Startide Rising is the second novel in David Brin's well-known Uplift universe, of which there are currently five other books. While it is not necessary to read other Uplift books prior to this one, I would personally recommend starting the series with The Uplift War. Startide Rising is a fabulous and fun space opera, but I found it less enjoyable than The Uplift War on my first reading because Brin is juggling many plot lines, which are generally not explained until late in the book. The Uplift War is far more comprehensible on the first read (and a very good book in its own right).
Nevertheless, fans of action- and idea-packed science fiction should definitely read Startide Rising. Those multiple plot lines are brimming over with ideas that can only be called Really Cool (yes, the capital letters are necessary); the later sections of the book are filled with revelations that will very likely keep the reader's jaw dropping. There's also interesting and sympathetic protagonists and an occasional clever line (such as a ship encountering a probability mine and "depart[ing] the Universe in a manner that was picturesque, if ultimately lethal") to keep you going until those Really Cool Ideas get revealed.
Briefly, this universe is one where species are Uplifted to sentience by the genetic modification and guidance of another species. The chain of Uplift is thought to extend back to semi-mythical Progenitors; the only exception found within eons is the human race, who appear to have Uplifted themselves—something which earns them the scorn and enmity of many. By the time humans are discovered by the rest of the Five Galaxies, they had begun Uplifting chimpanzees and dolphins. Streaker, a ship crewed by the latter, discovers an ancient derelict fleet; news of the discovery throws the Five Galaxies into turmoil, and as the book opens, a damaged Streaker is hiding on the water world of Kithrup, trying to make repairs and then escape back to Earth, while a battle rages overhead.
Streaker's story is continued in the new Uplift Storm trilogy (Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach), which I have not yet read. However, those afraid of committing to a multi-book series should not let that stop them, since Startide Rising doesn't end on a cliffhanger (obviously it doesn't complete the story, but I haven't died of suspense yet). I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice, big, juicy space opera to sink teeth into.
%T Startide Rising %A Brin, David %C New York %I Bantam Spectra %D 1983 %G 0-553-27418-X %P 462pp %O paperback
Copyright May 12, 1999 by Kate Nepveu. Originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written