- Audio Cassette
- Publisher: Recorded Books; Unabridged edition (Aug. 1 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0788788671
- ISBN-13: 978-0788788673
- Parcel Dimensions: 22.1 x 13 x 6.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 658 g
- Average Customer Review: 77 customer reviews
Startide Rising Audio Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged
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Carrying humans' affinity with dolphins to new heights, STARTIDE RISING tells the adventure of a starship crewed by dolphins. George Wilson is undaunted by dolphin-speak and its variations in dialect, syntax, and tone as they reflect the speaker's emotional state. He also masters the many place and people names. He is just as adept with the speech patterns, inflections, and vocabulary of the various alien races that are interfering with the dolphins' hope of getting home safely and quickly. As the plot thickens and the relationships between the characters become more complex, Wilson's narration is a calm and steady beacon. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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Humanity enters this universe with two distinct differences: an abhorance of slavery, and a skill at innovation that is alarming to the pompous patron races of the galaxy. Mankind has uplifted two species: dolphins and chimps. They have set them free as equals (instead of demanding the 100,000 years of slavery), further appalling the elder races. However, all of this information is background - it's a testament to Brin's skill that he weaves all this background into the story (along with the introduction of numerous extraterrestrial races) without specifically devoting long passages to it.
The main plot - a dolphin-crewed ship (along with a few human overseers) has discovered a derelict fleet. As they try to head back to Earth with the info, they are ambushed by many E.T.'s intent on stealing their find. The ship seeks refuge on a water-covered planet as the crew tries to make repairs and escape their pursuers (who battle each other in space overhead). This is just the start of the adventure, however, and Brin's great skill in this book is to take a very complex universe, and keep adding more and more layers of complexity - the refuge planet is not all it seems, for example, nor are all the dolpihin crewmembers, many of whom start to crack under the pressure.
It's hard to describe why this book is so good without going into technical details. Therefore, I'll just say it's a great science fiction achievement, and well-deserving of all the awards it's received.
I was not so impressed with "Sundiver," the first book in the Uplift series. I'm so glad that I didn't stop there. "Startide Rising" is an exceptional read. David Brin has a unique talent for constructing consistent, plausible alien world-views. When I saw that dolphins were major protagonists in this story, I was half-expecting some kind of new age pseudo-philosophy about the wisdom of the deep and the lessons that we humans need to learn. Brin, however, is nowhere near as simplistic as that. There is wisdom in his dolphins, but there is also avarice, ambition, brutality and other characteristics that are unique to the species.
The novel is somewhat more convoluted than necessary, and it seemed to me that several major plots were left unresolved. Perhaps that will be addressed in future books.
The basic plot is this: The neo-dolphin-crewed Earthship, Streaker, has put down on the ocean world of Kithrup to make repairs. Streaker is being chased by a fractious, infighting consortium of galactics, who are after the potentially explosive cargo Streaker carries: possible evidence of the so-called Progenitors, who supposedly began the "Uplift" process which created all sapient beings in the known universe. (For those unfamiliar with Brin, Uplifting is the genetic engineering of presentient or near-sentient creatures, creating from basic root-stock intelligent, starfaring races. All starfaring races have uplift "patrons" -- except Terrans, which rankles the so-called galactics no end. For a more detailed explanation of all this, read the book!)
Kithrup is a hostile world; its seas contain heavy mineral salts which irritate the dolphins' skin. Worse, their situation is so tense that some of the dolphins are beginning to go primal -- that is, to revert to their wild state. It is up to Streaker's command crew, plus human assistants Gillian Baskin and Tom Orley, and chimpanzee scientist Charles Dart, to effect repairs on the ship, somehow escape the vast armada battling for the right to their cargo, and make it back to Earth.
That's the plot, and it seems kind of goofy on the face of it, doesn't it? Nothing could be futher from the truth, in fact! David Brin is a writer of immense skill and artistry, and turns what could have been a farce in lesser hands into a grand, fantastic, idea-rich story, a space opera worthy of the name. Startide is complex, full of plots and subplots, motives and murder, humor and heroics, and I've rarely read a better book, in any genre, in my life.
As just one example, since my time is short and my space is limited, let me offer the character of Captain Creideiki, the dolphin leader of the Streaker crew. Creideiki is one of the most fascinating characters ever created in a science fiction novel. He is a strong leader, wise and brave, with a metaphysical bent that nevertheless does not interfere when practical matters need taking care of. He is as complex and well-rendered as any of the human characters in Startide -- such as the impressively-rendered Toshio, or the Terragens Council agent Tom Orley, on whose heroics everything hinges ... but back to Credeiki. It is his journey through the story that is the most compelling, and kept me flipping through page after page -- more than anything, almost more than Streaker's fate, I wanted to know what happened to Creideiki next! It is rare for me to care so much about the fate of a non-human character, and that Brin was able to pull this off speaks volumes for his abilities as a writer.
I could go on and on -- one of the problems with writing about Startide is that it's SO rich in events and ideas, that it's simply impossible to cover everything I want to cover. From the incredible secret of Kithrup to the secret hidden by a select few of the Streaker dolphins, Startide Rising contains surprise after astonishing surprise, and it is no less rich the second time around than it was the first. I have little doubt that in fifty years or so, Startide (as well as the rest of the Uplift Saga) will be mentioned in the same breath as the Foundation Series, the Rama series, and the Dune saga. It's that good -- no, strike that. It's that great.
(Postscript: I've learned from Brin's home page that Startide has been optioned for a film adaptation! I can't imagine how anybody could pull that off without turning it into a glorified version of Flipper -- but even though I'm sure nothing good will come of it, I'm hoping whoever makes the attempt will prove me wrong. Remain In Light -- Phrodoe.)
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