I just finished reading A Darkling Sea. It was amazing. But my mind goes totally blank trying to interpret the ending.

The following excerpts from the ending explain what the object is:

“Broadtail gave me this,” said Rob. “He got it from one of the bandits; where the bandit got it from is anyone’s guess but the surface erosion suggests it’s pretty damn old.”


“It was scratched and chipped, but not yet opaque. It was a lens.”

But what is the meaning of it? Does that mean there have been humans on Ilmatar previously? Or did the Sholens give a lens to the bandits? Or did the lens belong to one of the humans killed? Perhaps Isabel?


I meant to suggest that Ilmatar has been visited before, presumably by some spacefaring civilization unknown to either humans or Sholen. But if the story you make up in your head is better than mine, then go with that one!

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    A brilliant (and very fast) response. Great to see an author taking the time to interact with fans. – Valorum Feb 5 '15 at 19:16
  • Just finishes the book - loved it. I'd love a sequel! My initial thought (before I came looking here) was that the Ilmatarans made it themselves long ago. But a lens would be little use in the dark sea, so maybe it was used by part of an ancient telescope for use by Ilmataran astronomers who journeyed above the ice. – Sugrue Sep 16 '18 at 18:36

We know the Ilmatarans have been around for millions of years. Also, the lens is old and there's no indication that anyone's ever visited them before.

The implication is that it was the Ilmatarans themselves who constructed the lens. Since the current Ilmataran society isn't capable of doing so and wouldn't have any use for a lens even if they were, they must have a more-technological past. That is, they haven't actually been a static stone-age society for millions of years, they actually lost all their technology at some point.

I'm pretty sure there's also a further implication that they lost their tech as the end result of the kind of path the Sholen are currently on, but it was a library book for me and I don't remember why I thought that anymore...

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    I can understand if they lost all their technology earlier. But why would they ever make a lens if they don't have eyes? – Oleksiy Feb 5 '15 at 18:00
  • @Oleksiy: For telescopes? Hence the "wouldn't have any use for" comment... – Micah Feb 5 '15 at 20:21
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    That said, apparently the author disagrees with me, so I guess I just made all of this up... – Micah Feb 5 '15 at 20:22
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    Yes, but apparently the author approves of you making your own explanation up. :) – David Conrad Feb 6 '15 at 1:39

The ilmatarans probably had eyes in the distant past, evidence of evolution which would probably shock rob to know that ilmatar has been populated longer that earth. It was probably some sort of rare contraption, like one claws noisemaker. it is surly evidence that ilmatarans have inhabited ilmatar for quite some time.


Given that Ilmatarans had existed for at least a million years, I thought the lens suggested that, at some point in their distant past, they had vision. A million years is a long time, long enough that the planet may once have had an atmosphere, allowing them to live closer to, or even above the surface of the ocean. At least there may have been no radiation to prevent it.


My impression was that the the locals weren't blind in the distant past. Maybe an ice age caused them to adapt to underwater living.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Welcome to SFFSE! Do you have any evidence to support your claim or is it just an opinion? – Often Right Jun 26 '15 at 7:02

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