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

DAVID BRIN's Brightness Reef

Bantam Spectra, 1995

Read the first few chapters online, or scroll down to purchase BRIGHTNESS REEF.

refugees & renegades & rebels & rapscallions — and earthlings too

"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 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.

about the uplift series

The uplift series of novels and short stories is set in a future universe in which no species can reach sentience without being "uplifted" (genetically brought to sapience) by a patron race, which then "owns" the uplifted species for 100,000 years. But the greatest mystery of all remains unsolved: who uplifted humankind? Earth has no known link to the Progenitors — and that terrifies client and patron species alike. Should its inhabitants be allowed to exist?

book sales

purchase Brightness Reef US: paperback and Kindle ebook and audiobook (unabridged) Canada: paperback and Kindle ebook UK: paperback and Kindle ebook Germany: Sternenriff: Die zweite Uplift-Trilogie 1 (German-language paperback) and Sternenriff: Die zweite Uplift-Trilogie 1 (German-language Kindle ebook)


Apple iBooks

Apple iTunes US: iBook and audiobook (unabridged)

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble US: paperback and Nook ebook

indie bound US: paperback US: ebook

Mysterious Galaxy

Mysterious Galaxy San Diego: paperback and (Kobo) ebook


Powell's US: paperback

more about the series

other uplifting novels

The stirring saga that begins with Sundiver continues in Startide Rising, and climaxes in The Uplift War.

A second uplift series begins with Brightness Reef, continues with Infinity's Shore, and concludes with Heaven's Reach.

Is Existence: an uplift "prequel"? In many ways, yes. David Brin's bold newest novel explores the ultimate question: Billions of planets may be ripe for life, even intelligence. So where is Everybody?

An illustrated 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.

Learn more about all of Brin's novels and books here.

uplifted short stories

These three stories are set in the uplift universe. Learn more about all of Brin's shorter fiction here.

  • In "Aficionado" (an excerpt from Existence), Hacker Sander is spoiled, temperamental and a champion rock-jock ... till a crash lands him in lethal peril. His sole hope? A tribe of strangely savvy sea creatures, with a secret need of their own.
  • In "Temptation" (included in the newest story collection, Insistence of Vision), a female dolphin on Jijo — on the run from two predatory males — stumbles into a deeply dangerous ancient secret.
  • In "Gorilla, My Dreams," chimpanzees and dolphins are helping humans choose the next species for uplift when powerful alien starships arrive to wipe out all life on Earth. (This story is sold on Apple's iBook, Amazon's Kindle (#AmazonCommissionsEarned), and Smashwords.)

  • foreign-language editions

    Brightness Reef has been translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, and Spanish. Here are some of the covers of the foreign and foreign-language publications.

    Brightness Reef's foreign editions

    Brightness Reef in the world

    on this site

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    Queries about film or media rights to any DAVID BRIN books or stories can be addressed to his film agent:
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    Created-By Agency
    (with cc: to David Brin)

    Brin discusses Brightness Reef

    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.

    fan-created bonus

    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 reviews

    "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." customer review

    "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?"

    Publishers Weekly review

    "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."

    Goodreads community 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."

    Star Tribune, Minneapolis

    "A captivating read ... Brightness Reef leaves you looking forward to more. It's a worthy addition to what promises to be a great science fiction series."

    The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

    "Brin is a skillful storyteller ... There is more than enoug action to keep the book exciting, and like all good serials, the first volume ends with a bang."


    "Brin has shown beyond doubt that he is a master of plot and character and incident, of sheer storytelling, while he is also thoughtfule enough to satisfy anyone's craving for meat on those literary bones. Don't miss this one, folks, or the next."

    San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle

    "Boils with plots and subplots."

    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author


    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More

    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More

    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More

    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist


    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More

    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More

    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More

    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More

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    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

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    reviews and recommendations

    Alex Good,

    "The fiction of David Brin is informed by a central recurring theme as well, in his case the operation of various kinds of evolution: organic and synthetic, directed and undirected, fast and slow. This interest in dynamic change feeds into his vision of SF as an essentially optimistic form: not because he believes in 'progress' but because he believes in the ability of humankind to improve its condition."

    Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

    The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

    "Like E E "Doc" Smith before him, Brin gives joy and imparts a Sense of Wonder; but he also thinks about the near world."



    "David Brin has created some of the greatest classics of recent science fiction."

    praise for Existence

    "I would consider Existence to be a triumphant, epic Science Fiction novel on many levels. It stayed with me after I set it aside for the day, continues to simmer in my mind now that I've finished reading it, and has opened up a gateway to Brin's novels I'd wanted to enter for a while. Brin achieved an excellent gestalt of character, big ideas, and narrative energy."
    — Rob H. Bedford,

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    an excerpt from Brightness Reef


    i must ask your permission. You, my rings, my diverse selves.
    Vote now! Shall i speak for all of us to the outer world? Shall we join, once more, to become Asx?
    That is the name used by humans, qheuens, and other beings, when they address this stack of circles.
    By that name, this coalition of plump, traeki rings was elected a sage of the Commons, respected and revered, sitting in judgment on members of all six exile races.
    By that name — Asx — we are called upon to tell tales.
    Is it agreed?

    Then Asx now bears witness... to events we endured, and those relayed by others. "I" will tell it, as if this stack were mad enough to face the world with but a single mind.
    Asx brews this tale. Stroke its waxy trails. Feel the story-scent swirl.
    There is no better one i have to tell.


    Pain is the stitching holding him together... or else, like a chewed-up doll or a broken toy, he would have unraveled by now, lain his splintered joins amid the mucky reeds, and vanished into time.
              Mud covers him from head to toe, turning pale where sunlight dries a jigsaw of crumbly plates, lighter than his dusky skin. These dress his nakedness more loyally than the charred garments that fell away like soot after his panicky escape from fire. The coating slakes his scalding agony, so the muted torment grows almost companionable, like a garrulous rider that his body hauls through an endless, sucking marsh.
              A kind of music seems to surround him, a troubling ballad of scrapes and burns. An opus of trauma and shock.
              Striking a woeful cadenza is the hole in the side of his head.
              Just once, he put a hand to the gaping wound. Fingertips, expecting to be stopped by skin and bone, kept going horribly inward, until some faraway instinct made him shudder and withdraw. It was too much to fathom, a loss he could not comprehend.
              Loss of ability to comprehend...
              The mud slurps greedily, dragging at every footstep. He has to bend and clamber to get through another blockade of crisscrossing branches, webbed with red or yellow throbbing veins. Caught amid them are bits of glassy brick or pitted metal, stained by age and acid juices. He avoids these spots, recalling dimly that once he had known good reasons to keep away.
              Once, he had known lots of things.
              Under the oily water, a hidden vine snags his foot, tripping him into the mire. Floundering, he barely manages to keep his head up, coughing and gagging. His body quivers as he rises back to his feet, then starts slogging forward again, completely drained.
              Another fall could mean the end.
              While his legs move on by obstinate habit, the accompanying pain recites a many-part fugue, raw and grating, cruel without words. The sole sense that seems intact, after the abuse of plummet, crash, and fire, is smell. He has no direction or goal, but the combined stench of boiling fuel and his own singed flesh help drive him on, shambling, stooping, clambering and stumbling forward until the thorn-brake finally thins.
              Suddenly the vines are gone. Instead a swamp sprawls ahead — dotted by strange trees with arching, spiral roots. Dismay clouds his mind as he notes — the water is growing deeper. Soon, the endless morass will reach to his armpits, then higher.
              Soon he will die.
              Even the pain seems to agree. It eases, as if sensing the futility of haranguing a dead man. He straightens from a buckled crouch for the first time since tumbling from the wreckage, writhing and on fire. He turns a slow circle...
              ...and suddenly confronts a pair of eyes, watching him from the branches of the nearest tree. Eyes set above a stubby jaw with needle teeth. Like a tiny dolphin, he thinks... a furry dolphin, with short, wiry legs... and forward-looking eyes... and ears...
              Well, perhaps a dolphin was a bad comparison. He isn't thinking at his best, right now. Still, surprise jars loose an association. Down some remnant pathway spills a relic that becomes almost a word.
              "Ty... Ty..." He tries swallowing. "Ty — Ty — t-t-t —"
              The creature tips its head to regard him with interest, edging closer on the branch as he stumbles toward it, arms outstretched —
              Abruptly, its concentration breaks. The beast looks up toward a sound.
              A liquid splash... followed by another, then more, repeating in a purposeful tempo, drawing rhythmically nearer. Swish and splash, swish and splash. The sleek-furred creature squints past him, then grunts a small disappointed sigh. In a blur, it whirls and vanishes into the queer-shaped leaves.
              He lifts a hand, urging it to stay. But he cannot find the words. No utterance to proclaim his grief as frail hope crashes into a chasm of abandonment. Once more, he sobs a forlorn groan.
              "Ty...! Ty...!"
              The splashing draws closer. And now another noise intervenes — a low rumble of aspirated air.
              The rumble is answered by a flurry of alternating clicks and whistled murmurs.
              He recognizes the din of speech, the clamor of sapient beings, without grasping the words. Numb with pain and resignation, he turns — and blinks uncomprehendingly at a boat, emerging from the grove of swamp trees.
              Boat. The word — one of the first he ever knew — comes to mind slickly, easily, the way countless other words used to do.
              A boat. Constructed of many long narrow tubes, cleverly curved and joined. Propelling it are figures working in unison with poles and oars. Figures he knows. He has seen their like before. But never so close together.
              Never cooperating.
              One shape is a cone of stacked rings or toruses, diminishing with height, girdled by a fringe of lithe tentacles which grasp a long pole, using it to push tree roots away from the hull. Nearby, a pair of broad-shouldered, green-cloaked bipeds paddle the water with great, scooplike oars, their long, scaly arms gleaming pale in the slanting sunlight. The fourth shape consists of an armored blue hump of a torso, leather-plated, culminating in a squat dome, rimmed by a glistening ribbon eye. Five powerful legs aim outward from the center, as if the creature might try to run in all directions at once.
              He knows these profiles. Knows and fears them. But true despair only floods his heart when he spies a final figure, standing at the stern, holding the boat's tiller, scanning the thicket of vines and corroded stone.
              It is a smaller bipedal form, slender, clothed in crude, woven fabric. A familiar outline, all-too similar to his own. A stranger, but one sharing his own peculiar heritage, beginning near a certain salty sea, many eons and galaxies distant from this shoal in space.
              It is the last shape he ever wanted to see in such a forlorn place, so far from home.
              Resignation fills him as the armored pentapod raises a clawed leg to point his way with a shout. Others rush forward to gape, and he stares back, for it is a sight to behold — all these faces and forms, jabbering to one another in shared astonishment at the spectacle of him — then rushing about, striving together as a team, paddling toward him with rescue their clear intent.
              He lifts his arms, as if in welcome. Then, on command, both knees fold and turbid water rushes to embrace him.
              Even without words, irony flows during those seconds, as he gives up the struggle of life. He has come a long way, and been through much. Only a short time ago, flame had seemed his final destiny, his doom.
              Somehow, this seems a more fitting way to go — by drowning.

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