David Brin, “Startide Rising” (1983) – This was some pretty fun scifi about a sticky situation in which some slick critters find themselves. The first starship commanded by dolphins — well, genetically enhanced neo-dolphins, anyway — stumbles upon some ancient artifacts for which numerous powerful galactic civilizations will gladly kill. They hide out on a water planet and try to figure shit out while the various intergalactic factions — spider people, lizard people, bug people, etc — kill each other in orbit over the planet.
In this particular universe, humans play the role they often do of cocky new kids on the galactic block. Every other spacefaring civilization, it seems, were “uplifted” into tool use and other advances by a patron species, going all the way back to the Progenitors billions of years ago. The humans can’t trace back a patron, which makes them out of place in a universe defined by lineages and attachment to ancient knowledge. That doesn’t stop plucky humanity from uplifting chimpanzees and dolphins, though, and all three species are present in the ship. Can humanity and our mammal bros make it in a cold, hierarchical universe? Brin’s philosophical about it but not too much. In the classic scifi fashion, pluck and ingenuity find a way.
This is an enjoyably overstuffed scifi read, with a half dozen primary viewpoint characters, numerous places where they’re all at that get hard to keep track of, plots and subplots, efforts at fleshing out dolphin culture (kind of hippie-ish but very eager), so on and so forth. The final plan to get out of the trap the aliens have them in is pretty cool, and fails (and is fixed) in some fun ways. All in all, good clean scifi fun. ****’