Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review:: Startide Rising, by David Brin

Title: Startide Rising
Author: David Brin
Series: The Uplift Saga, #2
Format: Kindle
Rating: ★★★☆☆

It's really sad when a favorite book of yours doesn't stand up in a re-read. Well, its fourth re-read. Maybe the depression that kept me from posting so long kind of sullied its shine. Well, that, and the more I think about the sexism in the book the more it makes me feel a bit grimy. But hey, I'm not saying don't read it. I do have such a soft spot in my heart for this book, primarily because hey, spacer dolphins that still act like dolphins, not like they just swapped brains with a human. And alien aliens.

I don't remember a lot of weird, gross sexism in Sundiver or The Uplift War, but then again, I didn't remember it in Startide Rising either. And I re-read it about a year ago. I think I'm going to have to re-read them as well, just to make sure. The Uplift books really are some of my favorites, and I want to know what's up.

This was a book we read for my Biohacker Book Club, which made sense as the premise is that in the midst of grand political things, humans are "uplifting" dolphins to spacefaring potential via genetic manipulation amongst other things. There's a lot of issue that gets looked at throughout the book, as the dolphins finds themselves facing things that were never planned, even on a trip to see how dolphins do in the pressures of space travel. They're never delved into explicitly, but Brin questions whether it's better to make dolphins more man-like or to keep their own intelligence.

Not much is delved into explicitly. The overarching theme of the book is really "save the dolphins" -- the afterword makes it clear, but the book itself doesn't get heavily into the issue too often.

And maybe that's what I really like about it. Brin handles a multitude of issues (not always well, like with his forays into "is the chimp hated because racism or because he's genuinely an asshole?") without saying "cough-cough, this is an issue story." He does this in Existence as well, handling autism without making it A Book About Autism. Or so I recall. Maybe I'll just not re-read Existence and remember what I remember.

Oh, right. I was going to talk about alien aliens. It's not as obvious in Startide Rising, if I recall correctly (Sundiver really takes the cake on it), but David Brin manages to imagine aliens that are neither humanoid nor amorphous glow clouds. And when I say "not humanoid" I mean it; we've got aliens that look like broccoli.

But it's not just their bodies that are alien. They think in ways we can't understand and may not. Sometimes things are confusing and I think that's brilliant. Why should we always be able to understand aliens? Why should an author make it vivid for us, if we couldn't understand it in real life? That's not for everyone and it's not always the route taken, but I really do enjoy the Galactics sections in the book.

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