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Maelstrom (Rifters Trilogy) Paperback – January 6, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A massive tidal wave in the Pacific Northwest causes millions of deaths, yet one woman emerges from the ocean and begins an eerie journey of revenge and salvation. As scientists attempt to discover her identity and her motivation, people begin dying from unknown causes. This sequel to Starfish depicts a dystopic near-future, where cyberspace and real space interact and unique life forms emerge from the depths of the ocean to claim their place in the world. A good choice for most sf collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Everyone thought Lenie Clarke was killed by the earthquake produced by a nuclear explosion aimed at the geothermal power plant she had been monitoring (see Starfish, 1999). Since the quake turned cities into abattoirs, no one notices someone crawl ashore 300 miles from the epicenter: Lenie, bent on finding her abusive father. The beach where she emerges is full of refugees blocked from America by a towering wall and hovering botflies, or robotic cameras, monitored by telecommuting peacekeepers such as Sou-Hon Perreault, who spots half-starved Lenie but can only watch, for Lenie barely acknowledges a botfly's attempts at contact. Eventually, Lenie is noticed by others, including the wild electronic environment called the Maelstrom, evolved from the Internet and populated by nearly conscious smart gels and self-evolving bits of code. No one yet knows that, besides emotional baggage, Lenie carries something with her from the ocean floor that could despoil every living species. Watts moves from the relentless pressure of Starfish to the frantic speed of chaos in action, never losing the tight focus on his fascinating characters in this excellent sequel to his debut novel. Roberta Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Rifters Trilogy (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765320533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765320537
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First off, if you haven't read Peter Watts' first novel, "Starfish", don't start with "Maelstrom". While this is theoretically a stand-alone novel, the reader unfamiliar with "Starfish" will miss out on a tremendous amount of back-story and character development. ...
As for "Maelstrom" itself, Watts has easily cleared the high bar he set with his first novel. All too often, sequels are rehashes of old conflict, but that is not the case here at all. Watts takes his already complex characters from the first novel and adds several more layers of texture; at the same time he adds just enough new characters to keep things interesting. These characters are equally well developed, and overall, Watts' writing is even sharper than in the first book.
The writing has to be sharper, because this is a much more complicated novel than the first. While "Starfish" took place in the relatively limited space of a deep ocean outpost, and dealt primarily with human interactions, "Maelstrom" sprawls across the Pacific and North America and a significant portion of the action takes place in cyberspace. Moreover, the plot is significantly more complicated. I don't want to get into it in too much detail, as doing so would ruin much of "Starfish" for those who haven't read it. But the general theme of this novel, like its predecessor, is the impact that the unforeseen consequences of exponentially growing technology can have on humans as a species and on the planet as a whole. In a dystopian setting of environmental havoc and human violence, two new scourges have emerged. One is spawned by nature, the other, inadvertently, by man. The result is a bizarre, but believable synergy that threatens the entire biosphere.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
(Somewhat sheepishly) I must admit that I read Science Fiction books by the ton, and have been doing so for the better part of thirty years. The "discovery" of a brilliant piece of writing such as Peter Watts' MAELSTROM is all too rare an experience.
Following his more conventional novel, STARFISH (also excellent), MAELSTROM is perhaps a work of inspired surrealism more than it is a straightforward example of "hard" Science Fiction. (This is not to take away from Watts' completely credible and coherent account of a future world devastated by the enimical effect of a nasty micro-organism that manages, by means of rapid "virus"-like replication and mutation, to infiltrate pretty much every aspect of existence.)
Watts exhibits a flexibility and richness of imagination that sets his writing apart from the dry and often academic atmosphere presented in many works of the "hard" genre.
I dislike plot summaries and hence will not offer one here. Let me note, however, that although the plot becomes a labyrinth in itself, the story-line never lags. Descriptions of both abstract theory and "actual" events are vivid and exact.
Perhaps of greatest importance, Watts draws his characters with considerable care. Emotion (and its role in memory -links to an individual's past) plays a key role in the work. The persons presented in the novel are anything but the cardboard cutouts that often haunt works of such theoretical inclination.
Quite simply, MAELSTROM is one of the finest Science Fiction novels of the last ten years and an entirely fascinating read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Edward Alexander Gerster VINE VOICE on December 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In this age of anthrax scares and threats of biological terrorism, this novel is not only fortuitously topical-but twice as frightening by the relevance of the subject matter. `Maelstrom' returns to the characters and story begun in Peter Watts' `Starfish,' where a disease vector from the distant pre-human past was discovered in a deep ocean rift. A secret underwater nuclear strike was employed in an attempt at the sterilization/containment of the `disease,' but Lenie Clarke has survived and has inadvertently become the Typhoid Mary carrying the potential death of the human race.

We learn much about Clarke's interior topography as she tries to make her way home, possessed by a desire for revenge against the forces that ordered her `sterilization.' Inadvertently she becomes the Meltdown Madonna, a media/web induced celebrity and urban myth rolled in one-a rage filled carrier of death.

Peter Watts fine writing has created a genre others call cyberpunk noir, but it is really much more than that. And it defies simple labeling. `Maelstrom' is dark, gritty and vivid-yet eerily redemptive in it's own way. Highly Recommended, even if you missed `Starfish.'
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on November 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In the near future, planet Earth is reaching breakdown. More and more of the world's economy goes into plugging the holes created by that economy--holes in the ecology, holes created by terrorism, holes created by pharmaceutical firms creating demand for their own products, and holes created by the proliferation of worms and viruses within what used to be called the Internet and is now called the Maelstrom. Somehow, Earth muddles by, yet more and more frequently, quarantine lines are drawn and people die.
To feed North America's ever-growing demand for energy, engineers have tapped every source including geothermal energy flowing deep beneath the sea. An explosion in the deep Pacific sets off a wave of destruction that is almost too much for the battered world--an explosion designed to eliminate the greatest threat to life on the planet that has ever existed, a hungry nanobe completely lacking in predators, yet supremely capable of adapting to the new environment. And the nanobe has a vector--one of the victims of the deep-sea explosion has made it to land, spreading the disease en route to her revenge.
Within the Maelstrom itself, artificial lifeforms nearly as dangerous as the nanobe exist, evolving through trial and error at a rate of thousands of generations each second. These computer virusses both echo and adopt tne nanobe virus, discovering that its name, and the name of its vector, are passwords to the most powerful and secret systems.
Author Peter Watts has created a compelling and convincingly dark view of the future. Extrapolating today's headlines into the near future, Watts' vision rings frighteningly authentic. Intriguingly, Watts sees the potential end of DNA-based life as morally ambiguous.
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