Finished 4/26/2013, Reviewed 4/27/2013
I loved this book. I liked it more than Startide Rising. It read like great science fiction: Aliens that weren’t too cartoonish, contemporary theme of environmentalism transposed on another planet in the future, sapient chimps, and characters I cared about.
There were a lot of characters, similar to Startide Rising. In that book, I had a tough time keeping all the dolphins and aliens straight in my head. In particular, the dolphins had names which all ran together for me. In Uplift, there were two main chimps, aliens, and humans. The chimps had human names, which were easier to remember. The two main aliens were also easier to keep separate. The invading aliens were a little confusing at first, but because of their titles, their characteristics were easier to follow and keep separate.
I loved the theme of guerrilla environmentalism. While topical when the book was written, it seemed more profound today. There is great appeal to turning “primitive” and fighting the invasion forces of the scheming alien establishment. Here, the last free human, an allied alien, and a band of sentient chimps are forced into hiding in the mountains, don clothing and weapons made from local plant life, and fight the invading forces using guerrilla tactics. Initially a spoiled playboy, the human scouts through the mountains unshaven, in a loin cloth, making tarzan calls. Through this transformation, he comes to realize who he is and what his gifts are. And the allied alien, also a somewhat spoiled child, comes into her adulthood as well though the same process.
The intelligent chimps are also great characters. It was so easy to empathize and identify with the struggle to be recognized as being equal with the other intelligent races, despite the fact that they range from the heroic to the villainous, from the motivated to the complacent, just like humans and the other alien races.
What was significant for me was that all the main characters, including the invading aliens, went through some type of transformation. Some faced their fears, found their courage, found their intelligence, and learned from or at least recognized their mistakes.
In reading the book, I couldn’t help but think it was highly influenced by the Star Wars era. It had action, great characters, and a monumental struggle for the right to exist. Except for the necessary special effects, this book could easily have translated into a great film at the time it was written. Now that we have the computer technology, I think it should be. It is a timeless story of fighting oppression, coming to ones’ own, and saving a planet. From the first few pages, it never lost its grip on me. I couldn’t help but give it 4 stars.