By David Brin
Bantam 1980/Orbit 1990
ISBN 1 85723 370 0
The first volume in the acclaimed Uplift series, Sundiver has a lot of big ideas – the theory of galactic cultures Uplifting promising proto-sentient species to civilisation; galactic cultures with a sense of stewardship of the planets they inhabit; the possibilities of a sentient species evolving in the upper atmosphere of a star – wrapped up around a rather poorly written murder mystery.
Reading Sundiver, I feel as if I’ve missed a chapter of the story. Jacob Demwa, the main character, has performed a heroic deed (saving a space needle), suffered a tragic loss (his wife died during the rescuing of the space needle), and has a complex relationship with the Kanten ambassador Fagin. The tantalising lack of detail in this backstory suggests that a prior story exists, though I’ve seen no mention of it.
The description of the operation of Project Sundiver, and what the adventurers encounter within the upper reaches of the Sun are interesting, but the human characters with whom Jacob Demwa interacts are frustratingly shallow. And if a mission, such as Project Sundiver, ever existed would the authorities choose to send such a cliché of a reporter as Pierre LaRoque?
An enjoyable, if frustrating, read, with a number of good ideas.
There's a stub review on Wikipedia which links through to some interesting material on the Uplift series.
Other books by David Brin: Startide Rising     The Uplift War