David Brin has written quite a few novels by now, but my favorites are the Uplift series. In chronological order within the novels, these are: Sundiver, Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach (on a side note, I love his titles, and the poetry in the books that they come from). They are not exactly light reading, but they're very well done if you like complicated plots.
In the future in which these are set, mankind has genetically altered both dolphins and chimpanzees (and are possibly going to add dogs to the list) to be more intelligent and capable of human speech. They managed to do this just before the other sentient beings in the universe discovered humanity's existence, which is the only thing that kept some of these other species from immediately taking humans in hand for some reengineering. Galactic culture is based on this proces of uplift, where more advanced races alter the genetics of proto-sentient races in a long chain back to the Progenitors. Because humanity uplifted two species before we were discovered, that gives us the status of patrons, rather than clients which can be altered in whatever manner the patron species chooses. Which leads to some messy Galactic politics, as some races are not happy at all about the status or presence of humanity, which is a "wolfling" species - a species whose patrons seem to have abandoned them. Which is where the novels begin.
Another in the series of Uplift books. This is more of a 'trying to survive' when the older races come after you and some of your own uplifted dolphins (or are they) try to mutiny. A very good read.
One of the most thought provoking books I've ever read. It it questions how we treat animals, the morality of genetic engineering, and our place in the universe. Satisfying read, and a great anthology. As a series it stands with the great anthologies Founation, Dune, Revelation Space- Absolution Gap, and the Academy Series ( Omega-Chidi-Odesssy) by Jack McDevitt.
This is a worthy sequel to SUNDIVER, the first book in Brin's Uplift series, but you really can enjoy the story starting here.
It's hard to describe my overall impression of the book without using words like WOW! and GREAT! Twisty plot, likeable characters---not all of them human---major suspense about events. You really care what happens to everyone. Isn't that the measure of the talent and success of a writer?
From back cover: In a future universe in which no species can reach sentience without being 'uplifted' by a patron race, the greatest mystery of all remains unsolved: who uplifted humankind? The Terran exploration vessel Streaker, the first starship designed and crewed by dolphins, has crashed in the uncharted water world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history, a derelict ancient armada with evidence of the first sentient species ever, the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars. Trapped on a hostile planet, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles armed rebellion. Overhead, six alien fleets battle to decide their fate as Streaker's crew seeks some way to escape, safeguard her secret and return to Earth.
This book has intelligence, action and an epic scale.
Dolphin characters difficult to empathize with.