© David Brin, illustration © Michael Whelan.
This engrossing science fiction novel by David Brin is the third part of a (so far) six-part saga about a future time when Earth has entered the dangerous jungle that is Galactic civilization, where a handful of very old races have the upper hand in different areas of our galaxy, and when they find a new species on the verge of sentience, a race is chosen to sponsor and “uplift” that species, giving them access to knowledge, and helping them along in every way. Sounds idyllic, but in practice, things often go very differently. Earth has reached the stars on its own, apparently without help from anyone, making them a rare “wolfling” species. Still, they are being sponsored by a much older race, the Tymbrimi. Humans, before making contact with other species in the galaxy, had already “uplifted” two other Earth species: dolphins and chimpanzees, both of whom have now evolved their own languages and culture, though remaining largely dependent on humans.
I have to admit I haven’t yet read the first book in the sequence, “Sundiver,” though I plan to. I have read the second book, “Startide Rising,” which focuses on a scientific expedition by humans, dolphins and one chimp to a distant system where they find a very important secret: the apparent remains of the very earliest galactic civilization, thus far unknown.
“The Uplift War” takes place on Garth, a colony world of Earth in another star system, where humans and chimpanzees are working to try to restore a damaged ecosystem on a tropical world. Unknown to them, another old Galactic civilization has decided to attack this world and take the humans hostage because they want the information Earth has from the discovery in the previous book. There are all kinds of rules and regulations for such an attack, but basically the Gubru, a birdlike species, has no trouble conquering the Earth colony on the planet Garth. The Gubru treat the chimpanzees as harmless pets, which is a mistake, as the chimps, with the help of the one free human and one free Tymbrini, organize a pretty successful resistance movement that causes the invading Gubru all kinds of trouble.
This is a long and complex book, but a very entertaining one, once you get to know the large cast. The free human, Robert, and the free Tymbrimi Athaclena are great characters, but the real stars of the book are the many chimps who take important roles in the resistance movement. Half a dozen are memorable characters, and their interactions make for great reading, both as a comment on humanity and as an idea of what a chimpanzee society would be like. Then there are all kinds of other wild ideas to add twists and turns to the story, from the secret gorilla uplift project, to the weird society and goals of the Gubru, to the flora and fauna of Garth itself. This is great science fiction, a book with good ideas, good characters, and a clever, exciting plot. Highly recommended.