Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

A Darkling Sea
Author:  James L. Cambias
Publisher:  Tor Books, January 28, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
Also Available:  Trade Paperback
List Price: US$25.99 (Hardcover); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765336279 (Hardcover); 9781466827561 (eBook)

On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The Terran explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don’t disturb the Ilmataran habitat, they’re free to conduct their missions in peace.

But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between Terran and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war.

Against the backdrop of deep-sea guerrilla conflict, a new age of human exploration begins as alien cultures collide. Both sides seek the aid of the newly enlightened Ilmatarans. But what this struggle means for the natives—and the future of human exploration—is anything but certain, in A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.

Brannigan's Review

I was drawn to this book initially because it reminded me of one of my favorite movies Abyss. Instead of surly oil workers, A Darkling Sea has scientists interacting with aliens on the sea floor. James L. Cambias creates a dynamic plot that kept me reading late into the night.

Cambias' world is in our future when Earth begins to truly explore space and the many different planets and moons. During our exploration, we meet a peaceful alien race named the Sholen who resemble six-legged otters. The Sholen fear humans because we remind them of their war-ridden past. They try to control human exploration when a group of humans sets up an underwater base to study the alien race of Ilmatarians who resemble lobsters. The Sholen try to control the contact between the humans and Ilmatarians. I enjoyed the fact that both alien races are very different in their development, even though they both have connections to water-based animals.

Cambias shares the POVs of several different characters for each race that helps to establish their races while also allowing for character development. My only complaint about the aliens was the fact that they were basically lobsters and otters. I like my aliens weirder. I will say I was very happy with their unique cultures though.

Where the book truly shines is the pacing. It helps that Cambias has several different POV characters who keep the story fresh and exciting. It also helps that he's not afraid of action. One of my pet peeves with science fiction is it can be a little dry with very little going on. Thankfully, Cambias doesn't have this problem. He doesn't waste a lot of time before we get a lot of interesting conflicts and battles.

A Darkling Sea is a science fiction political action tale. Besides the animalistic qualities to the aliens, I had a blast reading it. It was also nice to read a stand alone novel. There is violence, language and sexual situations involving otter aliens. I would recommend it to older teens and adults.


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