Wash Up On Infinity’s Shore

In Startide Rising, David Brin began the epic adventure of a crew of neo-dolphins, their starship Streaker, and a terrible, war-inspiring secret. He won the Hugo and Nebula awards for the novel, the story of which remained unfinished for years.

Now, with the Uplift Storm trilogy, Brin is continuing – but probably not concluding – the story.

The first novel, Brightness Reef, returned us to Brin’s universe where the “Six Galaxies” are ruled by an eons-old code of Uplift. According to this code, one race of advanced aliens finds a promising, pre-sentient and then grants it the gift of intelligence through the power of genetic engineering. Then, after a time of servitude, their client race can become patrons themselves.

All of the races in the galaxy have been Uplifted except for the legendary Progenitors, the very first sentient race who “uplifted” themselves, and one other: humans. Humans allegedly uplifted themselves, although the other Galactic races scoff at the idea and instead believe that the human race was abandoned by their patrons in prehistoric time. The very notion that humans could have pulled themselves from the mud of low intelligence is heresy among some of the Galaxies more fanatic races.

The dolphin-crewed Streaker, the pride of the Terran fleet, was sent out to survey certain systems to see if the facts in the allegedly “all knowing” billion-year-old Galactic Library were correct. They discovered a secret that brought war to the universe as insane alien races attempted to capture their ship. They ran from star system to start system, losing parts of their ship and crew as they did so.

Finally, they arrived on Jijo.

Brightness Reef introduced us to the planet, which had been abandoned by its one-time owners so that it might have a chance to heal and that its animals might have a chance to evolve into uplift-worthy forms. Normally planets would lay fallow for millions of years, until it was time to re-settle them. Not so on Jijo, where refuges from a half-dozen races arrived to live in secret. Each lived knowing that at any moment the Six Galaxies might find them, and punish them for daring to step foot on a fallow world.

At the end of the novel the much-feared alien judgment day arrives and we discover that the Streaker has taken refuge on this world. Infinity’s Shore picks up the tale from there, detailing what the dolphins do on this world.

Infinity’s Shore is faster moving, and more reminiscent of Startide Rising than the first novel in this series. Brin depicts his beleaguered dolphin crew with the same crystal-sharp strokes of imagination as in his earlier novel. The book opens with one of the dolphins, swimming free in one of Jijo’s oceans. We are quickly re-introduced to the surviving crew of the Streaker, which has lost much of its human compliment as well as its noble dolphin captain.

The stress of their years-long flight has many of the neo-dolphins on the fringe of reverting to their non-sentient form while other struggle to provide Streaker with one more daring escape.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the Jopher have arrived. Each of these truly alien creatures actually a collective consciousness of “rings”, with each ring has its own thoughts and place in the whole. The entire entity is bound together by a single master ring, which imposes its will on the others. The six castaway races on Jijo first view the Jopher as the righteous judges they have been fearing for generations, but they soon discover the truth: these aliens aren’t interested in justice. They want the dolphins, and will do everything in their power to find them.

The natives, who have no idea what the Jopher are talking about, are mystified and troubled. When the Jopher discover that one of the six races hiding on the planet are their hated enemies, they launch a campaign of genocide against them. The others, realizing that the Jopher are tyrants, not judges, launch a counterattack.

Brin tells these stories in bits and pieces, flashing from scene to scene, subplot to subplot. This constant movement worked well in The Uplift War and Startide Rising, but it falters a bit in this novel. It’s harder to become attached to characters when you’re constantly being flicked from one local to another.

Brightness Reef sets up this novel perfectly, and those who enjoyed the first novel will find the second a quick, fun read that leaves you waiting impatiently for the next chapter.

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