A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"... the closest we can come to Star Trek without paying royalties."
So we've got a three way that includes intelligent fish, six-legged cultural purists, and... yeah, you got it... upstart humans. No conflict to start with, mostly just a fact-finding mission trying to get to know the locals without interfering, just like the Prime Directive says, and then we've got COMPLICATIONS.
You know. A bit of curious murder by a people who don't know it's murder. They're just curious. No biggie. I can barely hear the screams. After all, he's just a cameraman. Decent start. Reminds me of a blast-from the past homage to old SF. To me, it seemed like a direct homage to Brin's Startide Rising, although, to be perfectly honest, I preferred Brin's Dolphins. There was a lot going on under the surface, there, unlike the wide, but less deep, look at the locals. Cool worldbuilding, for all that. I like the attempt to bring a world to life from under so much ice, but I do complain that it still seems like a direct analogue of "regular people". Really? Just a society of shopkeepers and cultural mores closer to the Greeks or Arabs, in that guests under one's roof is considered inviolate?
Because of that, I want to read this novel like an indictment of our culture, but no, it tries too hard to be a deep and complex society meeting and interacting with two alien species and navigating through THEIR conflict. Damn the humans and their meddling. They never know when to butt the hell out, do they?
It's not a bad novel, but it feels like it ought to belong in the 60's or 70's set of SF novels, and NOT the New Wave set.
It's really, ultimately, only a First Contact novel, and it's fairly entertaining. Not extremely original or surprising, though. I kept expecting the glorious "Gun" to show up and prove that the yokel locals "have the power" to resist the invaders. *sigh*
Well, I can give props to the author for being a long-respected group of GURPs authors known for some really excellent worldbuilding props. I can't say they're fantastic at actual STORYTELLING, but this attempt wasn't exactly bad. Perhaps it was a bit old-hat, but it certainly wasn't bad. I felt like I was taking a dip in an old-style pool.
Perhaps I would have liked this more had I figured I was actually reading a Past Master's Old Script. I just wanted to see a higher dedication to originality and excitement. You know, not just a repelling of invaders and a subtext that right must always pursue might.
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