Heaven’s Reach

David Brin is one of the premier science fiction novelists of the late twentieth century. An astrophysicist and an advisor to NASA, he combines cutting edge—and beyond—science with an imagination which encompasses uncountable worlds and unlimited time. His Uplift series posits a universe where non-reasoning creatures are raised to sentience through the process of external sponsorship, or “uplift,” although most humans believe their advancement was Darwinian rather than external. In HEAVEN’S REACH Brin concludes the saga of the “sooners”—humans, g’Keks, glavers, hoons, qheuens, urs, and traekis—who sought refuge on the planet Jijo, which had been returned to a “fallow” state after previous occupation and thus off-limits to settlement.

The inhabitants of Jijo have come under the attack of the Jophurs—traiki with an attitude. The rest of the universe, fearing the onset of a new cataclysmic era, is chasing an Earth ship, STREAKER, which is carrying information about the mythic Progenitors and lands temporarily on Jijo with its human and “uplifted” dolphin crew. Yes, humans have “uplifted” dolphins as well as chimpanzees. Much of the novel is STREAKER’s story of further death-defying escapes in its return to Earth, itself under attack. Among other characters are an uplifted chimpanzee, who is an observer of hyperspace activities, the deaths of numerous white dwarf stars, and a cast of billions—both stars and beings.

As with any series, an acquaintance with what came before is helpful. However, Brin provides enough information within the novel and its glossaries to allow the reader to enter into HEAVEN’S REACH without prior knowledge. What makes Brin’s universe so satisfactory is that he combines the best elements of a classic science fiction space opera with theoretical science as well as a plea for environmentalism: We must take care of the universe—or else.