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Starfish (Rifters Trilogy) Paperback – April 29, 2008
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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
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
I can only add that watts shouldn't be judged solely by this trilogy's work. Blindsight and echopraxia were literally some of the best scifi off their respective years, rich and complex and rewarding to read, and it's almost baffling that the same author produced both works. If you like watts or are getting cross recommendations, I'd overwhelmingly recommend hopping to those works instead.
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. :)
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I haven't read any of the others in the series because this one was excellent and had a great,...Read more