(1996) David Brin, Orbit, £6.99, pbk, 705pp. ISBN 1 85723 385 9
This is part of Brin's Uplift series. The galaxy is full of hostile alien species, the results of a billion years worth of genetic experimentation. Humans are the only species that evolved independently, and so they are regarded as being some sort of wolfling race.
On a distant planet, hidden from galactic civilisation, six exiled species live in a mostly peaceful co-existence. Their aim is to forget their technology and seek some kind of salvation in a return to nature. Like most utopian ideals, not everyone can quite live up to them. Anyway, it might not be such a good idea to throw away your technology if you are surrounded by advanced and aggressive neighbours armed to the antennae.
Things begin to get strained when a human turns up with wounds that could only have been caused by hi-tech weapons. The other species believe that humans have been hoarding technology. But, when a spacecraft lands in the capital, a conflict seems inevitable.
In his recent works, Brin seems to be more and more in love with his own cleverness, using his novels to make points about western culture. Combining this with the intricate interweaving plot lines sometimes means that the main thrust of the story gets lost in the detail.
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