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A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

May 16, 2014
A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias sounds like it will be a very good SF book by an author I have not read before.  I always like to read about not only the books I read, but also the authors. Here’s some summary information about James Cambias:

James Cambias (also as James L. Cambias) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer and tabletop game designer, whose stories have been nominated for the Nebula Award and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Cambias was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2001.

Born and raised in New OrleansLouisiana, he received a degree in the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine from the University of Chicago. He currently lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife and two children.

His early writing focused on role-playing games, particularly adventures and support material for Space 1889. His first role playing book was published by Iron Crown Enterprises in 1994, and he has written or contributed to books for Last Unicorn Games, Hero Games, and Steve Jackson Games, including Star Trek: The Next Generation Role-playing GameGURPS MarsStar Hero, and GURPS Space. He is one of the founders of Zygote Games, and the co-designer of the gameBone Wars: The Game of Ruthless Paleontology, based on the Bone Wars of the late 19th century.

His first professionally published fiction appeared in 2000. His work as been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionThe Journal of Pulse-Pounding NarrativesCrossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary FantasticAll-Star Zeppelin Adventure StoriesHellboy: Odder Jobs, and several Year’s Best anthologies. He is the author of the 2014 novel A Darkling Sea about the encounter between humans and two species of sentient extraterrestrials.

James Cambias brings a diverse skill set and knowledge base to his writing. I really look forward to reading some of his books, particularly A Darkling Sea:

When it comes to stories about contact between alien races, you have Star Trek‘s Prime Directive of non-interference on one hand, and willingness of the Culture of Iain M. Banks to apply a little force to help a civilization on the road to what it considers the right path. Somewhere in between lies the dilemma facing the three species colliding in James L. Cambias’s A Darkling Sea.

What brought this book to the surface for me was ESR’s review:

Review: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias – ESR’s Armed and Dangerous Blog

While most life on Earth is powered by chemical energy captured from solar radiation, deep in our seas there are entire ecologies powered by volcanism – specifically the hot water issuing from hydrothermal vents. Hot mineral-rich water supports a food chain based on chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea; it extends upwards in complexity through giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp. These animals live miles further down than sunlight ever reaches, in an extreme of pressure and frigid temperatures that would kill any surface life in short order.

In recent years planetary astronomers have come to believe that beneath the icy surfaces of some of our gas-giant moons there are dark oceans of liquid water. Tidal forces acting on the moons power volcanism; Europa, in particular (the smallest of the four “Galilean” moons of Jupiter) is suspected of having its own hydrothermal vents. Exobiologists think it is relatively likely that life has evolved around them.

James Cambias’s A Darkling Sea (Tor) transplants the Europa scenario to Iluvatar, a moon in a solar system roughly half way between future Earth and the homeworld of aliens called the Sholen who are attempting to limit human interstellar expansion. A peace treaty with the Sholen constrains human scientists living in a seafloor habitat beneath the ice. They chafe to make contact with the intelligent arthropods at the top of Iluvatar’s foor chain, but are forbidden from contaminating their culture.

There is so much more in the review by ESR. Certainly got me interested in wanting to read James Cambias’s A Darkling Sea

More info:

A Darkling Sea by James L Cambias (Published by TOR 2014) –

James L Cambias –

A Darkling Sea by James Cambias – Amazon where it garners 4.5/5 stars

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (January 28, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765336278
ISBN-13: 978-0765336279

Starred Review at Amazon:

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. –David Pitt

What others are saying about the James Cambias’ A Darkling Sea:

“An impressive debut by a gifted writer.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“An exceptionally thoughtful, searching and intriguing debut.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

“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.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“A stunning debut! Alien races to rival Larry Niven, world-building to rival Hal Clement, and lots of rip-roaring adventure. James Cambias will be one of the century’s major names in hard science fiction.”
Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues

“Fast-paced, pure quill hard science fiction…. Cambias delivers adroit plot pivots that keep the suspense coming.”
Gregory Benford, Nebula Award-winning author of Timescape

“This is great fun—traditional science fiction but with today’s science. And I love the aliens.”
Jo Walton, Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-winning author of Among Others

“The best story about an alien race and its environment that I’ve read in a long time. Cambias is in the same league as Hal Clement.”
Vernor Vinge, Hugo Award-winning author of A Fire Upon the Deep

“Cambias’s exploration of truly alien politics is fast, fun, and packed with characters you’ll cheer for. It’s exciting to welcome an exuberant new voice to the ranks of hard science fiction!”
Karl Schroeder, author of Ventus

“A compelling read.”
Michael Flynn, author of On the Razor’s Edge

“A fascinating exploration of alien lives at the extreme edges of an alien world.”
Brenda Cooper, award-winning author of The Silver Ship and the Sea

OK, now I just have to read this book! And some others listed here too! 😉

Thanks ESR! Always love to be directed to a new author, particularly a good SF/Fantasy writer, and a good book by that author.

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