Starred Review: A Darkling Sea

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias“Like [Robert] Silverberg, who developed fully realized alien societies in such novels as Downward to the Earth…Cambias makes the Sholen and Ilmataran people and cultures as real as the more familiar human component. Beautifully written, with a story that captures the imagination the way SF should.”

James L. Cambias’s A Darkling Sea got a starred review in Booklist!*

Here’s the full review, from the December 15th issue:

Strongly reminiscent of Robert Silverberg from the late 1960s and early 1970s, this SF novel is set on a distant world, Ilmatar, whose native species are being studied by human scientists. The Sholen, the dominant alien species in that area of space, have allowed the humans access to Ilmatar, but under strict rules, which include the requirement that they absolutely must not have any contact with its sea-dwelling residents. When a human gets too close to a group of Ilmatarans and is killed by them, the Sholen send a team of investigators to the planet; the incident not only threatens the diplomatic relations between humans and the Sholen but also could lead to all-out war. The author tells the story through the eyes of three characters: Rob, a member of the human exploration team and witness to the incident; Broadtail, an Ilmataran who has been declared an exile from his community after he took the life of another Ilmataran; and Tizhos, an unconventional Sholen who’s concerned the incident will cause her government to shut down all contact with Ilmatar. Like Silverberg, who developed fully realized alien societies in such novels as Downward to the Earth (to which this novel bears some thematic resemblance), Cambias makes the Sholen and Ilmataran people and cultures as real as the more familiar human component. Beautifully written, with a story that captures the imagination the way SF should.

A Darkling Sea will be published on January 28th.

*Booklist is a subscription-only publication.