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David Brin's Uplift Universe

Updated on September 16, 2014

Uplift: A Science Fiction Series, by David Brin

David Brin's Uplift Universe portrays humanity's desperate struggle for survival in a dangerous universe -- ruled by technologically advanced alien races. Billions of years ago, an alien race known as the Progenitors began to genetically alter lower species, granting them intelligence, so they can enter Galactic civilization, and achieve star-faring status. No species has ever reached the stars without the guidance of a patron - except mankind. Humans, by their own initiative achieved star-faring status, and uplifted their own clans, chimpanzees and dolphins. But it's a dangerous universe, and established alien clans don't look favorably upon the upstart Earthlings.

These space epics interweave multiple viewpoints, both human and alien, with complex story lines and solid science. David Brin comments, "Each story in the Uplift Universe deals with some issue of good and evil -- or the murky realm between." Science Fiction critic John Clute writes that Brin "takes on the galaxy with all the exuberance of an E.E. Smith reborn. There is a ladder to the stars in these books, and humanity claws upward into pole position in the Five Galaxies."

This Hugo and Nebula award-winning series by David Brin, one of the most inspiring recent works of science fiction, includes the novels, Sundiver, Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach.

If we find ourselves alone in the cosmos amid a great silence, without others to talk to, humans will solve that problem by making our own friends among the higher animals, such as dolphins and chimps, giving them a boost to uplift their intelligence. -- David Brin

David Brin on Space Opera

Brin comments: "Some people say you can't have everything. For instance, if a story offers action, it must lack philosophy. If it involves science, character must suffer. This has especially been said about one of the core types of science fiction, the genre sometimes called space opera. Is it possible to depict grand adventures and heroic struggles cascading across lavish future settings -- complete with exploding planets and vivid special effects -- while still coming up with something worth calling a novel?

I'm one of those who believe it's worth a try -- and have attempted it in the Uplift novels, which are set several hundred years into a dangerous future, in a cosmos that poor humans barely understand."

David Brin discusses his Uplift Universe

Brightness Reef takes us to a new galaxy, where humans struggle to find their place in the galactic civilization. The planet Jijo has been set off limits for colonization, but refugees escaping persecution have founded colonies in secret. When a starship crashes on Jijo, bringing a mysterious visitor, their fragile society is threatened.

What is Uplift?

Uplift is the process by which older spacefaring races bring new species into Galactic culture, through breeding and genetic engineering. The resulting client species serves its patron for a priod of indenture to pay for this favor.

Sundiver - First book of the Uplift Saga

Sundiver was David Brin's first published book. It sets the stage for the Uplift Universe. In this science fiction murder mystery, expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in our history. A journey into the boiling inferno of the sun, to seek our destiny in the cosmic order of life.

Excerpt from Sundiver

"Makakai, are you ready?"

Jacob ignored the tiny whirrings of motors and valves in his metal cocoon. He lay still. The water lapped gently against the bulbous nose of his mechanical whale, as he waited for an answer.

One more time he checked the tiny indicators on his helmet display. Yes, the radio was working. The occupant of the other waldo whale, lying half submerged a few meters away, had heard every word.

The water was exceptionally clear today. Facing downward, he could see a small leopard shark swim lazily past, a bit out of place here in the deeper water offshore.

"Makakai... are you ready?"

He tried not to sound impatient, or betray the tension he felt building in the back of his neck as he waited. He closed his eyes and made the delinquent muscles relax, one by one. Still, he waited for his pupil to speak.

"Yesss... let'sss do it!" came the warbling, squeaky voice, at last. The words sounded breathless, as if spoken grudgingly, in lieu of inhalation.

A nice long speech for Makakai. He could see the young dolphin's training machine next to his, its image reflected in the mirrors that reflected his faceplate. Its gray metal flukes lifted and fell slightly with the swell. Feebly, without their power, her artificial fins moved, sluggishly under the transient, serrated surface of the water.

She's as ready as she'll ever be, he thought. If technology can wean a dolphin of the Whale-Dream, now's the time we'll find out.

He chinned the microphone switch again. "All right, Makakai. You know how the waldo works. I will amplify any action you make, but if you want the rockets to cut in, you'll have to give the command in English. Just to be fair, I have to whistle in trinary to make mine work."

"Yesss!" she hissed. Her waldo's gray flukes thrashed up once and down with a boom and a spray of saltwater.

With a half muttered prayer to the Dreamer, he touched a switch releasing the amplifiers on both Makakai's waldo and his own, then cautiously turned his arms to set the fins into motion. He flexed his legs, the massive flukes thrust back jerkily in response, and his machine immediately rolled over and sank.

Jacob tried to correct but overcompensated, making the waldo tumble even worse. The beating of his fins momentarily made the area around him a churning mass of bubbles, until patiently, by trial and error, he got himself righted.

He pushed off again, carefully, to get some headway, then arched his back and kicked out. The waldo responded with a great tail-slashing leap into the air.

The dolphin was almost a kilometer off. As he reached the top of his arc, Jacob saw her fall gracefully from a height of ten meters to slice smoothly into the swell below.

Startide Rising - Second book of the Uplfit Saga

Startide Rising won the 1983 Hugo, Locus and Nebua Awards for Best Novel. The Terran exploration vessel, Streaker, crewed by humans and uplifted dolphins, has discovred a derelict fleet of 50,000 ancient starships in a shallow cluster. Streaker removes artifacts, bearing witness of the famed Progenitors, the first race to uplift species. In a rush to hide from battling alien armadas, Streaker crashes on the uncharted water world of Kithrup. There the crew must quench a mutiny, while undertaking repairs, and escape the powerful alien crafts who seek her secret. Published in 1983.

Excerpt from Startide Rising

from the journal of Gillian Baskin

Streaker is limping like a dog on three legs.

We took a chancy jump through overdrive yesterday, a step ahead of the Galactics who are chasing us. The one probability coil that had survived the Morgran battle groaned and complained, but finally delivered us here, to the shallow gravity of a small population-II dwarf star named Kthsemenee.

The Library lists one habitable world in orbit, the planet Kithrup.

When I say "habitable," it's with charity. Tom, Hikahi, and I spent hours with the captain, looking for alternatives. In the end, Creideiki decided to bring us here.

As a physician, I dread landing on a planet as insidiously dangerous as this one, hut Kithrup is a water world, and our mostly-dolphin crew needs water to be able to move about and repair the ship. Kithrup is rich in heavy metals, and should have the raw materials we need.

It also has the virtue of being seldom visited. The Library says it's been fallow for a very long time. Maybe the Galactics won't think to look for us here.

I said as much to Tom last night, as he and I held hands and watched the planet's disc grow larger in one of the lounge ports. It's a deceptively lovely blue globe, swathed in bands of white clouds. The night side was lit in patches by dimly glowing volcanoes and flickering lightning.

I told Tom that I was sure no one would follow us here -- pronouncing the prediction confidently, and fooling nobody. Tom smiled and said nothing, humoring my bout of wishful thinking.

They'll look here, of course. There were only a few inter-spatial paths Streaker could have taken without using a transfer point. The only question is, can we get our repairs finished in time, and get away from here before the Galactics come for us?

Tom and I had a few hours to ourselves, our first in days. We went back to our cabin and made love.

While he sleeps, I'm making this entry. I don't know when I'll have another chance.

Captain Creideiki just called. He wants both of us up on the bridge, I suppose so the fins can see us and know their human patrons are nearby. Even a competent dolphin spacer like Creideiki might feel the need from time to time.

If only we humans had that psychological refuge.

Time to put this down and awaken my tired fellow. But first, I want to jot down what Tom said to me last night, while we watched Kithrup's stormy seas.

He turned to me, smiled that funny way he does when he thinks of something ironic, and whistled a brief haiku in dolphin-Trinary.

* The stars shake with storms

* The waters below roll thunder --

* Still, are we wet, love? *

I had to laugh. Sometimes I think Tom is half dolphin.

Poetry in Startide Rising

Brin's dolphins speak a language called Trinary, which appears to be related to the Japanese art of haiku. Here is one selection, spoken by the dolphin Akki:

"Past" is what once was---

A remnant that's called memory

In it lie the "causes"---

Of what now is.

"Future" is what will be---

Envisioned, seldom seen.

In it lie "results"---

Of what now is.

"Present" is that narrowness----

Passing, always flickering

* Proof of the "joke"----

Of "what now is ."

Streaker Down, by Robert Hurt

This image illustrates a scene from Brin's classic Startide Rising. The dolphin-crewed Streaker rests at the bottom of the poisonous oceans of Kithrup.

The Uplift War - Third book of the Uplfit Saga

The Uplift War was a New York Times Bestseller, and winner of the Hugo and Locus awards for Best Novel. Galactic Armadas search the Five Galaxies for Streaker and its secret cargo. Meanwhile, the brutal Gubru invade Earth’s colony planet, Garth, after a devastating space battle. Humans and chimps engage in guerilla warfare against the superior alien forces. At stake is the existence of Terran society and Earth – and the fate of the entire Five Galaxies. Published 1987.

Excerpt from The Uplift War

How strange, that such an insignificant little world should come to matter so much.

Traffic roared amid the towers of Capital City, just beyond the sealed crystal dome of the official palanquin. But no sound penetrated to disturb the bureaucrat of Cost and Caution, who concentrated only on the holo-image of a small planet, turning slowly within reach of one down-covered arm. Blue seas and a jewel-bright spray of islands came into view as the bureaucrat watched, sparkling in the reflected glow of an out-of-view star.

If I were one of the gods spoken of in wolfling legends... the bureaucrat imagined. Its pinions flexed. There was the feeling one had only to reach out with a talon and seize...

But no. The absurd idea demonstrated that the bureaucrat had spent too much time studying the enemy. Crazy Terran concepts were infecting its mind.

Two downy aides fluttered quietly nearby, preening the bureaucrat's feathers and bright torc for the appointment ahead. They were ignored. Aircars and floater barges darted aside and regimented lanes of traffic melted away before the bright beacon of the official vehicle. This was status normally accorded only royalty, but within the palanquin all went on unnoticed as the bureaucrat's heavy beak lowered toward the holo-image.

Garth. So many times the victim.

The outlines of brown continents and shallow blue seas lay partly smeared under pinwheel stormclouds, as deceptively white and soft to the eye as a Gubru's plumage. Along just one chain of islands -- and at a single point at the edge of the largest continent -- shone the lights of a few small cities. Everywhere else the world appeared untouched, perturbed only by occasional flickering strokes of stormbrewed lightning.

Strings of code symbols told a darker truth. Garth was a poor place, a bad risk. Why else had the wolfling humans and their clients been granted a colony leasehold there? The place had been written off by the Galactic Institutes long ago.

And now, unhappy little world, you have been chosen as a site for war.

Brightness Reef - First book of the new Uplift Trilogy

Brightness Reef, published in 1995, was nominated for the Hugo and Locus awards in 1996. The planet Jijo has been declared off limits to allow its ecosystem to recover. But sooners from eight races have made their way to Jijo, illegally establishing secret colonies on the planet. A new type of society has arisen on Jijo, one where even enemy species cooperate and co-exist. The novel begins with the discovery of a seriously wounded stranger, bearing secrets that will rattle the established order of the Five Galaxies.

Excerpt from Brightness Reef

Pain is the stitching holding him together... or else, like a chewed-up doll or a broken toy, he would have unraveled by now, lain his splintered joins amid the mucky reeds, and vanished into time.

Mud covers him from head to toe, turning pale where sunlight dries a jigsaw of crumbly plates, lighter than his dusky skin. These dress his nakedness more loyally than the charred garments that fell away like soot after his panicky escape from fire. The coating slakes his scalding agony, so the muted torment grows almost companionable, like a garrulous rider that his body hauls through an endless, sucking marsh.

A kind of music seems to surround him, a troubling ballad of scrapes and burns. An opus of trauma and shock.

Striking a woeful cadenza is the hole in the side of his head.

Just once, he put a hand to the gaping wound. Fingertips, expecting to be stopped by skin and bone, kept going horribly inward, until some faraway instinct made him shudder and withdraw. It was too much to fathom, a loss he could not comprehend.

Loss of ability to comprehend...

The mud slurps greedily, dragging at every footstep. He has to bend and clamber to get through another blockade of crisscrossing branches, webbed with red or yellow throbbing veins. Caught amid them are bits of glassy brick or pitted metal, stained by age and acid juices. He avoids these spots, recalling dimly that once he had known good reasons to keep away.

Once, he had know lots of things.

Under the oily water, a hidden vine snags his foot, tripping him into the mire. Floundering, he barely manages to keep his head up, coughing and gagging. His body quivers as he rises back to his feet, then starts slogging forward again, completely drained.

Another fall could mean the end.

While his legs move on by obstinate habit, the accompanying pain recites a many-part fugue, raw and grating, cruel without words. The sole sense that seems intact, after the abuse of plummet, crash, and fire, is smell. He has no direction or goal, but the combined stench of boiling fuel and his own singed flesh help drive him on, shambling, stooping, clambering and stumbling forward until the thorn-brake finally thins.

Suddenly the vines are gone. Instead a swamp sprawls ahead -- dotted by strange trees with arching, spiral roots. Dismay clouds his mind as he notes -- the water is growing deeper. Soon, the endless morass will reach to his armpits, then higher.

Soon he will die.

Infinity's Shore - Second book of the new Uplift Trilogy

In Infinity's Shore, the peaceful, but illegal colonies on Jijo are discovered by armadas of alien starships. And the fragile alliances of aliens, coexisting on Jijo, but deadly enemies out in the rest of the universe, begins to fray. And the Streaker arrives on Jijo, desperately seeking refuge, bearing its secret cargo which may carry clues to the deepest origins of uplift.

Excerpt from Infinity's Shore

What strange fate brought me,

* Fleeing maelstroms of winter,

* Past five galaxies? *

* Only to find refuge,

* On a forlorn planet (nude!)

* In laminar luxury! *

So he thought while performing swooping rolls, propelling his sleek gray body with exhilarated tail strokes, reveling in the caress of water against naked flesh. Dappled sunlight threw luminous shafts through crystal shallows, slanting past mats of floating sea florets. Silvery native creatures, resembling flat-jawed fish, moved in and out of the bright zones, enticing his eye. Kaa squelched the instinctive urge to give chase.

Maybe later.

For now, he indulged in the liquid texture of water sliding around him, without the greasiness that used to cling so, back in the oily seas of Oakka, the green-green world, where soaplike bubbles would erupt from his blowhole each time he surfaced to breathe. Not that it wasn't worth the effort to inhale on Oakka. There wasn't enough good air on that horrid ball to nourish a comatose otter.

This sea also tasted good, not harsh like Kithrup, when each excursion outside the ship would give you a toxic dose of hard metals.

In contrast, the water on Jijo world felt clean, with a salty tang reminding Kaa of the gulf stream flowing past the Florida Academy, during the happier days on far-off Earth.

He tried to squint and pretend he was back home, chasing mullet near Key Biscayne, safe from a harsh universe. But the attempt at make-believe failed. One paramount difference reminded him this was an alien world.

Sound.

Heaven's Reach - Final book of the new Uplift Trilogy

In Heaven's Reach, Jijo faces assault by brutal enemies who have discovered their secret colony. Now the fugitive settlers of Jijo -- both human and alien -- brace for a final confrontation. The Jijoans' only hope is the Earthship Streaker, crewed by uplifted dolphins and commanded by an untested human. Yet more than just the fate of Jijo hangs in the balance. For Streaker carries a cargo of ancient artifacts that may unlock the secret of those who first brought intelligent life to the Galaxies. Many believe a dire prophecy has come to pass: an age of terrifying changes that could end Galactic civilization. As dozens of white dwarf stars stand ready to explode, the survival of sentient life in the universe rests on the most improbable dream of all -- that age-old antagonists of different races can at last recognize the unity of all consciousness.

Excerpt from Heaven's Reach

Alarms sing a variety of melodies.

Some shriek for attention, yanking you awake from deathlike repose. Others send your veins throbbing with adrenaline. Aboard any space vessel there are sirens and wails that portend collision, vacuum leaks, or a myriad other kinds of impending death.

But the alarm tugging at Harry Harms wasn't like that. Its creepy ratchet scraped lightly along the nerves.

"No rush," the soft buzzer seemed to murmur. "I can wait.

"But don't even think about going back to sleep."

Harry rolled over to squint blearily at the console next to his pillow. Glowing symbols beckoned meaningfully. But the parts of his brain that handled reading weren't perfectly designed. They took a while to warm up.

"Guh..." he commented. "Wuh?"

Drowsiness clung to his body, still exhausted after another long, solitary watch. How many duras had passed since he tumbled into the bunk, vowing to quit his commission when this tour of duty ended?

Sleep had come swiftly, but not restfully. Dreams always filled Harry's slumber, here in E Space.

In fact, dreaming was part of the job.

About the author

"Anyone who wants simple, pat stories should buy another author's product. The real universe ain't that way, and neither are my fictive ones. "

Trained as a scientist, with a Ph.D. in astrophysics, David Brin weaves scientific realism with a flair for drama in his novels. David Brin is a world-renowned author of science fiction and non-fiction. His novels provide amazing glimpses into possible futures for humanity and our planet. David's books have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo and Nebula awards. In all, his books have been translated into more than twenty languages. His best-known titles include Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Foundation's Triumph, Kiln People, and Heaven's Reach.

David is also one of the most insightful commentators on the issues of our day. David writes and speaks about space exploration, SETI, and how technology shapes our future. He is passionately outspoken about issues involving privacy; his nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, deals with secrecy and accountability in our modern age. He has appeared on television shows such as "Life After People" and "The Universe."

David Brin in front of the painting for Sundiver.

Painting by Jim Burns

Hugo Award for The Uplift War

David won the 1988 Hugo Award for The Uplift War. The Hugo award is science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugos are voted on by the thousands of members of the current World Science Fiction Convention.

Starship Streaker from Startide Rising

A map of JIjo

The sooner planet described in Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach.

Planets in the Uplift Universe

--Calafia, a water world inhabited by humans and neo-dolphins. Currently occupied by the Soro.

--Deemi, a planet leased to humans on the condition that they run the Galactic prison. Bathed in UV radiation. Most of biosphere is aquatic.

--Garth-David Brin's Uplift War

--Jijo, a planet in Galaxy #4 where Humans and other sophont refugees have illegally hidden, in the case of the G'kek and the Humans to avoid extermination, potential for humanity, certain for G'kek.

--Jophekka, the homeworld of the Jophur, sapient and ambitious sap ring stacks.

--Kithrup, a planet listed in Startide Rising (waterworld rich in heavy metals, which form part of the biochemical structure of its life. Mildly toxic to non-native life. also the "retirement" home of a neurotic race with enormous psi power)

--Omnivarium, a planet inhabited by birds that mimic any sound, a fact discovered when the birds started mimicking the sounds of explorers performing coitus.

--Tanith, the location of the nearest full Galactic Library branch near Terra.

Reviews of the Uplift Universe

"David Brin is an SF writer of soaring imagination. His ability to take old ideas -- faster-than-light travel, Galactic federations, human/alien interaction -- and breathe new life into them is simply masterful. His Uplift galaxy was one of the few genuinely original ideas generated by non-cyberpunk SF in the mid-1980s." -- Mark Shainblum

"Brin is a scientist who knows how to tell a story. That's a rare combination." -- Jerry Pournelle

"What's important is that David Brin has created an involving, imaginative, textured novel with all the detail and backfill that's needed to evoke a strange-yet-famiiar future without belaboring his homework. There are human relationships -- and sentient relationships, of all types. There are strange worlds, alien creatures, high adventures, and space battles. Essentially there's something for everybody, and generally it's done quite well. All those are valid reasons for lots of people to buy this book." -- Edward Bryant

"Fans of action- and idea-packed science fiction should definitely read Startide Rising. Those multiple plot lines are brimming over with ideas that can only be called Really Cool (yes, the capital letters are necessary); the later sections of the book are filled with revelations that will very likely keep the reader's jaw dropping. There's also interesting and sympathetic protagonists and an occasional clever line (such as a ship encountering a probability mine and "depart[ing] the Universe in a manner that was picturesque, if ultimately lethal") to keep you going until those Really Cool Ideas get revealed." -- Kate Nepveu

Aficionado

A bonus story from the Uplift Universe:

Cameras stare across a forbidden desert, monitoring disputed territory in a conflict that is so bitter the opponents cannot even agree what to name it.

One side calls the struggle a war, with countless innocent lives in jeopardy.

The other side claims there are no victims.

And so, suspicious cameras peer and pan, alert for encroachment. Vigilant camouflaged monitors scan from atop hills or under innocuous piles of stones. They hang beneath highway culverts, probing constantly for a hated enemy. For some time -- months, at least -- these guardians have succeeded in staving off incursions across the sandy desolation.

That is, until technology changes yet again, shifting the advantage briefly from defense to offense.

When the enemy struck this time, their first move was to take out those guardian eyes.

Infiltrators arrived at dawn, under the glare of the rising sun. Several hundred little flying machines jetted through the air, skimming very low to the ground on gusts from whispering motors. Each device, no larger than a hummingbird, followed a carefully-scouted path toward its selected target, some stationary camera or sensor. The attackers even looked like native desert birds, in case they were spotted during those crucial last seconds.

Each little drone landed behind the target, in its blind spot, and unfolded wings that transformed into a high resolution graphics displays, depicting perfect false images of the same desert scene. Each robot inserted its illusion in front of the guardian lens -- carefully, so as not to create a suspicious flicker. Other small spy-machines sniffed out camouflaged seismic sensors and embraced them gently, providing new cushioning that would mask the tremors to come.

The robotic attack, covering an area of more than a hundred square kilometers, took only eight minutes to complete. The desert now lay unwatched, undefended.

From over the horizon, giant vehicles started moving in. They converged along several roadways toward the same open area -- seventeen quiet, hybrid-electric rigs... tractor trailers disguised as commercial cargo transports, complete with company holo-logos blazoned on their sides. But when their paths intersected at the chosen rendezvous, a more cryptic purpose revealed itself. Crews wearing dun-colored jumpsuits leaped from the cabs to start unlashing container sections. Auxiliary generators set to work. The air began to swirl with shimmering waves of exotic stench, as pungent volatiles gushed from storage tanks to fill pressurized vessels. Electronic consoles sprang to life, and hinged panels fell away from the trailers, revealing long, tapered objects that lay on slanted ramps.

With a steady whine, each cigar shape lifted its nose from horizontal to vertical, aiming skyward, while stabilizer fins popped open at the tail end. Shouts between the work crews grew more tense as a series of tightly coordinated countdowns commenced. There wouldn't be much time to spare before the enemy -- sophisticated and wary -- picked up enough clues and figured out what was going on.

Soon every missile was aimed... launch sequences engaged... and targets acquired. All they lacked were payloads.

Abruptly, a dozen figures emerged from an air conditioned van, wearing snug suits of shimmering material and garishly painted helmets. Each one carried a small satchel that hummed and whirred, pumping air to keep the suit cool. Several had trouble walking normally. Their gait seemed rubbery, as if both excited and anxious at the same time. One of the smaller figures even briefly skipped.

A dour-looking woman wearing a badge and a uniform awaited them, holding a clipboard. She confronted the tallest figure, whose helmet bore a motif of flames surrounding a screaming mouth....

to read the rest of the story: http://www.davidbrin.com/aficionado.htm

A Terragen Field Guide

A training handbook for Terragen Field Agents. Physical and cultural descriptions of aliens, their clan alliances and languages. Illustrated by Kevin Lenagh.

“This handbook was created to assist in the training of Terragen Field Agents. As a top-secret, eyes-only survey, it is designed to help you, the student, understand many of the dangers and perplexing situatios you will face during missions representing the three sapient races of Earth throughout the vast and dangerous Civilization of five Galaxies.” Note: This information is for use by agents and trainees of the Terragen Field Service. Unauthorized possession of this document carries a penalty of lifetime supervised probation and/or exile under the Earthclan Security Act.

illustration by Kevin Lenagh

A sample illustration from Contacting Aliens. Drawn by Kevin Lenagh

Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe
Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe

An illustrated guide to the aliens in David Brin's Uplift Universe.

 

Temptation

A second bonus story from the Uplift Universe

Jijo's ocean stroked her flank like a mother's nuzzling touch or a lover's caress. Though it seemed a bit disloyal, Makanee felt this alien ocean had a silkier texture and finer taste than the waters of Earth, the homeworld she had not seen in years.

With gentle beats of their powerful flukes, she and her companion kept easy pace beside a tremendous throng of fishlike creatures -- red-finned, with violet gills and long translucent tails that glittered in the slanted sunlight like plasma sparks behind a starship. The school seemed to stretch forever, grazing on drifting clouds of plankton, moving in unison through coastal shallows like the undulating body of a vast complacent serpent.

The creatures were beautiful... and delicious. Makanee performed an agile twist of her sleek gray body, lunging to snatch one from the teeming mass, provoking only a slight ripple from its nearest neighbors. Her casual style of predation must be new to Jijo, for the beasts seemed quite oblivious toward the dolphins. The rubbery flesh tasted like exotic mackerel.

"I can't help feeling guilty," she commented in Underwater Anglic, a language of clicks and squeals that was well-suited to a liquid realm where sound ruled over light.

Her companion rolled alongside the school, belly up, with ventral fins waving languidly as he grabbed one of the local fish for himself.

"Why guilty?" Brookida asked, while the victim writhed between his narrow jaws. Its soft struggle did not interfere with his train of word-glyphs, since a dolphin's mouth plays no role in generating sound. Instead a rapid series of ratcheting sonar impulses emanated from his brow. "Are you ashamed because you live? Because it feels good to be outside again, with a warm sea rubbing your skin and the crash of waves singing in your dreams? Do you miss the stale water and moldy air aboard ship? Or the dead echoes of your cramped stateroom?"

"Don't be absurd," she snapped back. After three years confined aboard the Terran survey vessel, Streaker, Makanee had felt as cramped as an overdue fetus, straining at the womb. Release from that purgatory was like being born anew.

"It's just that we're enjoying a tropical paradise while our crewmates --"

"-- must continue tearing across the cosmos in foul discomfort, chased by vile enemies, facing death at every turn. Yes, I know."

Brookida let out an expressive sigh. The elderly geophysicist switched languages, to one more suited for poignant irony.

* Winter's tempest spends

* All its force against the reef,

* Sparing the lagoon. *

For the complete story: see http://www.davidbrin.com/temptation1.html

Startide Rising in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, part of the Experience Music Project in Seattle

Role Playing in the Uplift Universe

Immerse yourself in the amazingly detailed world of the Uplift Universe. Create and modify your own alien species. The book includes complete descriptions of the important alien races, maps and descriptions of the Terragens planets, and rules for creating – and Uplifting – new species. The GURPS Role Playing system was developed by Steve Jackson Games. http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/Uplift/

GURPS Uplift
GURPS Uplift

Steve Jackson's Role Playing Game based upon the Uplift Universe.

 

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      Purchases support the Dolphin Communication Project

      The Dolphin Communication Project is a nonprofit science and education organization involved in the study of dolphin behavior, communication and cognition.