A moment of Deja vu,came first, This idea seems familiar. Then it struck me, David Brin's "Uplift" series of books "Startide Rising" etc. A great idea and I do not fault Mr Tchaikovsky for taking this idea and moving it to another level. Indeed Mr Tchaikovsky was aware of what he was doing as the spacecraft at the start was named the "Brin 2" an obvious homage to the originator of the idea. I really enjoyed Mr Brin's work but have to say that the writer here takes to the tale in a more macabre fashion enjoying playing with and destroying stereotypes.
A very different take on Mr Brin's idea and one that I believe works well.
I do not wish to give away anything of the tale and so shall tell you little other than to read this book. I am looking forward to the sequel. This is pure straightforward Sci-fi, not hard Sci-fi as some have suggested, there is little technical detail and the tale is easy to follow if surprising at times. I would heartily recommend this book to both followers of Mr Brin's and Mr Tchaikovsky's works as well as most middle of the road Sci-fi readers.