Friday, July 1, 2022

Sundiver By David Brin Review

Title: Sundiver
Author: David Brin
Year: 1980
Pages: 340
Rating: ★★★

Sundiver by David Brin is the first book of a trilogy that birthed a second trilogy.  

For those of you on, you friend the author right here. For those of you who don't know, David Brin is an award-winning author, scientist, and futurist. He has even jumped on board with games, GURPS Uplift. It is sadly out of print, but an informative read even if you have no inclination to play GRUPS. It's that excellent and will be the subject of a future review. 

Sundiver has a couple of high-interest points being the first of two trilogies. First, it lays the groundwork for the Uplift series by introducing a horde of aliens. There are actually two different types: the Terrians, and the Galatics. At least this is how I think of them. 

Earth evolves pretty much as you would expect for near-future science fiction. Engineered solutions are the way humans work. Brin described space needles fueling a new space race as the primary vehicle to introduce the main character Jacob Demwa. We'll circle back to him after we get through the tech. Terrians have also found clean energy and skill sets to fix the environment. It alludes to that they launched some sort of interstellar ship, but we don't see that in this series. However, the capstone of Terran achievements is the uplift of chimpanzees and dolphins to human-level intelligence, with other creatures like whales and gorillas waiting in the wings. 

The galactic aliens are a vast and varied culture spanning 5 galaxies. There are more species than appear in all of Star Wars and Star Trek combined. The core defining feature of these aliens, which is held on to almost as a religion is stewardship of the environment and the uplift of lesser species to sapiency. This pattern was created by the mythic, almost godlike Progenitors. Woe until those who do not believe. 

The book lands the reader in a disaster of epic proportions. Many galactic hate Terrians because they violate the tenants of their religion: "Who uplifted humans?" 

"No one," is the wrong answer.  

They have a secondary hatred of humanity and its kind as humans have shown great achievements of uplifting not one but two client species with two or more waiting in the wings without any help from a patron. The dilemma for the aliens is really clear, humans defy and prove their central beliefs. 

Not all aliens are bloodthirsty killers. There are some who are curious about earthlings and others who are willing to bide their time in picking a position. A few position themselves in such a way as to annoy other aliens for profit, politics, and fun. The galactic aliens nail a few tropes without being any singular one, which is very interesting. 

Now, I can introduce Jacob Demwa properly. Jacob is a classic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy character. He is a scientist working on refining the dolphin species uplift, a dabbler in other scientific fields with a warrior's heart, a ton of savvy spycraft, and a network of alien friends and enemies plus a big personal problem.  

As previously mentioned, some of the aliens take a long view of humans and have sold them a ship capable of traveling to the sun. Surprisingly, the Terrans upgrade this ship with standard, non-standard human tech and moxie to make it a Sundiving ship. As in, one that can travel into the upper atmosphere of a star. Stunningly, they discover a sort of ghost, hereunto undiscovered species by any galactic culture. Alien adventurers, scientists, and miscreants pour into the solar system just for a chance to take a ride of discovery on the Sundiver. Some hope for a new form of life catalog or a new path of spirituality, if they are ghosts, are real while most hope to see the humans burn in shame from chasing imaginary beings.  

The cruises below the sun's surface are wild, while the crew and observers are even stranger. As the ghost story progresses, Jacob Demwa must use all of his skills to keep the aliens in their lane while preserving the ship's crew on its journey. It's a rough ride, to say the least. Notably, Jacob is not the captain of the ship or even a member of the crew. He is an outside consultant.  

This novel is interesting as it is not required reading for the rest of the series. It's a strong stand-alone work which both compelling and fun to read. Brin totally nails it with Sundiver. 

Now for a few months, I've been listening to books on Audible, an Amazon company. I lost my Amazon associate account for sharing links on my blog. So, I can't point you to a link on Amazon. So, I have been suggesting people look for these books at their local bookstore, which is great if you have one. If you don't find what you need there, you can probably find  Sundiver on AbeBooks at a good price.

I haven't had many takers on the links to AbeBooks, but it's always there if you need it.

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