Thursday, June 17, 2010

A nice typical science fiction story

Sundiver by David Brin

After some disappointments interspersed with some extreme mind-stretchers it was quite a relief to actually read a very typical science fiction novel. I was hesitant since I had just finished The Postman and was rather annoyed with Brin's writing style. However, Sundiver is quite a bit different. Fewer jumps in continuity, less sexist dialogue between male and female characters, more intrigue.

Sundiver is the first novel set in the "Uplift" universe. Humans have made contact with extraterrestrials and have discovered that the social structure of the galactic races is based on who assisted which race in evolving into sentient beings. The humans are uniquely out of place as they appear to have evolved on their own. In fact, the only reason they are accepted into the extremely conservative society of the universe is because humans have assisted dolphins and chimpanzees evolve into sentient beings. This is the background of the story.

Our troubled-past main character, Jacob Demwa, is recruited to assist in a risky expedition to the sun. The expedition has already been running for some time but Demwa and a couple others are brought in because of the strange phenomena occurring. It turns out there are some fairly distinctly sentient lifeforms living in the chromosphere of the sun. The Galactic library, which contains every piece of recorded knowledge from every single race that has ever existed, has no record of these beings. Intriguing, yes? So is the fact that somebody is apparently out to cover up this fact and sabotage the whole program. That's where Demwa comes in. I guess he's an investigator or something. Who knows, he doesn't really have any special skills or knowledge that the reader knows of, so really any character could have done what he did.

Other than Demwa's rather uninteresting character, the story is quite good. The first part of the book is, unfortunately, much better than the last. The only reason this is bad is because you reach a very nice and tidy conclusion only to find out you were wrong, but instead of repeating the same formula that got him to that point Brin decides to try something different and adds in some boring romance between Demwa and the captain and drags out the final conflict over several chapters. Or maybe it just seemed like several chapters. Either way, it's a strike against the style in my opinion.