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Heaven's Reach
Volume Three of The Uplift Trilogy

David Brin
Bantam Spectra Books, 560 pages

Jim Burns
Heaven's Reach
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
SF Site Review: Foundation's Triumph
SF Site Review: Heaven's Reach
SF Site Review: Infinity's Shore
SF Site Review: The Postman
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 Jean-Louis Trudel

For lovers of space opera, this is the real thing. Brin brews a heady mix of adventure and discovery that makes for a compulsive page-turner of a book. The previous volume in the series, Infinity's Shore, had been a slow starter, loaded down with recapitulations of what had happened in the first volume. However, Heaven's Reach takes off right away and keeps going. While the crew of the Streaker may have trouble with their spaceship's lack of speed, the novel's narrative drive never fails.

On the whole, Brin sticks with characters already introduced in the previous works, with the exception of Harry Harms, a neo-chimpanzee scout employed in E-space, a strange continuum where thoughts and ideas can have substance. Thus, we meet again with the small band of humans and dolphins aboard the Streaker, the desperate quarry of a number of fanatical Galactic factions as a result of the discovery of extremely ancient and mysterious artifacts. Also aboard are a handful of natives of the world Jijo, a clandestine colony occupied by several quite different species. Meanwhile, stray Jijoans have also ended up aboard the hostile Jophur battleship, big enough to get lost in, luckily for them, and aboard a derelict spaceship that will take two neo-primitives much farther than they bargained for.

In fact, all of them have embarked upon a voyage wilder than anything they could imagine.

Though one young Jijoan is enamoured of early science fiction and US literature, Brin actually harks back to the roots of Western literature. The small band of travellers seeking a way home and facing wonders and dangers as they voyage Earthward are not unlike the crew of Ulysses returning from Troy. What Heaven's Reach offers us is, in part, a voyage on the wine-dark seas of space.

On such an epoch-making voyage, it is sufficient that characters are engaging and able to carry forward the plot. As for the writing, it is more than serviceable, called upon to describe Criswell spheres, the organic ships of hydrogen-breathers, the prelude to a supernova, and many other wonders. Still, the gravity of the situation tends to overwhelm every other aspects of the story...

The Five Galaxies are in crisis, and the politico-religious fighting that has erupted over the discoveries of the Streaker is now the least of it. Space itself is being strained, and an impossible rupture may mean the end of many hyperspace connections. All the orders of life, oxygen-breathers, hydrogen-breathers, machine sentience, retired contemplatives, and even the venerable Transcendents, cannot escape the upheaval. Relentlessly pursued by the Jophur battleship, the Streaker gains unlikely allies along the way and visits wondrous places.

Scarred and tested, the survivors of the Streaker will reach their home planet and face one last impossible hurdle: the massed space fleets of the enemies of Earthclan...

In short, Brin delivers the kind of rousing finale fans of the Uplift series had been hoping for ever since Startide Rising. Not all questions are answered, not all mysteries are solved. Yet, I would argue that he brings the Uplift series to a satisfying close.

As might be expected, the Jijoans inherit a whole galaxy to play with and expand into. In the first two volumes, it was striking how the Slope inhabited on Jijo by various stranded races seemed to mirror the early Thirteen Colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America. Not only was the geographical conformation of the Slope a rough match, but the variety of species seemed to echo the diversity of colonists who came together to make up the early United States. All that was left to do for the Jijoans brought together by the intrusion of Galactics was to claim their inheritance as space travellers.

Of course, Brin improves on US history by providing the Jijoans with a truly deserted galaxy, instead of the inhabited continent American pioneers felt obliged to clear of native inhabitants and wildlife...

And most of the main characters also get something that is close enough to their hearts' desire. As for the readers, may they not be happy with a thorough melding of classic space opera and modern scientific concepts? Brin's Uplift series has forced science fiction fans and writers to rethink some common assumptions of large-scale space opera. The latter is one of the sub-genres of science fiction where the cross-fertilization of strains contributed by authors such as Iain Banks, Gregory Benford, and Vernor Vinge proceeds apace. As astronomy continues to provide us with ever more grandiose vistas, I believe space opera will enjoy ever grander settings and a lively future. In the meantime, Brin has certainly done his part.

Copyright © 1999 by Jean-Louis Trudel

Jean-Louis Trudel is a busy, bilingual writer from Canada, with two novels and fourteen young adult books to his credit in French. He's also a moderately prolific reviewer and short story writer.

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