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Starfish (Rifters Trilogy) Paperback – April 29, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Rifters Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765315963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765315960
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Peter Watts's first novel explores the last mysterious place on earth--the floor of a deep sea rift. Channer Vent is a zone of freezing darkness that belongs to shellfish the size of boulders and crimson worms three meters long. It's the temporary home of the maintenance crew of a geothermal energy plant--a crew made up of the damaged and dysfunctional flotsam of an overpopulated near-future earth. The crew's reluctant leader, basket case Lenie Clarke, can barely survive in the upper world, but she quickly falls under the rift's spell, just as Watts's magical descriptions of it enchant the reader: "Steam never gets a chance to form at three hundred atmospheres, but thermal distortion turns the water into a column of writhing liquid prisms, hotter than molten glass."

Watts is investigating monsters. Gigantic deep sea monsters, surgically-altered-from-human monsters, faceless jellied-brain computer monsters--which monsters are human, which are more than human, which are less? Watts keeps the story line stripped down to showcase the theme of dehumanization. The anonymous millions who live along the unstable shore of N'AmPac come under threat (a triggered earthquake, and perhaps a disaster that's slower but even more pitiless) from their own dehumanized creations. But Watts is less interested in whether Lenie can save the dry world as in whether she can save herself. In Starfish, Watts stretches the boundaries of humanity up, down, and sideways to see whether its dimensions reveal anything we'd be proud to be a part of. --Blaise Selby --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the early 21st century, Watts's debut describes a future when the search for energy leads to the tapping of geothermal sources deep in the ocean, as in the Pacific's Juan de Fuca Rift, near Canada's Northwest coast. The maintenance workers of the dangerous underwater power plants are selected for their psychotic tendencies, which enable them to forget their previous lives on dry land, and are then surgically altered to survive the intense pressure of the sea's abyssal depths. These changes, which render the workers amphibious, also leave them less than well equipped to face the threat of powerful, archaic bacterialike creatures that proliferate at the ocean bottom and use human hosts to carry them upward to dry land, where their superior DNA could render our species obsolete. The human resistance to these life forms is described with a great deal of explicit violence and graphic language, as well as well-orchestrated paranoia that recalls the classic SF tale "Who Goes There?" Watts's characterizations aren't strong but, as in Arthur C. Clarke's The Deep Range, the underwater setting and the technology employed there function as characters in their own right, and quite vigorously. The novel's pacing is excellent, making this, overall, a good bet for beach reading. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend this book to any science fiction fan.
Kurt M. Hayes
In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is one of the best books of any sort I've read in years.
Dr. Christopher Coleman
_Starfish_ by Peter Watts is one of the finest hard science fiction books I have ever read.
Tim F. Martin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 27, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Starfish" is an outstanding work of dystopian fiction taking place in the not too distant future. As the demand for energy grows exponentially, mankind turns to the thermal energy from deep-sea vents as a solution. Of course, the ocean floor is the least hospitable environment on Earth, and it takes a special breed to man these remote outposts...literally.

People who represent the dregs of society (child abusers, violent criminals, sociopaths) are genetically, psychologically and "mechanically" altered to survive in this harsh climate. However, what no one counts on is what will happen when these same people fulfill their need for danger just by staying alive, and become, if not friends, then certainly allies. Furthermore, no one considers what they might encounter in that ancient habitat, and what it will mean for the rest of the planet.

That's about all I can say about the plot without spoiling it, but this is definitely a book you will want to pick up, for several reasons. First of all, the writing is absolutely breathless; Watts has perfectly translated the mind numbing pressure found at the ocean bottom into a palpable sense of tension that permeates the novel. Secondly, his characters are brilliantly conceived and realized. The reader never exactly feels sympathy for them, but they are incredibly complex and evolve in unexpected, but realistic, ways. Finally, although this novel is classified as "science-fiction" that really does it something of a disservice. It's not that there's anything wrong with SF, but this novel is much more; it's about our insatiable demand for convenience, and what it's doing to our planet (both geo-politically and environmentally) and what it is doing to those who get left behind by the pace of change.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Craig Larson VINE VOICE on February 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
_Starfish_ is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in sometime. The premise of Peter Watts' debut is that a multinational company is seeking personnel for its deepsea geothermal stations, located near thermal vents. Through trial and error, they find that only psychotic, damaged, abused people can withstand the pressures of working in such an environment, some of them actually growing to like being there.
The lead character, Lenie Clarke, is an adult survivor of abuse and one of the earliest success stories. She's grown to be comfortable with the bioengineering and implants which are necessary for anyone to survive at 3000 feet down. She's become the unacknowledged leader at Beebe station on the Juan de Fuca rift. Also stationed at Beebe are a variety of pedophiles, manic depressives, and those who've volunteered to avoid a prison sentence.
The undersea world is vividly imagined, complete with horrific, overgrown fish-monsters who make periodic appearances and attacks. Some of the crew begin to "native," preferring the cold, dark sea to the oppressive interior of the station. One, pedophile Gerald Fischer, actually begins to devolve into something not entirely human anymore, in a very emotional, tragic development.
About the only flaw the story had was the rushed, hurried ending, with a threat to the existence of life as we know it suddenly thrust into the midst of an otherwise very grim, yet satisfying story. The book might have used another hundred pages or so to adequately contain all the ideas on display. Despite this, I'd still recommend the book very highly.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Niebruegge on May 30, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I admit it. I pulled it off the shelf based on the cover art. What's under the cover is a fantastic read, filled with characters that are twisted, but somehow sympathetic. They are the unwanted of society, doing a job no one else wants. But, what to do with them once the job is over....
This book explores the characters that mind the underwater rift, a big vent in the deep sea. They have all been modified to live and work under the intense pressure of the ocean. With time, some of them feel more comfortable in the cool embrace of the water than with their own kind, with one even "going native."
Lenie Clarke is the main protaganist, and she is likable, despite her many faults. You just feel for her when she's lying on the ocean floor, falling asleep alone in the dark rather than going back to the dismal station environment. No one in the "Company" anticipated the profound impact this environment would have on these outcasts from society.
It's really a fast read with compelling dialogue and motivations. An excellent read. Take it to a beach or poolside. It works well next to water. :)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Not that I wasn't satisfied with it as it was. Believe what the author tells you - this book plays like an underwater Blade Runner. It's glum. There's no hope. Everything's dank and dreary and there's not one character you'd like to have as a close friend. I like that in a book - feels real, like a dysfunctional crew on an off-shore oil platform (at least they're not unionized, that would be worse).
Anyway, the best thing about this book is the science, particularly the author's in-depth speculation on "how to get a human to live several miles under water". Everyone's seen the Abyss. I'm sure the author was chuckling watching Bud Brigman descend the fathoms and still survive, even with that transluscent pink oxygenated flurocarbon swill in his lungs. That scene may have been the author's impetus. Or maybe Deep Star Six.
The pyranosal RNA thing, however....not too keen on that. Seems like the author was looking for an excuse to keep the deep-sea-ers down there, and the author pulled that from his nether regions. Doesn't matter.
Anyway - I wander. Great book. Good writing. Accurate science (I'm a biochemist). Compelling and scary characters. And there will be a sequel. There has to be. I look forward to it.
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