The Sundiver
The SundiverDavid Brin

This is a first contact story, but it's not quite the first contact story I expected going in.

Without spoiling anything, the basic premise is throughout the known universe, all species have achieved space travel only after being 'uplifted' (i.e. given guidance and technology) by a more advanced species. Except humans on Earth, who appear to have miraculously achieved space travel all on their own, with primitive and inelegant technology. The book follows some human explorers on a mission to conduct research on the sun (hence 'Sundiver'), who are accompanied by some alien visitors. If you plan to read it, do not spoil it for yourself — the mystery is essential to appreciate the book.

Considering the book is more than 40 years old, there are many cliches (e.g. the protagonist is the classic maverick savant detective haunted by a dark past) and some of the language and plot points are a bit out of time, but if you put that aside, the speculative fiction elements are mostly great. There is proper world-building and proper sci-fi. This does make it a bit more difficult to read. The fictional jargon takes awhile to get used too so it's not something I could skim or read when too brain-dead (unlike, e.g. David Edding books).

Overall, it's quite a wild ride. There are talking dolphins, alien sentient broccoli, and chimpanzee astronauts. Oh, and there's also a galactic library, and the sun is haunted.

21 Jul 2022