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The Uplift War (1987)

by David Brin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: First Uplift Trilogy (3), Uplift Saga (3)

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2,898293,538 (3.95)69
Earth has been allowed to colonize the planet Garth only because its previous occupants went berserk and wiped out virtually all life there. But now humans, chimps, and their alien allies on Garth are being held hostage in a conflict that could affect the fate of the entire Five Galaxies.

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English (27)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
This is my review of David Brin’s ‘The Uplift War’, the third entry in his Uplift Universe series. The story itself is also copyrighted 1987 as well. Although it didn’t quite manage the triple crown winning streak of its predecessor, ‘Startide Rising’, being nominated for, but not winning, the 1987 Nebula award, it did win the 1988 Hugo and Locus Awards, and slightly less importantly, is my favourite book in the series. In terms of genre, like its immediate predecessor, Startide Rising, this is military science fiction, and unlike the earlier book, it doesn’t have as much of the philosophical musings, and there is more active combat. Still, quite a lot of the combat still takes place off screen – and particularly the bloodshed.
Like ‘Startide Rising’, this book is broken down into various sections, and told from multiple points of view. Unlike the earlier book, though, this book actually has chapters from the Gubru and other alien points of view, including our first Tymbrimi, the father/daughter combination Uthacalthing and Athaclena. The various sections are broken down into the Prelude, which is entirely told from the Gubru’s point of view and gives us a brief introduction to both the reasons behind the invasion and the Gubru themselves. The official part one is subtitled Invasion and introduces us to some of the leading characters on the Earth Clan side of the invasion including one of the leading chims, Fiben Bolger who is a member of the planetary defence forces and Ambassador Uthacalthing, who is considered rather a joker by the more sober members of the diplomatic representatives on Garth, most of whom are running away from the soon to be invested planet. As the title of the section suggests, it deals with the initial arrival of the Gubru and their landing on the planet, plus a bit of exploration of the interaction between Athaclena and Robert Oneagle, the son of the planetary administrator, at this stage, a rather tentative ‘getting to know you, oh my, how strange they are!’ kind of interaction and this has the potential of all sorts of misunderstandings to liven things up. We also learn that the rather abortive attempts of Earth Clan to defend their colony forces the head of the priestly faction of the Gubru occupation forces to maintain a nominal separation from the planet’s surface – it had vowed not to touch Garth’s surface until opposition had come to an end.
As Part 2, Patriots, opens, the Gubru are more-or-less in charge of the planet and they reckon they’ve taken the planet, but they’re not versed in wolfling psychology, being more used to dealing with the highly stylised undertakings of the galactic Great Clans, so fail to take into account the growing guerrilla operations in the countryside, though it’s quite amusing to read the passages where those guerrillas work out why the Gubru military forces are able to track the guerrillas when they make their strikes, and the understanding of the time scales on which their opponents have been operating – although it’s clear that Garth has been designated a target in the prelude, we don’t have any idea how long before the opening shots this is.
Part 3. Garthlings, focuses quite often on both Uthacalthing, and his companion in exile, Kraut, who’s a Thennanin, supposedly one oh Earth Clan’s enemies, as they track through the swampy wastes. Thanks to a bodged colonisation attempt many eons previously by a supposedly properly Uplifted species, Garth has no lifeforms bigger than domestic cats, and Uthacalthing has planned a jest on Kault to pretend that a larger, near-sentient species had survived this winnowing. Thennanin are known as one of the more serious races in the Five Galaxies, though, and Kault is proving resistant to these carefully planted clues. The Gubru prove more credulous and launch mission after mission to hunt down this mythical species – all patron races are driven by the need for more clients, after all. Except Earth Clan, who are barred from uplifting more proto-sapients from Earth. Both Athaclena and Robert begin growing up and find that a form of love can cross species boundaries.
Throughout the book, much gets made of the problems raised by the process of uplift, that leave a lot of chims that miss out on the benefits of Uplift by what they see as marginal points, in a position to be exploited by the occupation forces. Fiben and the leader of the urban guerrillas find this out first-hand as they are treated to the probies’ ideas of hospitality after the urban operations were completely routed. Poor old Fiben is treated as the character who gets most of the bad stuff dumped on him,, and as a rather comedic character, but he does get to come good at the end of the story. Part 4, Traitors covers much of Fiben and Gailet’s imprisonment, but Robert and Athaclena also find they have some decisions to make that wouldn’t necessarily find favour with their supposed superiors. Throughout the various sections, there is trouble in the Gubru high command. Always a balancing of power and policies between the three leaders, an emerging consensus was broken when the original Suzerain of Cost and Caution – effectively the accountants and bureaucrats boss – was killed in a terrorist attack. For a while Beam and Talon gained the ascendancy, but the balance gradually tips towards Propriety, though this ascendancy may not give answers to the questions the Gubru wanted answering. It’s also in this section, we get to see the power of the Institute of Uplift as they enforce a ceasefire on the warring groups.
Parts 5 and 6 see things coming to a head in both the Gubru and guerrilla camps and, as is often the case when a society is willing to pay the cost, the high tech Gubru roll up the guerrilla forces until Athaclena, now in firm command of the guerrillas, decides that a principled Last Stand is their best option, and it looks bleak for Earth clan until the madness of the Suzerain of Beam and Talon led to his execution by his Second in Command saving the insurgents. Back in the capital, the Gubru Uplift ceremony for the chimps led to an explosive climax as the Gubru backed Irongrip fights for his position against our hero Fiben. However, in probably the most mystical part of the book, the partially uplifted gorillas sense something going on and make their own march on Port Helena and the Uplift Mound to bring an unexpected ally to Earth Clan and their Tymbrimi allies.
The final parts of the book do get a bit airy fairy, but it’s basically well grounded in the physical realities of its universe. This is probably the place to wonder, as well, whether this desire to fiddle with the genetics of a species is something that will ever come to pass or is just something that was part of Brin’s hopes for the future. Certainly, even basic genetic modification of food crops is something that’s not thought of as A Good Thing currently so I can’t see messing about with the genetics of other species considerably ‘cuddlier’ than wheat or maize ever being acceptable. ( )
  JohnFair | Jun 12, 2021 |
(see "Startide Rising")
  librisissimo | Apr 28, 2021 |
David Brin just keeps becoming a better and better writer.

The Uplift War is the third novel of the first Uplift trilogy. It follows the invasion of the planet Garth by the avian Gubru, who seek to hold humans hostage to find more information about the NeoFins and the discovery of the Streaker

The plot is solid. Told from multiple perspectives, both antagonists and protagonists alive, the story unfolds as a wonderful web of relationships and politics. There are multiple twists and surprises. The only issue I had with it was pacing: the middle dragged a bit and the climax came and went very fast, which I felt lessened the impact of it.

Like with the other books, the non-human characters are the most fleshed out, layered, and compelling. The NeoChimps were a blast to read, particularly Fiben, and had full arcs in the story. The enigmatic Tymbrimi, fox-like humanoids with psychic face tentacles, felt a little flat. The Gubru were the most alien of the Galactics. The bits of the story from their perspective were a bit challenging as they used no names, just long, similar titles. Their politics, relationships, and viewpoints shifted a lot over the course of the novel, and working out how this impacted the Garth invasion (and the character's gender development) was a bit like a Sudoku puzzle.

This novel does not stand alone as well as Sundiver and Startide Rising. This is not bad, it just means one needs to commit a little to the series before diving into this novel. Overall, this felt like a solid installment for the series.

TL;DR: Despite some pacing issues, this book is a solid installment of the series, a worthy use of time for Uplift fans, and evidence that Brin's writing chops continue to improve. ( )
  kaitlynn_g | Dec 13, 2020 |
3.5 stars....

I went back and forth with this one. I didn't read the first two stories in this saga. It isn't necessary to do so, but I think reading them would give more perspective to the story with the dolphins. I did not enjoy the story, but I did enjoy some of the story elements. The concept of one race "uplifting" another to being sentience was intriguing. I also enjoyed the light injection of humor at regular intervals, especially the prankster, Uthacaling.

I struggled with one notable aspect of Brin's writing style. Often i rewound the audiobook because I thought I missed something. He has a way of jumping into a new topic or setting, then later explaining what's happening. I felt lost several times until I caught on to his style.

The interplay between the races in this book was most interesting to me. There was much that was reflective of our own world.

I would very much want to know more about the Progenitors and the discovery that the dolphins made. Perhaps these answers come I subsequent books, but the story did not grab me enough to want to continue with the series. ( )
  BlackAsh13 | Sep 7, 2020 |
aliens, humans & human client races dolphins and neo-chimps vie for place in billions yr old galactic civilization over ravaged planet Garth & new client race Very good
  ritaer | May 19, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brin, Davidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barlowe, Wayne D.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bauer, JerryAuthor photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zimet, JayeMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Jane Goodall, Sarah Hrdy,
and all the others who are
helping us at last to learn to understand.
And to Dian Fossey, who died fighting
so that beauty and potential might live.
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How strange, that such an insignificant little world should come to matter so much.
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Earth has been allowed to colonize the planet Garth only because its previous occupants went berserk and wiped out virtually all life there. But now humans, chimps, and their alien allies on Garth are being held hostage in a conflict that could affect the fate of the entire Five Galaxies.

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Haiku summary
Sentient Earthlings join
In crucial monkey-business...
Outwit aliens.

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