BRIGHTNESS REEF description and bonus information


"Creative people see Prometheus in a mirror, never Pandora."
-- Brightness Reef

"It's how creativity works. Especially in humans. For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, tried out, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original."
-- Brightness Reef

The first book in the Uplift Trilogy, Brightness Reef, chronicles life on the planet Jijo, where a million years ago the advanced Buyur civilization held sway. Then the Buyur abandoned the world, leaving it to rest and restore its ecological balance. Now the vast civilization of the Five Galaxies uses patrols, guardian machines, and sanctions of law to prevent resettlement until the planet is once more ready for civilized life.

But over the centuries it has been resettled. Groups of sapient beings, fleeing persecution or neglect, have ignored the laws and evaded the patrols, landing in secret. After years of warfare and mistrust, a new society has evolved on forbidden Jijo, based on tolerance and respect among its six intelligent races: the mysterious hoon, the crablike qheuens, the centaurlike urs, the wheel-borne g'Kek, the multiple-personality-bearing graeki, and last of all to land on Jijo, humans from Earth, bringing with them a new technology allowing civilization to blossom in the wilderness. They all now live in hiding under canopies of camouflage, in dread of Judgment Day, when the Five Galaxies will certainly discover their illegal colony.

Then the unthinkable happens. A strange starship arrives in Jijo's skies, landing near the settlers' holiest place. The passengers' appearance is familiar, their manners friendly. But do they bring long-feared judgment, or something far worse? Are they willing to destroy the six races of Jijo to cover their crimes?

As secrets, plots, and schemes unfold, life on Jijo enters a time of great peril. A scientist will find his most cherished beliefs put to the test. A young girl will flee a brutal outlaw tribe, drawing on her deepest reserves of courage and cunning. One woman will search for hope amid the chaos of language. And a group of exuberant youngsters from four races, bent on having the adventure of their lives, will discover wonders beyond all imagination.

Exclusive on this site: Read sample chapters from Brightness Reef.


A comprehensive (if unofficial) time-line and breakdown of Brightness Reef (along with the rest of the Uplift Trilogy) has been created by archivist Alberto Monteiro, who also explains the calendar units and many other interesting facts about planet Jijo.


Brightness Reef takes us to a new galaxy, where humans and other galactic outlaws struggle to find their place in the galactic civilization. The planet Jijo has been set off limits for colonization, but refugees escaping persecution have founded colonies in secret. When a starship crashes on Jijo, bringing a mysterious visitor, their fragile society is threatened.


Inspired by an urrish ballad that she found in Brightness Reef, Baltimore composer Katherine Gilliam created yet another work in a completely different musical form -- a haunting a capella choral work called "Starships."


"Brin is a fantastic author, who has created a dense, complex futureverse with generally amusing alien races and uplifted Earth races, who amuse even during the most dramatic events. The crux of the story is how does mankind carve out an autonomous existence in the face of alien races with much more advanced technology? Who assists them and what odds do they overcome to succeed?" -- Amazon.com customer review

"Briefly, the main premise of the 'Uplift' universe is that all sapient races were 'uplifted' to intelligence by genetic modifications performed by an older 'Patron' race, in a genealogical sequence stretching back millions of years to the fabled Progenitors. Galactic society is a complex web of alliances, mainly based on the ties of Patron races to their 'Clients' (who are bound to patrons for a period of 'indenture' after their uplift). The alliances seem to differ on such issues as permissible degrees of genetic alteration of clients (some Patrons unethically modify their clients for excessive servility, for instance), proper length of indenture periods, and degree of respect (or worship) for the (long-disappeared) Progenitors. One of the main economic forces in this Universe is the struggle for rights to new potential clients (pre-sapient races). I think this set-up is one of the most original and interesting SF ideas of recent times, in particular with regard to establishing a (somewhat) believable Multi-Race Galactic society." -- SFF.net

"While the narrative does not so much conclude as simply stop in midstream, it describes a universe that's immensely appealing, leaving readers hungry for more of this exciting, epic adventure." -- Publishers Weekly review

"The traeki fascinate me. Brin is very talented at coming up with unique species that are not merely humanoid stand-ins, and the traeki are a great example. Apparently they are the same as the Jophur, antagonists in previous books, but they are peaceful. Each individual traeki body is made up of 'rings' that have different skill sets and traits; the rings together form a sort of group-mind that acts based upon consensus. So a single traeki can swap out rings and become a slightly different person in the process. Asx is the traeki sage, and his perspectives are little more than pithy ruminations upon the current action. Yet even in such brevity, glimpses into the traeki mind was still cool." -- Goodreads community review

Uplifting novels

The Uplift Trilogy (Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach) continues the stirring saga that began with Sundiver, Startide Rising, and The Uplift War. The entire series is available in paperback and ebook.

I also released a companion to the series. Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide To David Brin's Uplift Universe is a fun tour of the many alien races in the Uplift Universe.

I've posted here short stories based in the Uplift universe. "Aficionado," "Shoresteading," and "The Shelter of Tradition" are now part of my newest novel, Existence (on sale now!). This story details the very beginnings of Earth's Uplift Project. The other, "Temptation," first appeared in Robert Silverberg's anthology Far Horizons and features the adventures of a female dolphin on the faraway world, Jijo, who must escape from two of her own kind and then penetrate a deeply dangerous ancient secret.

See also a page dedicated to the Uplift universe.


Here are a collection of covers for Brightness Reef from its foreign and foreign-language publications.