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3.4 out of 5 stars
Brightness Reef
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 1997
If you're looking for the fate of the Streaker, you'll have a really long wait. There aren't even HINTS until the very last bits of this book. If the edition I read hadn't had a teaser for Infinity's Shore I probably would have given this Trilogy up in disgust.

Brin likes to jump from one character's point of view to another. Since he generally comes up with some interesting characters, this isn't usually a problem. However, the habit becomes irritating in this book because Brin has chosen to juggle a fairly large cast of characters. As a result, I found that the few really interesting story threads were almost lost among a tangle of mediocre tales.

The first Earthclan books (Sundiver, The Uplift War, and Startide Rising) were excellent -- the stories were gripping, the characters interesting, and the premise intriguing. Unfortunately, the first two books of this new trilogy should have been heartlessly and ruthlessly edited back to a single book.
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on March 22, 2003
Six sentient species live together secretly in hard-won harmony on the planet Jijo, which the almighty Galactics have decreed to be left unsettled. All goes well until their discovery by a starship crewed by humans with a mysterious purpose throws everything into chaos and uncertainty.
David Brin is telling a big story here. The planet and the various alien cultures upon it are meticulously detailed and his concept of Uplift, whereby races achieve sentience and admittance to a heavily stratified galactic society through the patronage of more advanced races, remains one of the most brilliant concepts in science fiction.
However, be warned. This is not a stand-alone book. As Brin himself acknowledges in his afterword, his story just kept expanding in the telling until it could no longer be contained within a single volume. This book does not even attempt to provide a temporary conclusion but rather leaves all of the various plot strands waving in thin air. Therefore, I do recommend this book, but only if you are prepared to go on and read the next two in the trilogy as well.
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This is an excellent series! I really had trouble putting the books down!
First, Mr. Brin must be praised for creating a truly unique universe for both UPLIFT trilogies. The very premise of the structure of Galactic civilization is completely different from anything other authors have done.
Unlike the first trilogy, the second trilogy is much more cohesive and I would strongly advise that the books be read in order.
The first book of the second trilogy, BRIGHTNESS REEF, starts off a bit slowly because Mr. Brin has so much set-up to do. After you slog through the first 50 pages, then things start to crackle. Mr. Brin tells his story as a series of interwoven tales with different heroes at the heart of each. This constant skipping from one tale to another kept me interested, but it also got a bit tedious to the point where I was almost tempted to split the book apart and read the different vignettes as separate stories.
My only criticism is that Mr. Brin can get a bit hokey at times, like his E-space dimension (in HEAVEN'S REACH, the third book of this new trilogy) where imagination and reality intermingle. The concept of a universe shaped by the imagination of the viewer is a tired and very trite idea that has been over-used in SciFi.
Also, there are a number of background details that Mr. Brin doesn't get into in either trilogy, so I would recommend CONTACTING ALIENS as an adjunct to this series. A lot of things make more sense with the help of this "guide to the Uplift universe."
In the end, though, Mr. Brin tells a spellbinding story and writes a very enjoyable series. Well done, Mr. Brin!
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on March 3, 2003
I bought this book primarily for the beautiful cover by Michael Whelan. Luckily, in this case the cover spoke for the actual book. I also hadn't read Startide Rising yet, which would have helped my understanding of the Uplift universe, but it wasn't totally essential, as I managed to pick up the important stuff.
Brightness Reef takes place entirely on the fallow world of Jijo, which is meant to be unoccupied for several millenia until new owners move in. All six races present are fleshed out extremely well, and Brin's characters in this one are more interesting than in Sundiver or Startide. He did a very good job writing from different perspectives, like Alvin's diary, or the multiple-personality of the traeki alchemist.
The plot isn't totally electric, however - I think at one point I put this book down for a while and read something else - but it picks up after a hundred pages or so. I'm never one to mind a weak plot, and the characters and setting were strong enough.
The science in this story is largely cultural and linguistic. In the Uplift universe, only Humans have evolved on their own and with their own various languages. This means that out of all six races on Jijo, they're the only ones who actually know how to create tools and technology without the help of their galactic patrons. Also, all languages are Galactic standard, except for Anglic, which allows Brin some keen observations along the line of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
Much more so than in Startide Rising, Brin creates an incredibly detailed planet as his setting. Everything about Jijo was real - the plantlife, the animals, the weather, etc. This depth of imagery really helped when I read the sequel, Infinity's Shore, where there's much more action.
Overall, a good book, and it's worth reading to get to the sequels and the intergalactic starfleets that appear.
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on March 12, 2001
I've seen several lukewarm reviews for this book, and I can understand why a lot of readers didn't particularly like it. The pace is rather slow until the end, the PoV switches with each new chapter, and there are a lot of characters to get to know. It does take a while to get totally immersed in the world of Jijo. However, once I became familiar with the setting and the characters, I found the planet Jijo and its inhabitants to be fascinating.
Most of the book involves the six races of beings, including humans, who live (illegally) on Jijo. They've managed to overcome their differences and live in relative peace, but are always fearful of a "judgment day," when their colonies may be discovered. And then a ship lands on a Jijo, an enigmatic and seriously injured stranger is discovered, and a local youth sees monsters in the oceans.
The slow pace didn't keep me from enjoying Jijo and all its wonders. Brin takes his time introducing us to each new character and tries to get us to understand the six races, their histories, and the ethical dilemas they and their members face.
For those of you who thought the fate of The Streaker would forever be unknown, this book gives a small hint of things to come. The pace picks up at the end of the book, and we learn just what beasts dwell within the oceans and the identity of the stranger. By the time I read last sentence, my heart was pounding with anticipation. I can't wait to dive into Infinity's Shore.
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on February 21, 2001
The following is a review of the entire Uplift Storm trilogy, not just Brightness Reef.
David Brin has turned out superior sci-fi in the past; Startide Rising was excellent and The Uplift War was not far behind. Unfortunately these three books do not quite measure up to those previous efforts. While frequently entertaining, they nevertheless suffer from significant faults.
The biggest problem with these books is that they are overlong and plodding. This "trilogy" needed a firm hand at the editor's desk. This story could have been told in a more satisfying way in probably about 60% of the total number of pages Brin used.
Brightness Reef starts us off with a new setting on Jijo and an entirely new cast of characters, which is OK except that Brin takes forever to develop the story and move things along. Consequently, the reader has a hard time feeling a connection with Jijo and the society that Brin paints for us there. Everytime it seems things are beginning to click, Brin goes off on another tangent and fails to bring any urgency to the story. Infinity's Shore delivers more of the same, with perhaps some marginal improvement due to the reappearance of some characters that will be familiar to readers of the prior Uplift books.
By the end of two books, I finally began to feel caught up in the story of Jijo and was looking forward to the concluding volume. So what does Brin do but give us a third book that spends zero time on Jijo. OK, he does still follow the principal characters from the first two books, but he spent an enormous amount of time in those books effectively making Jijo into a character, which he then essentially abandons. Even worse, he sets a frantic pace that despite all the havoc fails to impart much urgency or tension. The only real suspense was whether Brin would somehow salvage a coherent finale to the trilogy. The answer is no.
The pacing of these books is terribly uneven, both internally and (especially) as between the first two and the finale. The story wanders badly. The reader is left with the feeling that Brin had no idea of where he was taking the story and just writing chapters on the fly. Many loose ends, large and small, are left hanging. The final result is a disorganized, unconvincing story that fails to deliver on its promise.
I still give this set reasonable marks though, as Brin has delivered some wonderfully inventive ideas and the books certainly do have their entertaining moments. But Brin has done better, and these books could have been truly outstanding. As it is, I recommend them only for serious fans.
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on May 17, 2000
This is more of a review of the trilogy than of just this book. After all, why waste your time with the first book if you have no plans to finish the trilogy? This is especially true in this trilogy, in which the first book is probably the slowest and most difficult to get into.
The bottom line is that the trilogy does indeed continue, and in some ways, conclude, the Streaker saga. So if you have read Startide Rising and want to know wha'happened, it will be worth your while. (And it is a long while into the story before Streaker enters it.)
Book 1 (Brightness Reef) is easily the slowest book in the series as far as plot progression and setup. But Brin certainly has a lot to set up. He introduces an entirely new planet Jijo, on which six different beings (including "wolfling" humans, naturally) have landed illegally for reasons that are different for each species. They live together in uneasy peace, hiding from the rest of Galactic society, and have abandoned Galactic technology. All hell breaks loose when visitors arrive on the planet, and the Jijoans prepare for their day of reckoning. In Book 2 (Infinity's Shore) the ball finally gets rolling full-speed, and Book 3 (Heaven's Reach) provides many satisfying conclusions (and also leaves a lot up in the air).
PRAISE: As usual with Brin's work, the aliens are brilliantly conceived and realized. He uses the interspecies relationships very well, and provides much humor (especially with his villains). The story line, once set, moves right along seamlessly. I had trouble putting Book 2 and 3 down.
CRITICISM: The focus definitely shifts between books. Book 1 is set entirely on Jijo, and the focus is the fate of the Jijoans. Book 2 keeps ths focus, but adds another focus to the mix(don't wanna give it away). In most of Book 3 the fate of Jijo is almost an afterthought, and not fully resolved. One other criticism: it's too bad he had to go to E-space to save two of his characters, what a long detour!
SUMMARY: Not as strong as Startide Rising and Uplift War, but highly recommended nonetheless (and essential for youse who want to follow the Streaker saga).
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on February 23, 2000
Having read and enjoyed the first Uplift Trilogy, I came to this book with high expectations. In a way, Brin dashed my expectations by radically changing the setting and context - and the plot he laid out in no way conformed to what I saw coming. This is one of his strengths, though: He has a rare ability to explore diverse topics in unusual ways.
Suffice it to say, this book succeeds marvelously. I found myself staying awake late into the night to find out what was going to happen next. The diverse and fascinating races depicted, and Brin's ability to imbue each with clearly defined points of view without lecturing about it, are the highlights of the book. So too, the nature of the multiple levels of conflict that drive the plot. My only fault with the book is that, in order to get all the different points of view across, Brin had to break up the story into too many parallel storylines each told from a single character's perspective. While this was essential if he was going to express all the different characteristics of The Six, it tends to break up the flow of the story, making it harder to follow at times as one jumps from one arena to another. Thankfully, Brin handles this well and this is at worst a quibble.
However, I don't recommend reading this book if one has not already read the first Uplift trilogy. I'm sure it could stand alone as a novel, but I am convinced that a thorough understanding of the Galactic culture in which the story takes place is vital to fully appreciating the conflict and the book.
So, if the first Uplift trilogy was to your liking and you're wondering whether or not to give the second a try, I say buy the book. You won't be disappointed. OTOH, if you haven't yet read the first trilogy, I strongly suggest you go and get Sundiver and work your way up to this one from there. I doubt you'll regret it.
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Brin has constructed an intriguing culture based on six species of intelligent creatures who, for whatever reason, have all come illegally to a world that is supposed to be left alone and set up their own civilization. The Sooner religion is also very fascinating. It cannot compare, however, with the mighty goings on in the first Uplift Trilogy, Startide Rising in particular, and it is good that it does not try to exceed them for it would have failed had it done so. Brightness Reef, the first half anyway, is more a leisurely Mark Twainesque tour of Brin's masterfully designed civilization and is really quite enjoyable in that aspect. The character of Alvin is especially delightful during this part of the book, along with his assorted group of friends of various species. As soon as the action starts picking up, though, the character that really steals the show is Dwer, a man-of-the-wilds whose interactions with a practical joker of a noor and a bitchy adolescent girl are positively comical.
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David Brin.....like so many writers the verve and brilliance of youth have faded into the banality of middle age. This book, and the compulsory sequels preplanned with the publisher several years ago, is Mr Brins workplace. And like any workplace you have spent too much time at, it has lost its sparkle. The characters, even most of the 'alien' ones are typical mid-american clones. All with similiar ideas, needs, wants, hopes..with perhaps a dash of chrome on each one so you know they 'aint all human. The plot is micro-scaled, ill-defined and just plain SLOW....but then there are two more sequels to eke out paychecks into the next century. Brin isn't a bad writer (and is probably a nice bloke) but the characters, for those who live 400 years from now, seem so familiar, so Politically Correct (cept' the baddies) and so derivative. All G-rated of course so that we can sell it to the kiddies too! This book is OK, but hollywoodised to the max...think DeepImpact, not 12 Monk! eys.
mostly harmless
there ya go!
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