Apr 10 2007

Heaven’s Reach

Published by at 10:14 am under Books

by David Brin

Well I’ve finished this trilogy.  While I mostly enjoyed reading the six long stories, the ending was weak.  Not the best book by far.  While the whole series played fast and loose with possible development of scientific and engineering skills, this book was off the deep end.  That and the associated plot gimmicks are the books main faults.  But, the gimmicks were probably necessary for the author to bring some of the many threads to a congenial ending.  A little magic helped a lot.  The Uplift Trilogy was an enjoyable but not very rewarding read.  Recommended as entertainment not education.

How does the series rate on the ‘exploration of interesting ideas’ dimension?

– “Uplift”:  Similar to the idea behind 2001, the idea that developed species control and determining the development of lesser developed intelligent species. Rather than treating uplift as a mystery, the uplift process is treated a bureaucratic intergalactic organizations with strict rules on conduct and status.  The whole universe with many species is described as a bureaucracy primarily driven by prestige acquired from uplifting other species.  Odd.
– Knowledge should be shared:  The location of an abandoned fleet of very ancient space ship is the ‘secret’ that drive all the action.  A ship crewed by humans, dolphins, and chimps makes the discovery and are then chased by ‘powerful’ species that want the information for themselves where as the humans want the information to be available for all.  Free flow of information makes for a better universe, world or whatever.
– “Drop outs”: Groups from several species seek ‘redemption’ by forsaking knowledge and trying to return to a pre-intelligent state from which they can be uplifted again!  Provides a rough analogy of “fundamentalists” of various cultures and religions.  However, the idea of forsaking knowledge and devolving is motiviated by a desire to again be uplifted.  Given a second chance.  Dropping out is one thing but dropping out to be brought back in seems weird.
– Analogy to the book of Revelations:  The nature of the discovery by humans somehow throws a bunch of established species into a panic due to quasi-religious beliefs in a “time of change”.  Species then begin to fight for control of the information in order to position themselves advantageously with respect to the changes.
– Cultural rigidity is bad.
– Diversity is good.  Embrace it.

Nothing too interesting or clever in that list.  Probably the cleverest idea in this book is that of a “universe quake” analogous to an earthquake.  Due to expansion of the Universe, there are intermittent ‘ruptures’ of the universe which separate galaxies from each other.  However, this idea gets conflated with the idea of ‘times of change’ and is not seriously explored.

Overall, the story telling was interesting, and the narrative moved along.  In all the books, the tale is told by a collection of narrators and participants whose stories are intermixed chapter by chapter.  In general, I found the stories more interesting when they were located on some planet or other.  The space ships, etc.were portrayed minimally and mainly provided a meas of getting about.

In summary a 3,000 plus page space opera, but don’t expect scientific credibility.  If you are inclined to read these books, look up ‘actinic’ it seems to be the authors favorite uncommon word.

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