Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The second novel of David Brin's Uplift Trilogy, Infinity's Shore, is the book which most completely ties the planet Jijo to the events which occured in Startide Rising. While the dolphin ship Streaker arrived at Jijo near the end of Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore opens with the crew of the Streaker joining the major characters of Brightness Reef. Not only has the crew of the Streaker fallen on Jijo, but the events of the previous novel have brought the planet, and its illegal colonists to the attention of the five galaxies.
Brin eases his readers back into the world of Jijo, with short chapters providing brief synopses of the events which have already taken place. Once the reader is reacquainted with the characters and their dilemmas, Brin is ready to move the action forward. The action is very much a continuation of the actions which occurred in Brightness Reef as the members of the six races continue to deal with the aftermath of the Rothen visitors and the arrival of Streaker. Their world is in a state of flux brought on by outside forces and the six races are trying to figure out how to cope.
In addition to the characters and races from Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore also re-introduces many of the characters from Startide Rising, making the novel, in effect, a direct sequel to both novels instead of one. Brin manages to pull this off successfully because he has created a complex universe which is clearly interconnected, although it also raises the question of why Jijo seems to be a magnet for exiles and cast-offs.
As is typical of an Uplift novel, Brin refuses to tie all his threads together. Through the mouths of his characters, Brin offers several different explanations of the Rothen visitors without revealing which (if any) explanation is correct. Furthermore, throughout the novel, Brin drops hints about the adventures of Streaker since the end of Startide Rising, the history of Jijo and of the human race. These hints are tantalizing in what they reveal while at the same time giving a realistic feel to Brin's universe.
In Brightness Reef, Brin introduced the six races, and I commented that only the traeki seems to be more than humans in funny costumes. In Infinity's Shore, Brin gives more details of the traeki as Asx first undergoes an internal discussion and later gains a new ring which has the evolutionary result that Asx becomes a Jophur, Ewasx. The Jophur are an uplifted cousin to the traeki who exhibit greater signs of ambition and willfulness than their cousins introduced in the previous novel.
Although Infinity's Shore suffers by being the middle book of a trilogy, its faults are not as great as they could be simply because Brin does not always tie up all his loose ends. The reader has come to expect finishing a Brin novel with questions. In this, Infinity's Shore does not disappoint. Since Brin has promised a final volume in this series, Heaven's Reach, the reader knows that some of their questions will be answered in a relatively short period.
Lengthy, complex and with many different viewpoint characters, Infinity's Shore is a worthy continuation of Brin's Uplift saga. It sets the stage well for Heaven's Reach (due out in June 1998) and promises that although many questions will be answered, just as many will be left open-ended for the readers to ponder and look to future works for an explanation.
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