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Infinity's Shore
Volume Two of The Uplift Trilogy

David Brin
Bantam Spectra, 704 pages

Infinity's Shore
David Brin
David Brin is a scientist and SF author who has won three Hugo Awards, two for Best Novel. His 1989 thriller Earth foresaw both global warming and the World Wide Web. A movie with Kevin Costner was loosely based on The Postman and Startide Rising is in pre-production. Brin's non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with threats to openness and liberty in the new wired-age. His latest novel, Foundation's Triumph, brings to a grand finale Isaac Asimov's famed Foundation Universe. David is heavily involved in efforts to help use SF to benefit younger readers -- Webs of Wonder.

David Brin Website
ISFDB Bibliography
The Good and the Bad: Outlines of Tomorrow (Essay)
Brin Bibliography
The New Meme (Essay)
David Brin Tribute Page
David Brin Tribute Page

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Catherine Asaro

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Infinity's Shore is the second book in David Brin's second Uplift Trilogy, following Brightness Reef. It takes place on the forbidden planet Jijo, which has been illegally settled by a number of sapient species. Jijo exists as part of a bigger framework, the Five Galaxies, an imaginative universe rife with star gods, galactic intrigue, and futuristic societies.

Six bands of fugitives have come to live on Jijo over a period of two thousand years. Although their respective species are enemies in the general scheme of the Five Galaxies, the fugitives form an unusual alliance on Jijo that allows them to live together in relative peace. The book opens as the Earth Survey Ship Streaker comes on the scene. Soon other starships are arriving, to the dismay and peril of Jijo's reclusive settlers. What develops is an imaginative drama of excitement and wonder.

The story is told through many characters, including humans, neo-dolphins, and aliens. Brin uses innovative changes in prose to convey their qualities. Alvin, a Hoon adolescent, tells his story in first person singular; the compound mind Asx uses first person plural; more familiar type humans narrate in more familiar third person voices; and so on. It is a sophisticated technique that effectively relates differences among species as well as individuals.

Although the many diverse viewpoints may make the story harder to get into at first, it is worth the extra effort. Brin aides the reader in this endeavor with lists of characters, species, and a glossary. In addition, "texts" written by various characters appear throughout the book, giving additional details on the universe and its eclectic inhabitants. With their elegant italicized font, the texts also add a flourish of visual artistry that enhances the literary presentation.

Throughout it all, the prose shines. I could extol the writing, but the words speak for themselves better than anything I could say. Witness the introduction of Emerson, the amnesic Stranger. Rather than just making a prosaic statement, such as, "Emerson had trouble with his memory," Brin writes:

"Existence seems like wandering through a vast chaotic house. One that has been torn by quakes and fire, and is now filled with bitter, inexplicable fog. Whenever he manages to pry open a door, exposing some small corner of the past, each revelation comes at the price of sharp waves of agony."
The sheer virtuosity of the prose alone makes this book worth reading.

Clever touches of humor add to the story. At one point, an ominous star cruiser is about to discover the inhabitants of Jijo have wreaked havoc on a station it left on the planet. The vulnerable Asx compound mind, from one of the fugitive species on Jijo, ponders the prospect of said cruiser's reaction to the havoc and decides: "As an Earthling writer might put it -- we found ourselves in fetid mulch. Very ripe and very deep."

By using so many different voices to relate events, Brin layers on the story rather than telling it in a more conventional linear fashion. From a less talented writer, this technique could have been a confusing disaster; here it works like a dream. I've read none of the books that proceed this novel, neither the first Uplift Trilogy nor the first book in this trilogy. Despite that, and despite the complex story line, I was able to follow the plot and appreciate the artistry that went into creating it.

However, I suspect I missed some richness in the story, due to my lack of familiarity with the universe. Infinity's Shore can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but it probably works better after reading Brightness Reef, perhaps even more so if a person is familiar with the first trilogy -- which promises a new Brin reader many thoughtful hours of entertainment.

Copyright © 1998 by Catherine Asaro

Catherine Asaro is a physicist at Molecudyne Research. She earned her Phd in chemical physics from Harvard and a BS from UCLA. She also writes science fiction, a blend of hard SF with space adventure. Her debut novel Primary Inversion is in its second printing, Catch the Lightning won the 1997 Sapphire Award, The Last Hawk is on the Nebula Preliminary ballot, and The Radiant Seas (the sequel to Primary Inversion) comes out in November 1998. The books are stand alone novels, but take place in the same universe. Her husband John Cannizzo is the proverbial NASA rocket scientist, an excellent resource for a writer of romantic space adventure!


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