It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.
Initial bad prose and slow pace give way to a serviceable space operatic thriller. There's some irony in humanity being portrayed as having left racism behind when the author only mentions the skin colour of one human character. You guessed it - that person is black. This is subtle, unconscious and no doubt would mortify Brin if ever brought to his attention, but it illustrates that our biases are deep-rooted and often hard to identify in oneself. I say "human character" because there are a majority of non-human characters, ranging from genetically enhanced dolphins to numerous aliens.
The humans and other Earth-originating species (there's an enhanced chimp as well as all the dolphins) are considered somehow superior to almost all the alien species despite being upstarts, space-faring for mere centuries rather than hundreds of millenia. The main reasons for this are given as being scientists and not relying solely on the technological gifts of our alien neighbours, most of who have stagnated and become wholly reliant on technologies they don't necessarily fully understand, having not developed them but instead taken designs from a ubiquitous Library. I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with this, which is a theme also present in Sundiver. It smacks of a more subtle version of the vile moral of Cryptonomicon i.e. that the USA is superior to everybody else because it expends more time, money, brain power and effort on developing ever-increasingly efficient methods of killing people than others do. The USA has many much more positive things to offer than that. Given the early eighties origin of this book, it could be simply yet another not overly subtle USA vs. the Soviets allegory.
Despite all sorts of intrigues, dangers, mysteries (some of which were all too guessable) and adventures, by the end of the book we are not one whit more enlightened about the initiating McGuffin than we were on page one, which is a frustration. This may be an attempt to hook the reader into book three but I still found it frustrating. I was also a bit fed up with all the psychic powers - it's a trope that I am baffled has survived past the psychedelic '60s - it just comes over as silly when there's no attempt to ground it in any type of science.
So over-all, it's okay as long as you go along for the roller-coaster ride, which gets to be quite a tense affair, but it doesn't bare much thinking about.