata-Jim allies with Dr Metz, a human civilian uplift specialist who had got his place on the ship to see how well the dolphins got along but who’d also sneaked his own special gene spliced fen on board, that wouldn’t necessarily pass the recommendations of the Terragens Uplift Board – well, let’s be honest, would have been outright rejected, for excellent reasons as it turned out… Takkata-Jim and bosun K’tha-jon being a couple of his hidden upgrades. There are a few strange things about the planet, not the least was the fact it hadn’t been surveyed for literal eons after it should have been. Of more immediate interest to the Streaker’s crew was the pre-sentient species one of their midshipmen had found when the alien ship crash landed. Then there was an unusually dense amount of archaeotech on the plate boundaries – a traditional dumping ground for deserted planets but given the length of time this planet had been supposedly deserted they should have been long gone. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough resources to investigate anything that wasn’t related to pure survival. Or those presentients. As it turned out, that may have been a mistake, but with only Charles Dart on the Streaker a qualified geologist, the full scale of this anomaly was overlooked until it was almost too late…
Will the Streaker succeed in its plan to escape yet again, or will the aliens gain their prize? Well, we won’t find out in this book, but you do care about whether they do succeed or not, so it’s on to book three in the series. Did I like this? Yes! In particular I liked the way he managed to switch between a varied cast of characters and give them their own feel, which is something that can be difficult to manage. To be fair, Brin doesn’t have that many different characters as compared to other authors I could mention, and the swap between them is well documented. Although it’s clearly set in the same universe as Sundiver, there’s no direct continuation so you can read this without having read the first book though some of the later books in the series do tie into this book fairly directly.
It’s probably the second best of Brin’s books in my opinion, just because of some of the scenes with Creideiki originally looked to me to be a bit too spiritual for my tastes, and while this reread didn’t affect me so much that way this time, but it’s still something I’m not that keen on. Most people seem to prefer this to most of his other books and on publication it won the 1983 Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel, which is very impressive 😊 ( )
  JohnFair | Mar 18, 2021 |
Didnt grab me at all, failed to complete. ( )
  CliveUK | Sep 20, 2020 |
As far as I'm concerned, this is the best of the Uplift series! ( )
  johnthelibrarian | Aug 11, 2020 |
Initial bad prose and slow pace give way to a serviceable space operatic thriller. There's some irony in humanity being portrayed as having left racism behind when the author only mentions the skin colour of one human character. You guessed it - that person is black. This is subtle, unconscious and no doubt would mortify Brin if ever brought to his attention, but it illustrates that our biases are deep-rooted and often hard to identify in oneself. I say "human character" because there are a majority of non-human characters, ranging from genetically enhanced dolphins to numerous aliens.

The humans and other Earth-originating species (there's an enhanced chimp as well as all the dolphins) are considered somehow superior to almost all the alien species despite being upstarts, space-faring for mere centuries rather than hundreds of millenia. The main reasons for this are given as being scientists and not relying solely on the technological gifts of our alien neighbours, most of who have stagnated and become wholly reliant on technologies they don't necessarily fully understand, having not developed them but instead taken designs from a ubiquitous Library. I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with this, which is a theme also present in [b:Sundiver|96472|Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, #1)|David Brin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388176548s/96472.jpg|461555] . It smacks of a more subtle version of the vile moral of [b:Cryptonomicon|816|Cryptonomicon|Neal Stephenson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327931476s/816.jpg|1166797] i.e. that the USA is superior to everybody else because it expends more time, money, brain power and effort on developing ever-increasingly efficient methods of killing people than others do. The USA has many much more positive things to offer than that. Given the early eighties origin of this book, it could be simply yet another not overly subtle USA vs. the Soviets allegory.

Despite all sorts of intrigues, dangers, mysteries (some of which were all too guessable) and adventures, by the end of the book we are not one whit more enlightened about the initiating McGuffin than we were on page one, which is a frustration. This may be an attempt to hook the reader into book three but I still found it frustrating. I was also a bit fed up with all the psychic powers - it's a trope that I am baffled has survived past the psychedelic '60s - it just comes over as silly when there's no attempt to ground it in any type of science.

So over-all, it's okay as long as you go along for the roller-coaster ride, which gets to be quite a tense affair, but it doesn't bare much thinking about.

( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brin, Davidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cherry, David A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmidt, RainerÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, CoreyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"To my own progenitors..."
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Streaker is limping like a dog on three legs.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When Streaker -- the first starship designed and crewed by dolphins -- discovers a derelict ancient armada with evidence of the first sentient species ever, she sets off a war between dozens of galactic races eager to use the information for their own advancement. Trapped on a hostile planet while six alien fleets battle to decide their fate, Streaker's crew seeks some way to escape and return to Earth.

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