David Brin
The Uplift War (1987)
Winner of the 1988 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Uplift #3
Reviewed: 1997-12-26

The third Uplift novel is set at roughly the same time as the turbulent events surrounding the Streaker in Startide Rising and frequently references those.

Garth is a backwater colony world leased by the Galactics to the Human clan. 50,000 years ago the planet was the site of an ecological catastrophe when the Bururalli race, which had just been released from indenture to its patrons, annihilated most of the larger indigenous lifeforms. Now Garth has been settled by humans and uplifted chimps (the oceans contain trace elements toxic to dolphins) and an ecological reclamation project is under way to stop and reverse the decline of Garth's impoverished biosphere.

The avian Gubru, one of the more fanatical Galactic clans, invade defenseless Garth to pressure the Terragens government for the secret of the Streaker's discovery. Terra is under siege from various Galactics and can't spare the resources to send reinforcements to her lesser colony worlds. With a clever surprise attack the Gubru neutralize the prearranged resistance, interning most humans and leaving the chimp majority of the population without leadership. The human government is forced to go into hiding. Only the son of the Planetary Coordinator and the daughter of a Tymbrimi diplomat are left to organize an underground resistance and a guerilla army.

Like Startide Rising, The Uplift War could have benefited from some tightening. At half the current size I'd probably concur with the Hugo it was awarded. As is, the book feels bloated. It is also too transparently cast from the mold of the previous novel: the Terragens struggle on an alien world as underdogs against hostile Galactics; the uplifted client race, chimps replacing dolphins this time, must prove independence and resourcefulness; and the story drags on through a lot of padding to a final climax with a quite predictable outcome.

Some niggling: I'm unhappy about Brin's use of parapsychology in the Uplift universe. Like all magic, it is inherently arbitrary. Also, uplifting chimps (or any other of the great apes) seems a flawed idea. The result would essentially be humans. I'm still far from convinced of the basic plausibility of the concept, although Brin quite successfully shows that his chimps are different from humans. In fact, the non-humans shine throughout the novel. Brin covers parts of the story from the alien perspectives of the leading Gubru triumvirat and the Tymbrimi trapped on Garth.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <naddy@mips.inka.de>