Just finished (like 15 minutes ago) David Brin’s “The Uplift War”, a big, sprawling mess of a novel that was the Hugo winner back in the 80’s and finished the loosely connected first Uplift trilogy. This is Brin’s “War and Peace” following a large number of races and a few representatives from each through an extremely convoluted plot involving, at its core, mankind’s right to exist as an uplifted species when they apparently had no patron to guide them through the process to intellligence. There are many things to admire about this book, Brin’s attention to detail is consistently sharp, he only introduces enough characters as the reader can keep track of, the larger aspects of the war are largely played out offstage, allowing more time to focus on the individual efforts. He particular enjoys putting otherwise average people/chimps/aliens into extraordinary situations and then seeing what comes of it. The alien races are mostly anthropomorphic, but distinctive in their own alien qualities. There are still some humans around to keep things grounded (which if I remember correctly was conspicuously missing in the next book, Brightness Reef) and give the reader (or at least me) something to latch on to. I suppose it’s the kind of book that benefits from repeated readings, in that knowing up front who’s important and who’s not, and generally what happens, would allow one to wallow a little more in the world-building that Brin indulges in. But as a first time through, it’s not an easy book by any stretch, the multiple viewpoint characters, each involved in their own little situations, makes the overall picture of what’s going on hard to follow. The book isn’t necessarily too long, but could stand to be a little more focussed, or else a little more philosophical to make up for the lack of a strong narrative drive. This was also a problem in the previous book, “Startide Rising”, which followed basically the same premise, take a bunch of ordinary people/dolphins/chimps, plunk them down in an hostile alien environment, separate them, have some vague battles going on around them, and don’t answer any big questions. The Uplift War ends less ambiguously than Startide Rising, but because the action is so diluted amongst the different protagonists, the payoff isn’t really that exciting for the amount of pages that it requires to reach it.