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This is the 4th printing.

David Brin's Uplift novels are among the most thrilling, highly regarded works of contemporary science fiction. Beginning with Sundiver, Brin provides an intriguing exploration of humanity's future in the universe. For nearly a billion years, every known sentient species in the universe has been the result of genetic and cultural guidance--or "uplifting"--by a previously uplifted patron race. Then humans are discovered. Having already uplifted chimps and dolphins, humanity clearly qualifies as an intelligent species, but did they actually evolve their own intelligence, or did some mysterious patron race begin the process, then suddenly abandon Earth? The answer to this mystery might be as close as our own sun, but it will take a daring dive into its fiery interior to know for sure. Sundiver begins David Brin's thoughtful, exhilarating exploration of a future filled with an imaginative array of strange alien races, dazzling scientific achievements, and age-old enigmas.

340 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

David Brin

317 books3,071 followers
David Brin is a scientist, speaker, and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Existence, his latest novel, offers an unusual scenario for first contact. His ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web. A movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. Startide Rising won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. The Uplift War also won the Hugo Award.

His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with secrecy in the modern world. It won the Freedom of Speech Prize from the American Library Association.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI, nanotechnology, and philanthropy.

David appears frequently on TV, including "The Universe" and on the History Channel's "Life After People."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 831 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
793 reviews3,602 followers
October 30, 2019
The most fascinating aspect of Brin's work is, next do the development of language depending on the habitat and culture of a species, the idea of uplifting. Many questions, ideas and plot possibilities come with it:

Have we been uplifted? If we have been uplifted, are we living in a kind of alien zoo? Could this be part of the simulation hypothesis?
Is what we do with other animals, such as breeding for thousands of years and now, the hottest new trend, genetic engineering with techniques as CRISPR, not a kind of own style of uplifting?
How will we deal with the rights of species, such as wales, octopus, birds, elephants, monkeys, etc. if they develop very high intelligence naturally by evolution or with our help? How can they be integrated into a human or alien society?
At which point is a species mature enough to be allowed to uplift other species?
If there are different kinds of intelligence, especially with individuals or with hive minds and the uplifter has a preference or completely beliefs in the ideology of one kind of culture, what kind of assimilation is the right one to avoid destroying the culture and polluting it with foreign influences?
Culture is the most difficult topic, cause the danger of Cargo Cults and directed, technical development that destroys uniqueness and creativity are ubiquitous.
What about the right so stay primitive or at a certain level without further development, because the species prefers to stop all developments at a certain level that seems adequate to them?

This is one of the most astonishing magic capabilities of Sci-Fi, to let the reader with more open than answered questions after finishing reading. Imagine just the sheer amount of all movie, game and literature alien species with extremely detailed culture and how many possibilities of how they might influence each other in a fictive crossover can grow out of a simple mind game. Just Stark Trek vs Star Wars would be an infinite war of possibilities and fandom.

Tropes show how literature is conceived and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Clouds.
228 reviews632 followers
July 11, 2013

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).

There are three books I’ve considered ‘honorary’ members of my Locus Quest reading list. In circumstances where books two and three of a trilogy are award winners, it seems only fair to read the first book in that series to understand the full story and context.

Green Mars and Blue Mars are award winners – so I needed to read Red Mars , even though it wasn’t a winner.
The Confusion and System of the World are award winners – so I needed to read Quicksilver , even though it wasn’t a winner.
Startide Rising and The Uplift War are award winners – so I needed to read Sundiver , even though it wasn’t a winner.

I wasn’t disappointed to read Red Mars or Quicksilver – they are both excellent books and essential parts of their series. Sundiver is not: it’s not an excellent book, and it’s not an essential part of the series.

I’ve since read Startide Rising and The Uplift War Brin came up with a great concept and it’s an interesting series which definitely picks up after this patchy start. Each book basically stands alone; they’re set in the same universe in a linear timeline, but on different worlds and with different characters. Startide Rising and The Uplift War are at least causally linked - the events of Startide Rising lead, by political chain reaction, to the events of The Uplift War . The same cannot be said of Sundiver . Events here are mentioned briefly in the following books, but are basically irrelevant.

As I said – the concept for the series is excellent. The universe is filled with hundreds of sentient species, each intent on ‘uplifting’ pre-sentient races into spacefaring civilisations. They’re rewarded for their efforts with prestige and a thousand year patron-client (master-slave) relationship with their newly uplifted underlings. Every species can trace their patrons’ patrons like aristocratic ancestry back into the mists of time. Humanity is the only known species to reach the stars without a patron, to have uplifted itself! We are the ‘wolflings’, the rogue state, the fresh meat, the loose cannons! The stage is set – it’s a great concept.

What gives The Uplift Saga a bit of extra spice is that humans have clients of their own. They’re not fully uplifted yet, but before we discovered the galactic civilization waiting out there in the stars, humans have already been meddling with the genes of our most intelligent fellow Earthlings: chimps and dolphins are close to full, independent sentience. It’s this thread which pays huge dividends in the rest of the series – Startide Rising focuses on a starship crewed by dolphins and The Uplift War is set on a genuine planet of the apes (populated by chimps themselves trying to uplift gorillas). Sadly, these mighty oaks are still acorns in Sundiver – we briefly meet a semi-sentient dolphin at the start, and a genius (but pre-vocal chimp) is a significant character – but we’re still keeping mankind front and centre.

This is basically a detective story. Something kooky is going down in the Sundiver Spacestation (where humans are flying special ships deep into the sun) and our hero, a sort of zen-psycho, is called in to investigate. He stumbles into some galactic political machinations (some jockeying for control over humans, some fighting amongst themselves and using us as pawns) which are muddying the waters around a research breakthrough regarding lifeforms residing in the outer layers of the sun.

Still sounds good, doesn’t it?

Sadly the execution feels dated and… silly. There’s no other word I can think of. Of course the humans outwitted the aliens, we’re just better, duh! The alien politics are a long way from Machiavellian and their behaviour kind of juvenile. Our hero is an oddball I never came to love.

It’s not terrible – but it’s awfully blah.

The rest of The Uplift Saga is better – do yourself a favour and skip Sundiver ! Start with Startide Rising , you wont miss much.

Profile Image for Mark.
72 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2010
I really disliked this book. This may have been due in part that I listened to the audible edition and I'm not a fan of George Wilson as a narrator.

The protagonist in this book, Jacob, is tedious and unbelievable. The author builds him up as a world-weary, zen, super scientist, martial-artist with a Mr. Hyde-like split personality that he needs keep in check.

Al the other characters in this book are diminutive to Jacob.

The women in the novel are little better than 2-dimensional window dressing. Of course, the female captain of the Sundiver spaceship is fit, tough, incredibly attractive, lascivious and unapproachable. And, of course, it's only a matter of time before she let's down her guard and buries her head in Jacob's shoulder.

I don't know David Brin's story, but Sundiver leaves me thinking that the author has a serious ego deficit that he needs to compensate for with his heros.

I decided to read this in preparation to read Startide Rising, which won the 1983 Hugo award for best novel. Unless I hear differently, I may very skip that one.

Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
April 14, 2012
This is science fiction from 1980 and is therefore not obsessed with:
1) Computers.
2) Nanotech.
3) Wormholes.

This makes it rather refreshing. Instead this book uses an old theme, prevalent in post-WWII American SF: Humans (read the USA) are superior to everybody else. In this example, humans are technologically outclassed by every other space-faring species in the galaxy but are superior because their intelligence evolved naturally instead of being the result of genetic manipulation by an older species. Or maybe not - it's the hottest debate in the galaxy. Various species think humans are upstarts. Others - usually also younger species - kinda like humans. Devious, nefarious politics ensues and our protagonist gets caught up in it.

A slow start leads on to an exciting Poirot-style murder mystery and then a further action-adventure in the chromosphere of the sun, where life has been discovered. Apart from being a compelling story, the main interesting thing in the book is this sun-life. I'm sure I've come across the idea of star life before but never in as much detail.

Inevitably this is the first volume of a series; I'm inclined to carry on with it if I spot the remaining volumes.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,889 reviews428 followers
July 3, 2022
Jacob Demwa does not want to be part of the 'Sundiver' (eponymous book one in the Uplift Saga) project. He is enjoying his current job on Earth at the Center for Uplift working with uplifted dolphins, testing their IQs and ability to work with mechanized tools. The dolphins are not as far along intellectually as the uplifted chimpanzees, but he enjoys their company nonetheless. But when the alien Fagin, a Kanten who is in charge of the Institute of Progress, asks him to join Dr. Dwayne Kepler of the Sundiver Expedition to research Mercury and the solar chromosphere, a project involving the use of new spaceships built with a combination of Earth science and technology mixed with the new alien technology from the aliens' galactic Institute of the Library, eventually Jacob gives in.

Jacob's reluctance is due to his grief over the death of his wife - he simply doesn't feel up to the rigors of dealing with the ongoing politics of various competing politicians, both alien and human. However, the opportunity to work with Bubbacub, the Pil in charge of the Earth Branch of the Library Institute, the most important alien ambassador on Earth who also is in charge of the most important institution on Earth, entices Jacob to take the job. He is also very curious about the other alien he meets for the first time - Culla, a Pring who is acting as a servant to Bubbacub. Prings are a client race of the Patron Pilas.

All recently uplifted intelligent aliens must serve a Patron/Client period of a thousand years after a Patron race has uplifted Client aliens to intelligent sentience from the lowly state of mere instinctual animals. As it happened, humans have uplifted dolphins and chimps, the minimum number of uplifts required to be awarded Patron status in this universe of David Brin, the author. Humans had serendipitously been working on uplifting Earth animals before they knew about any space aliens or their Patron/Client political system. However, some of the alien Patron races feel humans do not deserve Patron status despite the uplift of dolphins and chimps because the aliens could not determine who uplifted humans. Many ET (extraterrestrial) races consider humans a wild-wolf species who mysteriously became a high tech society without a Patron who taught them from the resources of the Library, and it is very disturbing to them.

The journey to the underground base on Mercury is uneventful, but after scientists show Jacob what they discovered and why they wanted Jacob's help, a murder is committed! Everyone there has been cleared by psychological exams of being capable of murder! Who did it and why? They all could die next! One of them is a being a bad alien...

This is a fun hard-science read. I liked it a lot, but some readers thought it old-fashioned or dated. 'Sundiver' was first published in 1980, which I consider in the golden age of adult literary science fiction (the 1950's are usually called the 'Golden Age of science fiction', but I don't agree as many of the SF books I've read from that stifling 1950's era seem ploddingly mechanical to me). 'Sundiver' is book one in the Uplift series and it introduces in a whirlwind manner Brin's uplift universe. Some readers thought the tech was old, but I think I should mention the TV show 'Star Trek' was first shown in 1966, and the first men walked on the moon in 1969. I do not think the technology and science in this novel so very dated at all as it surpasses what we had to get men on the moon and equals the technology of the original Star Trek TV show.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews428 followers
June 7, 2021
-Trazos gruesos para crear un dibujo posterior interesante que aquí, todavía, no se puede ver.-

Género. Ciencia ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro Inmersor solar (publicación original: Sundiver, 1980) nos lleva al siglo XXIII y nos presenta a Jacob Demwa, un científico acostumbrado a tratar con especies alienígenas y que terminará formando parte de una expedición hasta la fotosfera solar. Y es que, por una parte, en el universo es muy común que unas especies desarrolladas, conocidas como patrones, ayuden a otras a moverse fuera de sus planetas, conocidas como clientes, pero el caso de la Tierra es uno poco común, que no único, en el que no hizo falta dicha intervención. Y, por otra parte, alguna de esas especies parece haber registrado algún tipo de criatura inteligente moviéndose entre las capas externas e intermedias del Sol. Libro también conocido como Navegante solar y primer volumen de la serie La elevación de los pupilos.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for M.  Malmierca.
323 reviews279 followers
August 31, 2020
Con Navegante solar (1980) comienza la primera trilogía de La elevación de los pupilos de David Brin (1950-). Se trata de una vasta obra (sobre 3000 páginas) en la cual, aparte de encontrarnos con una fantástica space opera, podemos disfrutar de un ambiente complejo (un worldbuilbing bien construido) con distintas galaxias, sistemas, planetas, ordenes de vida, especies, etc., sin que decaiga la acción en general. Acción que sucede en un momento crucial para el cúmulo de 5 galaxias en dónde se desarrolla. Los personajes protagonistas son realmente entrañables y considero un acierto haber elegido un grupo tan heterogéneo con la única similar característica de la juventud. Quien llegue hasta el final de las seis novelas, quizá esté de acuerdo conmigo.

Se trata, por tanto, de un proyecto ambicioso y que hay que abordar leyendo de antemano los índices y glosarios para tener más o menos claro las diferentes especies, términos científicos y demás nombres que el autor idea para explicar los hechos que suceden a lo largo de la historia. (De hecho, esta primera novela podría entenderse casi como una introducción y es la menos amena).

Es necesario decir que existen diferencias obvias entre unas novelas y otras, algunas son más space opera, otras son más descriptivas, otras muestran ambientes más reducidos y sentimientos más generales, sin embargo, en mi opinión, las seis obras mantienen una calidad suficiente para ser leídas con satisfacción por los amantes de la Ciencia Ficción. Yo al menos no me aburrí.
Profile Image for Maria Dobos.
108 reviews43 followers
February 23, 2017
2246. Într-o Galaxie în care prestigiul fiecărei specii inteligente este dat de numărul Protectorilor care i-au îndrumat evoluția și de cel al Protejaților săi, statutul umanității este destul de incert. Dar Biblioteca Galactică, păstrătoarea istoriei și cunoștințelor fiecărei civilizații cunoscute, nu conține nici o mențiune referitoare la originea omenirii ca specie, iar pământenii sunt divizați între susținătorii evoluției naturale independente (darwinismul) și adepții ideii unei dezvoltări inițiate și controlate de o rasă extraterestră străveche (dänikenismul). Așadar, a evoluat omenirea fără nici un fel de ajutor, lucru care ar face-o unică în Galaxie, sau a fost influențată de niște binefăcători pierduți în negurile timpului? Poate că răspunsul se află în Soare, iar în căutarea sa pornește doctorul Kepler, coordonatorul proiectului "Exploratorii soarelui", și însoțitorii săi.

Mi s-a părut interesantă ideea dezvoltării supravegheate a unor specii inteligente (delfini, cimpanzei), precum și premisa căutării unei origini a umanității, dar transpunerea conceptului în practică a scârțâit... Desfășurarea acțiunii mi s-a părut de multe ori confuză, de parcă autorul nu s-ar fi putut hotărî cine și de ce este personajul negativ, iar finalul... Finalul mi-a lăsat un gust amar.

În Preistorie şi în vremuri îndepărtate, Pământul a fost vizitat de ființe necunoscute venind din spațiu. Aceste ființe necunoscute au creat inteligența umană printr-o mutație genetică intenționata. Extratereștrii i-au înnobilat pe hominizi „cu propria lor imagine”.
De aceea, noi le semănăm lor și nu ei nouă.

Erich Von Däniken, Amintiri despre viitor

3.5 - 4 ✩
Profile Image for Brent.
348 reviews144 followers
April 29, 2022
I finally read this book after reading every other book in the series.

And I could have skipped it entirely.

I say this not to be cruel to one of Brin's first books, but for all the reviewers who were discouraged by this one and decided not to go on.

Startide Rising is easily 10x better than this one. And one of my favorite books of all time.

Please read it.

It takes the awesome world-building of this book: million year old civilizations, uplift and patronage, and resentment to wolfling Earth, and adds inter-species intrigue, a space-fought battle-royal, and desperate Earthclan underdog ingenuity.

Don't. Stop. Here.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews255 followers
March 18, 2014
4 Stars

My first David Brin novel. I enjoyed this high concept science fiction novel. It is a fun adventure to the depths of our sun itself. Aliens, monsters, and ghosts fill the action scenes. All the while this is a novel filled with politics and racism.

I liked the unfolding of the mysteries of this book, it could have been a gem. The ending plays out in an almost anticlimactic way. It was a let down.

I will read more from him.
Profile Image for Gabi.
693 reviews120 followers
May 23, 2020
I loved the concept of uplifting. My youth obsession with Von Däniken's theories came to a full circle here (I hadn't thought of him or his theories in ages and it was like a coming home to be suddenly confronted with them in this novel). Equally great were the going ons around the sun (won't say too much cause it is beautiful to experience it together with the crew).
The overall feeling was a bit Star Trekkie, which, again, was nice.

Yet the story and the structure/characters felt dated and so only came up to a very entertaining 3 stars. But I'm really looking forward to the next books in the series, cause entertaining SF that actually deals with the SF is not to be sneezed at.
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews533 followers
June 7, 2015
Mr. von Däniken must be very proud that his beliefs became the other evolutionary theory in this saga: Dänikenism versus Darwinism. You can almost glimpse the birth of Ancient Aliens ;)) Series I very much liked (well, some of the episodes, at least), which, unfortunately, I cannot say about this first part of the Uplift Saga.

The main character, Jacob Darwa, is a sort of Hercule Poirot in a galactic interracial plot. A team composed of humans and a few more races of aliens starts an expedition to discover a new race which lives in the sun's chromosphere. Which sounds pretty good until you start reading.

The narration has no substance, I think 95% of it consists in dialogues between the crew members. The aliens seem to be cut from a comic book, the descriptions are sketched, there is nothing to keep your interest going. Maybe I had expected something else and that's the reason for not liking it. But since the 2nd part won two major prizes (and I'm curious for what), I guess I will give this series another try someday.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
764 reviews179 followers
April 26, 2023
David Brin's first novel - the first book in the Uplift Saga - is a hot mess, spewing ideas all over the place like a blender with the lid off. First and foremost is the idea of "uplift" where an advanced species takes mentorship of a less-advanced species (if this sounds familiar, you may have read Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky which would build on this idea 35 years later, including an opening chapter set on a ship named "Brin"); Earth examples in this story involve chimpanzees and dolphins but we're introduced to several alien species who also fill a Mentor or Mentee role. The aliens themselves are all relatively humanoid and their political bickering promises to inform the plot of the sequels to some degree. One of the aliens supervises the Earth branch of a "library" that contains, apparently, all knowledge in the known universe, like a less-snarky Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There's also the Sundiver project involving exploratory manned (or in one case "chimped") flights into the sun's chromosphere, where another sentient species is discovered to live. There's a hero from a prominent Earth family who works on a dolphin uplift project and is haunted by his past and a lost love and maybe even battling with some mental issues. And there's a closed room, or closed "ship," murder mystery to unravel. Oh, and there's some weird segregation thing on Earth where people who have genetic potential for violence are restricted from benefits accorded to those who, uh, don't? Some of these ideas are developed adequately; others are certainly not. Worst of all, the pacing lurches and the storyline is just not very coherent, leaping from one topic to another as though at random and never coalescing into any coherent whole and the potential is never fulfilled. Brin apparently corrected these first novel issues three years later with his second novel, the second book in the Uplift series Startide Rising, a rare "Triple Crown" winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards for Best Novel.
Profile Image for Wreade1872.
688 reviews140 followers
January 21, 2022
This is an interesting one. All of the stuff that feels original, the sci-fi and science elements, the world building etc. is all pretty good.
Couple of small issues with the main character, he goes through several epiphanies about himself which was a little hard to follow.
Also he has this big event in his past which casts a shadow over the story, the problem being its such a big, specific, interesting event that it kind a feels like you’ve missed a previous volume.

However the real issue is the central mystery, or rather murder mystery. The book actually feels a bit racist in places but i won’t bother saying more on that as it might just be interpretation, but also its linked to how anachronistic the characters feel at times which is linked to the central mystery.

So, the entire main murder mystery has been put together, or lifted bodily from Agatha Christie-style cozy murder mysteries. And definitely ones written between 1920-1950. I think the slightly racist/sexist flavour of some elements just came along as a natural bi-product of the author taking too much from these early tales.

Even before anything of the murder-mystery type element had happened i was not only able to predict it would go in that direction but even guessed who the ultimate villain would turn out to be.
So clearly the plot must also have picked up a lot of cliché's along the way too, for me to be able to figure out so much so early (especially given i’ve never read or seen any Agatha Christie, except small fragments) and if aliens feel dated clearly your doing something wrong ;) .

The first and last 15% or so which feels more original is better and its an interesting universe. I’ve heard later books are an improvement and don’t doubt it especially since rewriting Agatha Christie doesn’t seem like a trick anyone would try twice.

Of course if the idea of Agatha Christie with aliens sounds like a great idea to you then this one might be 5 stars :) .

Oh, my favourite anachronism FYI, was during the parlour scene (yep, it even did the parlour murderer reveal scene) in which someone started smoking a pipe! A freaking pipe! What century is this thing set in again? :lol .
Profile Image for Will Caskey.
90 reviews5 followers
May 5, 2012
The Uplift books are tied for my favorite sci-fi series with Asimov's original Foundation series. This is sci-fi at its very best. Brin goes through an astonishing number of fascinating ideas and concepts, but leaves them for the reader to peruse or discard. Want racial allegory? Sure. Prefer religion? Plenty of it. Political intrigue? It's there by the truckload.

When Brin goes into pretend-science he goes all in. One can almost sense his smirk going through this first book: that's right, this book has talking chimpanzees and dolphin haikus and spaceships flying into the sun. Wanna fight about it? It works, and the mileage he forces out of it is outstanding.

And to top everything off he makes a point of tying off each book with an epic space battle, punctuated with a stunt humans come up with that surprises (or angers) their alien counterparts for sheer boldness and audacity. What's not to love?
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
948 reviews88 followers
May 31, 2019
This is a classic that I have been meaning to read for a very long time now. I finally got around to it and was not disappointed. It did feel like the never-ending story towards the end though, because it kept ending, but then aha! It's not the end! There's another twist! But it was all very interesting, so forgiven. I will listen to the sequel right away, because I'm afraid I will forget the details and who knows if it's important to sweat the details for the sequel. Anyway, the 2nd book is the one that won the Hugo/Nebula (or whatever) and the one I really wanted to read.
Profile Image for Efka.
453 reviews253 followers
January 8, 2021
DNF @ 11%.

Felt absolutely no connection with anything in this book. After reading more than 1/10 of it, the sole fact I can remember, is that lead dude is James. The book felt boring as hell and names, names, names everywhere. And I hate books that just throws you into a lake of names and says "go figure them out by yourself".


p.s. - google informed me, that lead dude is Jacob, not James. That pretty much sums up my relationship with "Sundiver".
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,532 followers
December 20, 2022
This was such a fun ride to the sun, literally! In Brin's Uplift universe, humans are an anomaly: a sentient space-faring species without an obvious patron race to get them up and going. This has created some jealously among the patron alien races and this conflict becomes fatal during the diving into the sun to find answers to these questions. Does it sound a bit crazy? Well, it is, but it is also very well done. The characters are engaging, the aliens are freaky and interesting, and the action is non-stop. I liked the physics of the sundiver as well as the idea of a Library of knowledge since the beginning of sentient time. The execution here was great, but it was just an introduction to the excellence I have found so far in the sequel, 200 years later in Startide Rising
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,028 reviews2,605 followers
May 9, 2012
This was a recommendation from my husband, who read these books (The Uplift Saga) when he was younger and loved them. For a science fiction novel that was written and published before I was born, I have to say it has aged very well; this could have been written today. The technology and the science described is excellent, which was why my husband figured I would like this in the first place.

It was also an unexpected pleasure to discover as I was reading that Sundiver turned out to be a pretty decent whodunnit mystery, and the perpetrator behind it all would surprise you.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,078 reviews108 followers
February 13, 2023
This is a debut novel of multiple award-winning SF author David Brin. It was published in 1980 and is a strange mixup of space opera, hard SF and murder mystery. I read it as a part of the monthly reading for February 2023 at The Evolution of Science Fiction group.

The novel starts in seems in the middle of the story: the protagonist, Jacob Demwa, helps to uplift dolphins – while sentient, these mammals aren’t very interested in using analytical tools like humans, instead preferring composing poetry and music. As readers soon find out, uplifting, or affecting a species by mutations, training, etc. to evolve it to sophont (wise) status is a cornerstone of this galaxy-wide setting. Almost all known sapient species are either partons or clients. Members of “client” species—one whose period of indenture to its “patron” species was still active are rated low on the galactic pecking order and are in semi-servitude status. Humanity is a rare exception – when the first contact occurred, they already started working on uplifting chimpanzees and dolphins. Moreover, while most galaxians find it hard to believe, Earthmen could have been a unique case of self-developing, for it is currently unknown, who were their patrons if any. This gives humans an unusual status – a very young race, who are already patrons – other species wait hundred thousands of years to get there – longer than the entire human history!

So, Jacob works with dolphins and his alien friend Fagin (a Kanten species, sentient giant broccoli), offers him a job in a very unusual scientific expedition: a spaceship Sundiver made on a mix of Earth and galactic tech investigates the Sun's chromosphere and recently there were ghosts spotted on the Sun, possibly the species that uplifted humans?

This debut book is full of ideas like it attempted to get a finger at every pie. Thus hard SF descriptions of the Sun's chromosphere are mixed with too anthropomorphic aliens a la much softer space operas, potentially possible tech with paranormal abilities, etc. This both makes the book unusual and dissatisfies its readers, for many themes are noted but a few are developed. Even more, there are multiple hints of earlier stories, e.g. Jacob collaborated with Fagin more than once – I guessed that there were earlier stories set in the same universe, but no, it isn’t so. So, there are drawbacks, but for a debut novel it is very strong. I plan to try other books in the series later.
Profile Image for Ashley.
12 reviews15 followers
March 6, 2022
Honestly, I came for the dolphins even though I knew they were predominately in the second book. My favorite character, Dr. Jeffrey, didn’t get much screen time either. I stayed for the aliens (especially the Solarians) but the writing was very dry and I didn’t care for the MC (or his weird personality disorder) at all. Since the next book promises me dolphins (and hopefully more chimps!) I will at least continue on to that one.
Profile Image for Denis.
Author 1 book19 followers
February 26, 2017
A good beginning of an ambitious hard-scifi series (I wouldn't consider it "space opera", though it stumbles into that territory at times). This is Brin at the beginning of his career. It is more in the style of Hal Clement than that of A.C. Clarke. Many specific scientific conditions dictating events 'peopled' by a wide variety of intelligent alien beings and "uplifted" earth mammals.
Profile Image for Dan.
438 reviews34 followers
December 26, 2021
Hard science fiction is not my cup of tea to begin with, and I didn't realize this was what it was until it started. There are a lot of problems with this first novel (for Brin) as well. Brin creates settings and characters and then we don't see them again. The lead character, Jacob Demwa, is working with dolphins and a staff to uplift them, meaning tamper with them to make them smarter a la Planet of the Apes. That's all pretty much gone after Chapter 1, but thank you for introducing me to the entire staff. Then we have the politics of shirts and skins and E.T's taking real estate and the protests. Pretty much gone after Chapter 2. Finally, we settle in to a cruise to Mercury in order to visit the sun.

The writing style leaves a lot to be desired. Brin is constantly writing as if he had already introduced concepts to the reader and the reader should know about them. I get the feeling I am reading a sequel to a first novel I should have already read. Except this is that first novel. We get something about a Needle, a wife, an investigation, and a disaster cropping up from time to time. The protagonist has a split personality, the other half of which he calls Hyde, that we're supposed to already know about but don't. There's something about Fagin being conniving and duplicitous, yet he's depicted as being as straightforward as can be. Then we have Demwa's family and their family history, but they never feature in the novel. E.T.'s got brought on a spaceship, at first, or did they? This book is just a hot mess. At first, I thought maybe I was just being dense. So, I reread. No. The author really doesn't seem to know he didn't explain any of the concepts he's trying to use. Maybe he's using that reader-catches-up-on-the-fly, sort of, technique. If so, it should make more sense as time goes on. Right? But it never really does.

This is the first work of fiction the author published. Maybe the publisher did him no favors by failing to reject it. There might be a good story or six in here somewhere. But the craft of telling it needs more work. I can only recommend this book to hard science fiction enthusiasts that may have read another of the Uplift books who may need this one to get the full picture for the other books. Alhough this is the beginning, I doubt this is the best place to start reading the Uplift series. Given the reviews I have read others write, most people didn't start the series with this novel even if it is the first. Strange goings on here.
Profile Image for Flint.
59 reviews33 followers
June 6, 2012
Most recent SF I read is actually a bit dated, David Brin's "Sundiver". I picked it up because it got a lot of favorable mention in "Eclipse Phase" (a transhuman SF roleplaying game I play tested). It's setting has humanity uplifting some other earth species (chimps, dolphins, etc...) to human sentience... and then humanity encountering aliens which derive their intergalactic status on whether a species has uplifted other species (has "client" species). It has a big debate among humans whether they uplifted themselves to intelligence through natural selection or rather some elder species did the uplift and the abandoned humanity leaving them an orphan species that should be pitied. The political ramifications on the origin story of humanity has intergalactic consequences. Anyway, I dig it because I'm into books on animal intelligence, transhuman SF, etc... and it's a great spin on the evolution/creation debate. Sundiver is actually a murder mystery... complete with a "parlor reveal" scene. There also is an interesting political argument about psychological profiling, surveillance and citizenship (if we can prove some people are biologically/psychological sociopath/violent/whatever... what do we do about it, if we can't fix them?)

I'm interested in seeing where the story goes. About somethings, it seems Brin made some good guesses and the book is holding up when it comes to recent studies on animal intelligence. Still, I think that if we are going to uplift other primates... we should pick bonobos before chimps.
177 reviews65 followers
September 10, 2013
Really fantastic, sci-fi that makes you think. I liked the aliens and the general mystery plot, but it was the other world-building details that stood out for me:

- the technology behind the sun ships;
- the anachronistic idioms used by one character who, due to relativistic time differences involved in her line of work, is from a much older time period;
- the psychological/physical tests used to objectively decide that a certain proportion of humanity is too psychopathic/sociopathic to interact with the rest of the galaxy;
- the espionage twists that crop up near the end;
- the waxing philosophical/political on Aldous Huxley in the final chapter.

I know that the next books in the series are set at a much later date, so I hope that the considerations the characters make in the final chapter have some effect on the setting in later books.


edit September 2013: I've read a lot of sci-fi since then, including the next two Uplift books, and I'm revising my rating down to 4 stars. Most of the above applies still, but it's not reeeallly a 5 star book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
731 reviews73 followers
November 1, 2016
This book just could not keep my attention. I liked the parts I heard but it just didn't grab me. I even restarted twice. No luck.

The audio was thoroughly mediocre.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,255 followers
April 24, 2010
First read October 17, 2008. (No review)

Second reading review, April 23, 2010.

There are as many origin theories as there are people to think about the origins of humanity. Like most reviews, I can't help but praise David Brin's Uplift concept. On one hand, the von Daniken-like idea of having a "patron" species that shepherded humanity toward sentience is comforting and resonates with our need to have concrete origins and a sense of belonging in a larger community. On the other hand, the Darwinian idea that humans evolved on their own—coupled with the even more interesting idea that we are special among the larger galactic community in this regard—is also attractive. Almost immediately, the latent question is: are you a Darwinist or a von Danikenite? Skin or Shirt?

I'll be honest: I'm incredibly biased toward the Humans Are Special camp and hope we evolved on our own. But Brin doesn't take any sure stance, at least not in Sundiver. And there's a host of secondary mysteries mixed up in this larger one. These form the core of the plot of Sundiver. If humanity was Uplifted, then maybe the mysterious solarians discovered by the Sundiver Expedition are their patrons, or know who their patrons were. If humanity is a "wolfling" race, then maybe the solarians know why no one stumbled across us earlier. Either way, the answers lie past Mercury.

Brin manages to meld together so many different aspects of story and science fiction that Sundiver becomes a very intense work of literature. It's an epic of exploration, a testament to humanity's struggle against adversity: we're going to conquer the Sun! It's also a mystery, multiple mysteries, with alien adversaries with their own inscrutable agendas. And it's a psychological thriller: is Jacob crazy or just very, very discerning?

Of course, by trying to appeal to all these aspects, Brin walks a tight rope. He doesn't always pull off this fusion successfully. In particular, his characters tend to suffer from having to carry so much around on their shoulders. Jacob, despite his mental malady, is not a very interesting protagonist. Brin alludes to a past conflict in which Jacob emerged the hero (and which resulted in his subsequent psychological trauma); unfortunately, he manages to make it sound so interesting that I kind of wish it had been part of the story and not just a past event. But it wasn't.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the characters. We never get to see what makes the characters tick, aside from maybe Jacob. They just act, especially the aliens, who conform to the species-stereotypes that Brin creates for them: Bubbacup is the ur-Pil, Culla is the ur-Pring, etc. The humans at least have individuality personalities; they just aren't very interesting ones. As a result, although Sundiver is primarily a mystery, it lacks the threat offered by a credible villain. There's nothing sinister about what happens so much as childish—dangerous, yes, but childish. The characters often allude to the political implications of various events, but we don't witness the fallout.

So while there's a lot going on in Sundiver, it never really congeals into a satisfactory ending. The same goes for how Brin portrays post-Contact Earth. While he does a good job of portraying a "Confederacy" (of states) that shuns civil liberties, it's a very abstract and distant entity. We don't see an agent of it until the very end of the book. Worse still, however, is the apparent lack of contribution to the Sundiver Expedition from any government aside from the Confederacy. Apparently, at least in this future, America is still the only country that matters. . . .

Sundiver has so much potential, but it shies away from the detail necessary to fulfil that potential. What rescues it from mediocrity is not a brilliant plot or convincing story but the sheer quality of Brin's writing itself:

Lumps and streaming shreds of ionized gas seared thither and back, twisted by the forces that their very package created. Flows of glowing matter popped suddenly in and out of visibility, as the Doppler effect took the emission lines of the gas into and then out of coincidence with the spectral line being used for observation.

The ship swooped through the turbulent chromospheric crosswinds, tacking on the plasma forces by subtle shifts in its own magnetic shields . . . sailing with sheets made of almost corporeal mathematics.

I love that phrase, "corporeal mathematics." Brin, as a physicist, knows his science and wields it well. If only he were as strong with the fiction part of "science fiction."

My Reviews of the Uplift series:
Startide Rising
Profile Image for Nathan.
Author 5 books114 followers
August 10, 2010
I'm always trepidatious when I return to a book I loved as a child. My friend Jon Orwant once confessed that he had avoided rereading "Godel, Escher, Bach" in case it wasn't as good through 2000s eyes as it was through 1980s eyes. For me, I remember curling up in bed and devouring Brin's Uplift Saga as a teen, and coming away with my mind blown. So you can imagine the hesitation I felt when I opened "Sundiver" on the iPad and started the first sentence.

Fortunately, it has barely suffered in the translation to my adult years. The story is more action than I remember, but the quality of the ideas and the vividity of the world is still there. It's not a space opera, more of a space whodunnit--the protagonist and the reader are constantly trying to figure out what's actually happening as the intrigue rises. The book is full of ideas--it easily has a dozen that would be the centerpiece of any generic bit of genre fiction, but thrust together they kept me unbalanced and wanting more.

I'm still not ready to tackle "Godel, Escher, Bach" though.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
913 reviews404 followers
January 2, 2021
He leído esta historia solamente porque los tomos dos y tres de esta saga han ganado casi todos los premios de Ciencia Ficción y por aquello del completismo no quería dejarme esta historia de lado.

Y aunque no haya sido un libro malo, mucho tiene que mejorar sus continuaciones para llegar al nivel que he leído en vuestras reseñas. Aquí Brin lo único que hace es dibujar una premisa muy interesante pero se entretiene por el camino con cosas sin importancia que hacen que la lectura sea a trompicones. Dedica un capítulo entero a describir la superficie solar, otro para contar la historia de los indios americanos...Eso sí, cuando desarrolla la premisa inicial el libro entretiene y dan ganas de conocer más ese universo.

2'5/5 sería la valoración exacta, una historia ni buena ni mala.
Profile Image for Philip.
1,385 reviews71 followers
January 2, 2022
The late '70s were an interesting time for science fiction – the last hurrah for post-WWII “further, faster” optimism that had Americans chasing monoliths around Jupiter by 2001, robot mining colonies on the moon by 2005 (I, Robot), and wicked-cool spaceships jumping into hyperspace “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” But this extrapolation based on an endless “mechanical evolution” totally failed to predict the “information revolution” that came along with the introduction of personal computers, the internet, smart phones, etc., and which spun mankind’s technological future into a wholly unexpected direction.

As a result, there was a lot of otherwise excellent science fiction that in hindsight suffers from jarring and even laughable anachronisms by today’s standards. For example, Stanislav Lem did some excellent world building in Solaris, but then blew it all by having his hero visit the ship’s library, where he “stopped at a set of bookshelves as high as the ceiling, and holding about 600 volumes..." Say what?

And sadly, SUNDIVER - whose full title should really be "Murder on the SUNDIVER Express" - suffers from the same malady. Set in 2246, Earth has not only made contact with numerous super-advanced alien races, it has also developed the technology to literally dive into the sun (hence the name), where it has discovered some pretty unique lifeforms – so far so good, and in fact pretty cool. But at the same time, its human characters on the solar diveship are still sneaking into photo labs full of physical filing cabinets (which are themselves full of film cassettes); searching for the nearest phone (“there’s one down there on the wall!”); and sending interplanetary messages via “masergrams,” which are then spit out on strips of paper that sound suspiciously like the old telex machines still in use at the time of SUNDIVER’s publication.

So that’s the bad, (and feel free to skip ahead for even more). But let’s pause to give Brin some credit where it’s due. For a debut novel by this astronomer-turned-writer, it does have some interesting concepts, in particular the whole idea of “uplift,” a billion-year-old process whereby alien races derive status by “uplifting” more primitive lifeforms to higher levels of sentience…okay, too complex to really go into here, but it’s easily found all over the internet, and it is a neat idea – if a little too heavily based on the already-then-debunked theories of Erich von Däniken and his Chariots of the Gods, (indeed “Danikenites” play a large role here, but in their silver robes and gold chains/medallions, they come off more as a hippy cult than a serious future political force).

In addition, Brin’s tech-heavy prose can at times sound almost poetic:

“The ship swooped through the turbulent chromospheric crosswinds, tacking on the plasma forces by subtle shifts in its own magnetic shields; sailing with sheets made of almost corporeal mathematics.”

And finally on the plus side, Brin does in fact make a few fairly decent predictions. Not only does Chapter 2 begin with the eerily prophetic sentence: “the old North American governments had razed the border strip years ago, to control movements to and from Mexico;” he also has his hero using voice-controls to call up local news using “key words: Skins, City Hall, picketing” - a nice foreshadowing of future Google/Siri technology a good decade before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. (Of course, just a few paragraphs later he asks if someone wants a “fax summary,” but still, credit where credit’s due.)

But then…there’s the goofy stuff. Brin’s characters are two-dimensional at best – a tormented hero with a hidden dark side that…well, it’s never quite explained; a monocle-sporting chimp that is apparently supposed to look intelligent, but comes off more as “Mr. Peanut in Space;” a hot-and-horny spaceship captain/babe who comes off as a teen fanboy’s wet dream; weird aliens (intelligent broccoli! an evil teddy bear!); a foppish-slash-cowardly reporter who spouts lines like “we shall travel together and now I know that there will always be someone with whom I can exchange witticisms!”

Which brings me to the dialogue. Brin has an ear for science, and his mumbo-jumbo monologuing sounds almost convincing. But meanwhile, his non-scientist characters keep saying things like:

“And now I’m going to go highly illegal and order you to kiss me, since you don’t seem about to do it on your own!”

…and the even more cringe-worthy:

“Something’s fishy on Mercury, all right. Everyone’s whistling a different tuna, and they’re all red herrings!” (And yes, everyone does speak largely in exclamation points)

PERSONAL NOTE: My dad was a lifelong sci-fi fan, and when he passed away I grabbed a couple bags of his old paperbacks, (and looking back, I wish I’d grabbed a lot more). I first read SUNDIVER back in the late '80s sometime, and remember liking it enough to reread it again now when I spotted its memorable cover at our cavernous used book store and picked it up for 65¢; (although I did find it less enjoyable this time, and certainly have no inclination to read any of Brin’s further “Uplift” books – but I did really like the first half of The Postman).

BONUS SCENE: Interestingly, Brin’s hero at one point uses something called “Zwicky boxes” to analyze his problem. Sounded familiar so I Googled it and sure enough; Robert Heinlein also uses them in his famous/infamous Time Enough For Love.* Turns out they’re a real thing, a “morphological analysis tool” developed by and named after Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky, who also coined the term “supernova” and pioneered the concept of “gravitational lenses,” (and who died between publication of both books). Learn more about Zwicky Boxes at http://blog.mindantix.com/2015/11/thi... .

* TEFL: An overall stinker of a book, notable for only two things: probably the worst title in science fiction history, as well as one memorable paragraph which for some reason I still remember 40 years on, and which has more-or-less informed my eccentric life ever since:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
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