In its original paperback editon of 1983, this novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Brin's extensive revisions make this first hardcover edition an SF event. What remains most impressive is the complex background of political, cultural, linguistic and many other connections and missed connections among innumerable different species. Against the backdrop of an ancient spacefaring conglomerate, whose shared traditions have not halted their wars, the upstart Earthlingshumans, dolphins, chimpanzeesalso stand divided. Brin raises questions not only of understanding but of ethics, for a "patron" race may genetically uplift another only to indenture them. His depiction of the dolphins' gains and losses now that they've become space pilots is particularly moving. Although Brin's characterization and storytelling are less adept here than in the work he has since written, this is one of the outstanding SF novels of recent years.