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Brightness Reef

by David Brin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Second Uplift Trilogy (1), Uplift Saga (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,180184,978 (3.72)1 / 40
On the planet Jijo, humans and aliens organize to defend themselves from space pirates in search of genes. The inhabitants are illegal immigrants, making them easy picking for the pirates who know galactic authorities will look the other way.



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English (17)  Finnish (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This happens to be one of those books that is both brilliant and lacking at the same time. I will explain myself.

The novel is actually quite as daunting and impressive as [b:Startide Rising|234501|Startide Rising (The Uplift Saga, #2)|David Brin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1476445711s/234501.jpg|251634] and [b:The Uplift War|234489|The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, #3)|David Brin|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1375272637s/234489.jpg|98235] in it's way, but it's mainly because Brin doesn't ever stint on world building. Ever. He goes all out and develops tons of alien races, tons of characters, and a great many implications for the amazingly complex alien culture among the 16 galaxies.

Truly, I have nothing bad to say at all about the quality and depth of its development. It's actually rather staggering. Brin never rests on his laurels. He finds new avenues to drill down into and I should say that there are VERY few authors who do it as deep or consistently as he does.

So what's lacking?

Well that's a very complex creature, too. My primary go-to complaint is in the basic story, but it isn't because it's too simple or too complex. Rather, it's because I was constantly wondering why I should care about some far distant fallow world where a bunch of alien refugees including humans had tossed all their technology into the drink in order to hopefully devolve genetically, culturally, and intellectually. Why would they do it? Because while they're political and cultural dissidents to the rest of the galactic society, they're also adherents to a weird quasi-religious tenant that is diametrically opposed to Uplift in general.

They want to return to innocence.

(Of course, not everyone believes. Humans are a bit more complex and have their own reasons to buck this trend with their books and their skepticism of the galactic culture that either doesn't want to be bothered to help the upstarts, but that's a sub-plot.)

I have no problem with the concept. In fact, if this was any other novel by any other author, I'd be touting it and the way it approaches the subject as honestly unique and fascinating. So what's my problem with it? I don't like book-burning. I'm in love with books. Of course, these guys take it all the way and sink their spaceships and all their tech, too, with a few human exceptions, but the core is the same.

What we've got is a novel about aliens and humans interacting in very complex ways with the ever-present fear that the galactics will find them and punish them and their entire RACE for the crimes of despoiling a fallow planet that should have remained fallow and untouched by anyone for several billion more years. That's a steep punishment for a broken law. Notice, too, that the galactic culture with its many, many, many species is an establishment that has been around for a very, very long time. Nothing stays around that long without being a very robust system. Mostly it relies on just out-waiting problems. :)

...Including dissidents who are thinking in terms of devolving themselves to pre-sentience. :)

Too bad that plan goes to seed. :)

So what's my problem? Too slow, maybe? My expectations wanted more resolution on a huge scale instead of what amounts to a tiny backwater and backward hamlet in the middle of nowhere?

Well that's my own damn problem, right? The novel is still a damn sight better than the majority of alien society novels out there by any yardstick. My problem is that I am judging it by his other brilliant Uplift novels instead of just focusing on what it does right. And it does a lot of things very right.

Of course, it's also book one of a trilogy that really needs to be read together if you want any sense of closure, too, so there's that. :)

And since I've read these before and I know that the end is practically a full 180 degrees from where we start now... I should have just kept faith from the start. :) So I will. I *was* of two minds about doing this re-read, but now that I've done this second read two decades after it was published, I'm now somewhat amazed and chastened that I should have worried. This is still a classic Brin.

I just needed to manage my expectations. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I was a bit confused at first, because aside from human beings I had not encountered any of the other races living on Jijo. ( )
  Eternal.Optimist | Aug 22, 2018 |
A confusing mess, but despite this Brin takes us into new worlds and acquaints us with all sorts of new species and so it slips into a 3-star. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Brightness Reef is the fourth entry in Brin's Uplift series, but it is quite a departure from the other books in the series. Instead of being about humanity's integration into the wider (and far more advanced) galactic civilization, this is about life on a backwater planet where galactic politics is only a distant memory. A number of races, including humans, have made a tenuous peace on this planet, and humans even seem to have a bit of technological superiority. The main action occurs as foreign humans with possibly-nefarious plans (and much better technology) land and upset the peace. While this wildly-different setting does take some getting used to (especially as parts of the story are told by aliens), the story itself is interesting, though not nearly as compelling as in his previous works. My main complaint is that practically none of the major plot points is resolved by the end of the book, including how this story fits in with the larger galactic picture (and there are plenty of hints that it does). The story ends very suddenly, and with a bit of a cliffhanger. I suspect things will make a lot more sense after the next book, but I do wish that some things got wrapped up here. ( )
  Phrim | Nov 16, 2015 |
This review covers all three books in the 2nd Uplift Trilogy, (Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach).

At the end of the day, this rather long story, (nearly 2,000 pages over three volumes), is a good book that leaves some big openings for more adventures in the Uplift Universe. With that said, I really enjoyed the first three Uplift books, (Sundiver, Startide Rising, The Uplift War), more than I did this second trilogy. I think that is due to the stand-alone nature of the initial three volumes. I liked that each of those books told a relatively complete story that was set against a larger backdrop that stayed mostly in the background. Further, this fourth installment, (again, I'm talking about three books here), could have stood some editing. There is quite a bit of repetition of information - and not all of that can be attributed to getting the reader up to speed with what happened in the preceding volume. Rather, it sometimes felt as though Brin had lost some threads and was reminding himself, (and the reader), of where things stood. At times, he was (validly) revisiting a situation from the perspective of a different character - but often it felt like redundant info-dumping. Yes, we know most of the Galactics are against the upstart human 'wolflings' and their client species, the neo-chimps and neo-dolphins - please stop hitting us with that particular truncheon!

On to the good things: The overall story is really pretty great. As an unabashed and unapologetic Space Opera tale, this 2nd Uplift Trilogy does not disappoint. Throughout these Uplift books, Brin has taken a 'kitchen-sink' approach to the science, (he even says so in the afterword). He throws one big idea on top of another on top of third and a fourth. And then keeps doing it! His position as consultant for NASA is showing here in a big way - and that's a good thing because the ideas are grand and he does a good job of laying it out for us lay-people. Among all that science and big ideas, there are also a wide variety of characters to track - and there is a fair amount of head-hopping as a result - but Brin is a talented enough writer that he pulls off that aspect quite well. Helping to ease the transitions, most perspective shifts happen at logical chapter breaks. Now, with such a large cast of players, some are bound to be more interesting than others and a handful of characters do seemingly get short shrift - but I can see where Brin might re-visit some of them in order to explore their stories in greater depth. There are also other characters from the first three books that don't show up here at all, (most notably the ones left behind on Kithrup at the end of Startide Rising - which was, for me, the standout book of the entire Uplift series). I hope Brin's future plans include coming back to tie up some of those loose ends.

Having finally finished this trilogy, I feel like I have completed a marathon. Not that I've ever run a real marathon! LOL! Still, with the unrelenting onslaught of difficulties that every character seemed to be going through, always battling uphill against incredible odds. Facing implacable enemies. Managing one hair-breadth escape after another... it's nice to call this one done - at least for now.

Next up, I might have to try a nice post-apocalyptic story - just to lighten the mood! ;) ( )
  ScoLgo | Feb 27, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Brinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gambino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardini, CarlosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gunn, JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lenagh, KevinMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warren-Youll, Jamie S.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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to Herbert H. Brin
Poet, journalist, and lifelong champion of justice
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I must ask your permission. You, my rings, my diverse selves.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This was published as two books in Germany as Sternenriff and Fremder der fünf Galaxien.

This was published as two books in France as Rédemption - Le Monde de l'exil and Rédemption - Le Monde de l'oubli.

Do not combine the German or French works with the English.
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