Sundiver by David Brin (Bantam, 1980) is the first book in his Uplift future history (FH). I didn't read it until after I had read Startide Rising and The Uplift War, which come later in the FH. The basic premise of his FH is that no sapient race in millions of years of recorded history has developed independently, without genetic manipulation ("Uplift") by an existing sapient race -- with the possible exception of humans. Sundiver takes place about a generation after first contact. Humans are just on the fringe of Galactic society; we would have been "adopted" by some independent race if we had not, shortly before contact, begun Uplifting dolphins and chimpanzees. The story concerns a later first contact, with living creatures discovered in the chromosphere of our Sun, using ships built partly with technology bought from the Galactics.
The characters are well-developed, and there are at least
four neat alien races. The plot is complex, and seemed in
spots to be hurried and unclear; but this could be because
of my distracting surroundings when I was reading it. The
world-building is cool, but better shown in Startide
Rising and The Uplift War.
Recommendation: read the latter two first, and read
Sundiver if you enjoy them.
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