Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Uplift War (Book)

One of my favorite Hugo Award Winning Novels so far. On the surface, the 1988 Hugo Award and Locus Science Fiction Award winning novel The Uplift War by David Brin is the story of an alien invasion on Garth--a planet being restored by humans after a holocaust by other aliens left it in ecological runes--and how the inhabitants strike back. But The Uplift War is also a story about becoming a grown up and dealing with parental expectations, whether by biological or metaphorical parents.

The Uplift War follows Startide Rising in the Uplift Universe series and is as brilliantly written. Brin again uses multiple threads to tell the story, but this time almost all of the characters are non-humans. I am still amazed by how intricately Brin develops their personalities and describes their behaviors, particularly the neo-chimps. [Neo-chimps have been uplifted-- genetic engineered and selectively bred--by humans.] He creates a complex alien culture for the Gubru, the aliens who invade Garth both for political gain and also as part of a complicated mating ritual. The major good aliens are likeable and interesting. Brin includes plenty of action, while still developing relationships between characters and adding a healthy dose of humor.

Another reason that I have enjoyed Startide Rising and The Uplift War is that they are reader friendly. I could enjoy the story without getting lost or confused. Both books include Glossaries and A List of Characters. While they have multiple plot threads, section headings help the reader quickly know what part of the plot is being described. Story-related concepts and terms are well defined, particularly helpful for those who have not read earlier books in the series.

The Uplift Wars also hints at some ethical issues related to uplift. To me the mark of a good science fiction story is that it makes me think, and this one did.

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