So at the end of the book it seems as if Nell actually drowns all the drummers:

They passed up through many tunnels, always taking the uphill fork until they saw sunlight shining down from above the waves, casting lines of white light on the translucent roof. Nell severed the tunnel behind them, wielding her sword like the sweep of a clock's hand. The warm water rushed in on them.

But I can't seem to find anything online which support this idea. It seems obvious that the drummers drowned--does anyone have any other thoughts on what could've happened to them? Why did Nell choose whichever outcome?

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    I can't think of any information in the book about this, but I don't think the drummers would drown. With a big network of tunnels, there would have to be the occasional tube that gets damaged and some system in place to keep from losing the entire tunnel network. Or they wouldn't have survived this long. Also, keep in mind that the tubes are nanobar, which is described as being at least somewhat flexible. So the tunnel would tend to slam shut and bubble air, which might be easier to recover from than a rigid tunnel structure being breached.
    – Pixel
    Commented Aug 20, 2016 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


It is highly unlikely that Princess Nell's action would have threatened the Drummers. As you described, they ascended the extensive tunnel system upward to reach the extreme capillaries nearest the surface, which were earlier described thusly (emphasis mine):

Just as the waves were coming up into his face, his feet contacted something hard and smooth that gave way beneath him. He was sucked downward as the water plunged into a subterranean void. A hatch slammed shut above his head, and suddenly he was breathing air again. The light was silver. He was sitting in water up to his chest, but it rapidly drained away, drawn off by some kind of pumping system, and then he found himself looking down a long silvery tunnel.

The small fingerling tunnels are designed to have openings, and designed to pump water out if it came in. It's impossible to believe it wouldn't be resilient enough to handle accidental or intentional cuts, given that these sort of tunnels are routinely used and not just a Drummer thing:

Hackworth had been in a few of these, normally in more industrial settings. The entrance was dug into the beach, but the rest of it was a floating tunnel, a tube full of air, moored to the bottom. It was a cheap way to make space; the Nipponese used these things as sleeping quarters for foreign guest workers.

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