- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Tachyon Publications (November 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616961252
- ISBN-13: 978-1616961251
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond the Rift Paperback – November 1, 2013
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2017 Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Nominee
Known for his pitch-black views on human nature, and a breathtaking ability to explore the weird side of evolution and animal behavior, Watts is one of those writers who gets into your brain and remains lodged there like an angry, sentient tumor.”
io9.com (Fall 2013 Must-Read Pick)
"Despite a career of more than 20 years, Peter Watts has published only a handful of novels and a not much larger handful of stories, which nevertheless have given him a solid reputation as a sharp and incisive stylist with a rather tragic, if clear-eyed, view of human nature, and the capacity for some remarkable hard-SF inventions."
Possessing the stern moral acuity of James Tiptree, he [Peter Watts] also exhibits the intellectual zest of Arthur C. Clarke.... His killer opening sentences ("First Contact was supposed to solve everything"; "Wescott was glad when it finally stopped breathing") are rabbit holes to strange futures.”
Paul Di Fillipo, The Barnes & Noble Review
"From the award-winning author of the Rifters trilogy (Starfish; Maelstrom; Behemoth) comes a collection that demonstrates Watts's skill with short fiction."
[T]here can be no denying Watts’s skills as a writer.”
"[A] sharp and incisive stylist with a rather tragic, if clear-eyed, view of human nature, and the capacity for some remarkable hard-SF inventions."
Gene Wolfe, Locus
5/5 Stars I’m not usually one for short story collections; normally I usually like one or two stories and then chuck the rest. But this one is freaking amazing. One story better than the next...It is far and away the best science fiction collection I’ve read in years.”
Among the Wreckage
A wonderful collection of unique stories, Beyond the Rift had all the cogs in my brain whirring at full power.”
My Shelf Confessions
Excellent stories that highlight the author’s versatility and strengths in writing science fiction.”
...deep, daring, and deliberately thoughtful. He's an author who isn't afraid to stare off into the bleakness of space and ponder our own insignificance, but one who also isn't afraid to look inward and question the very core of what makes us human.”
Beauty in Ruins
Holding himself to a higher standard of storytelling, Watts uses the effects of mainstream sci-fi, yet continually aims at something deeper in humanity and society’s soul.”
[Beyond the Rift] was provocative and extremely well written. This is one of those collections that I think benefits from reflection after each story, and most of the stories will cry out for rereading in the future. Excellent collection - Very Highly Recommended.”
She Walks Softly
Watts ranges from huge-scale ideas ("The Island," with a living membrane surrounding a star) to the immediate (what if airport scanners grew sophisticated enough to detect even potential criminals, in "The Eyes of God")? He asks the questions that the best science fiction writers ask, but that the rest of us may be afraid to answer.”
...one of the best short story collections I have ever read. Every story is engaging, interesting, and thought provoking.”
The MT Void
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Beyond the Rift contains 13 of the most fascinating, diverse, and occasionally challenging science fiction stories that have been written.
Those who, like myself, already own a copy of Ten Monkeys, Ten Minutes (his previous collection of short fiction) will be familiar with six of the stories that are collected in Beyond the Rift, but they are the six best stories from the previous collection...especially The Second Coming of Jasmine Fitzgerald and Ambassador, which were my two personal favorites from the previous anthology. I loved those stories enough that I didn't skip over them when reading through this new collection.
This particular anthology of his work starts of strong with The Things, a retelling of Director John Carpenter's The Thing (an adaptation of Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell) from the perspective of the titular Thing. I'd read this story previously, when Watts made it available on his website years ago, but it (like his other work) was well worth reading a second time.
Following that was The Island, an equally strong story that was partially familiar to me as well because of samples of it that Watts had been posting on his blog as it was being written.
Hell, this book would be worth having on the merit of those two stories alone, but it is so much more than that.
Along with the two stories I already mentioned that exist in both Beyond the Rift and Ten Monkeys, Ten Minutes are the fantastic stories Home and A Niche (which was my first introduction to Peter Watts when I read it back in the late 90s), both of which are stand alone snippets of the narrative that appears in Starfish...which could serve as an impetus to read that novel and the three that follow it. It certainly had that effect on me.
Thirteen stories and not a weak one among them.
Overall I’d rate the book as decent, and highly recommend “The Things”, “The Island”, “A Word for Heathens” and “Home” for some clever, unusual, though provoking stories.
In the main, Watts writes in either a protagonist first-person or third-person but focused on the protagonist's point of view, and all with a lot of introspection based on their mental state. Normally I'm good with that, but in this case it is pretty much unrelenting and where you probably wouldn't notice it just reading one or two of these stories in an anthology, it's pure concentrate here and too strong for my tastes.
Indeed, apparently Watts is known as a "bleak" author - and he goes on at length about this in a "Dear Reader" section at the end of the novel that I gave up on after two pages because I found it too boring - but I didn't find them bleak in the sense of misery, squalor or oppression. Rather, that singular writing style and lack of dialog made the narrative bleak to me.
In terms of topics, Watts ranges from the claustrophobia of a science station deep underwater that could easily be in our near future, to light years from anywhere some billions of years downstream from now. His focus seems to be whether us as 'meat machine' are anything more than a mechanism for genetic reproduction based on a limited repertoire of programmed responses and he probes this from human, cybernetic and purely digital perspectives. Oh, and with some aliens thrown in for good measure. There are a lot of interesting ideas here and even the complicated ones are readily accessible because Watts pretty much spells them out, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so.
It is generally interesting, but the landscape is limited and there is certainly a familiarity of intent the further into the collection you get. Again, read one or two in an anthology or with some time between each short and this won't be a problem. Consume them one after the other in the space of a couple of days and the pattern becomes paramount. Also, a few of the stories approach religion in a way that readers with faith may take issue with.
I'm a little ambivalent in recommending this. Most of the stories have a hard science underpinning and if you like fiction that delves into the "me" in "me", this will likely appeal. It is not so hugely expensive that price alone need put you off, and I expect most sci-fi fans will find stories to like here. But it's also not bargain basement and there is a high degree of repetition in the theme and for me, way too much prose without dialog to counterpoint the point of view. So, definitely one for the Look Inside option because there is enough of "The Things" to likely make up your mind on the style one way or another.
It's horrible, it's great. It's as was to be expected from us. Great insight into my own mind, but put into so much better writing.. :-)
First contact with Peter Watts. Will be looking into other stuff by him.