The Uplift War is a 1987 science fiction novel by David Brin and the third book of six set in his Uplift Universe. It was nominated as the best novel for the 1987 Nebula Award and won the 1988 Hugo Award. The previous two books are Sundiver and Startide Rising.
50,000 years ago, the planet Garth was leased to the Bururali who nearly destroyed its ecosystem by overhunting all large indigenous species. The ecologically sensitive galactic civilisation killed all Bururali, demoted their patrons, the Nahalli, to clients of the Thennanin, and began working to preserve and repair the remaining ecosphere of Garth. Several decades before the start of the novel, Earthclan acquires the lease on Garth in return for their expert assistance in biosphere recovery. The Z'Tang complete a final ecological survey before the planet is passed on to Earthclan.
The novel begins in the year 2489 C.E. with the Gubru planning to invade Garth, Earthlings on Garth preparing to defend their claim to the planet, and ambassadors from other races getting ready to depart. The Gubru attempt to hold Garth hostage in an attempt to learn more about the discovery the dolphin spaceship Streaker made in Startide Rising about the Progenitors.
The Gubru invade and overpower Garth's weak space forces. They engage a small portion of their ground force in ritualistic combat against Earthling forces, take relatively high losses, but manage to subdue most of the human population using pre-planned subterfuge and poisonous gas. The Gubru, used to galactic norms, believe that the neo-chimp population on Garth will be easily controlled without their human patrons to guide them.
Some of the neo-chimps in and around Port Helenia, the capital city are subverted, but a large group, led by Robert Oneagle, son of planetary coordinator Megan Oneagle, and Athaclena, daughter of Tymbrimi ambassador Uthacalthing, engage in guerrilla warfare. Their combination of “wolfling” ingenuity and galactic diplomacy allow them to inflict significant damage, psychological and physical, on the Gubru.
Elsewhere on the planet, the Tymbrimi ambassador, Uthacalthing, and the Thennanin ambassador, Kault, are shot down while fleeing the Gubru invasion. They land safely, but must trek several hundred kilometers back to civilisation. During the trip, Uthacalthing secretly instructs a furtive neo-chimp to create false evidence pointing to the existence of Garthlings — a race of pre-sentient creatures that survived the Bururali holocaust. Uthacalthing also plants evidence about Garthlings in his diplomatic cache — which is, perhaps justifiably, robbed by the Gubru.
The three Gubru co-commanders (suzerains) overreact to most situations. When the Suzerain of Cost and Caution is killed in an accident, the other two suzerains exploit the situation and further their own goals. The Suzerain of Proprietary seizes on the Garthling myth and builds an enormously expensive hypershunt on Garth. If Garthlings can be found, the Gubru will be able to use the hypershunt to adopt and indenture the race for 100,000 years in exchange for uplifting them to sentience.