Synopsis: Disaster recovery after a starship crashes on an abandoned planet, while a space battle takes place overhead. With sapient dolphins!
Book Review: This is a fun adventure tale, featuring lots of problem solving, which puts it right up my alley. The book starts off with a bang, dropping us right into the middle of a raging battle, and it is never dull for its full duration. There is always something going on, very often multiple somethings, and they’re all intriguing.
The uplifted dolphins are a huge part of the charm of this book, they’re mischievous and witty, and strike me as very smart and energetic pre-teens. They’re a delight to read. Brin also gets to have a lot of fun with the concept of uplift, because it means alien species don’t have to make sense evolutionarily. Intelligent trees? Sure, a creator race genetically engineered them, so why not?
The world feels rich, with a lot of depth that is hinted at but never explored, because the main action is too important for diversions. You come away from this book feeling like there are volumes that could be written within it, and this was but one small corner that we had the opportunity to visit. I would refer to it as a very fanfic-fertile environment. :)
There are quite a lot of POV characters though, so many that some start to blur together after a while. And it makes liberal use of psi powers, which threw me at first. It’s an artifact of the times when it was written and psi wasn’t quite disproven yet, but it feels damn bizarre to have fantasy sticking it’s nose into my sci-fi! Fortunately the things that the psi is used for turn out being so damn cool that all is forgiven, and you come to accept it over the course of a few chapters.
When you’re done with it, the book leaves you optimistic, exhilarated, and wanting more. Recommended.
Book Club Review: While there’s a lot of action to be had, the book still manages to make some commentary here and there. It decries traditional colonialism, while also making a case for the importance of helping emerging species. It strikes me as a demonstration of how The White Man’s Burden can be a positive thing (where “White Man’s” would be replaced with “Human’s” or perhaps “Uplifter Race’s”). I wish it had been explored in more detail, but it was a start.
The interesting concepts and adventurous tone makes this a good choice for almost any group, it’ll leave everyone entertained. It is a little dated, but that doesn’t hurt it much. While not amazing, it is good, so I’d Recommend it.