This is definitely not my first reading of Peter Watts and it sure as hell won t be my last He s rapidly becoming my total absolute favorite hard SF author Maybe not quite my top top top choice, yet, but he s getting close enough to kick Alaistair Reynolds off his perch and he makes Stephen Baxter definitely run for his money More than anything, I m in love with the quality He s wild with the hard SF explorations Transhumanism and what it means to be human at all in the face of the alien or the alien within us is merely a huge part of his novels but it is not the end He drives so many of his characters forward with an amazing array of psychology and depravity and simply focused survival.These guys were transformed to survive 400 pressures in one of the deepest trenches in the ocean, to live on the local life, to supply energy to the rest of the world So who would go down there, fully transformed with biological computers, on their own free will Ah, there s the rub They get marginalized survivors, abuse victims, pedophiles, maladjusted driven iconoclasts.It makes perfect sense Send the strongest people we have, the ones we can also sacrifice, and let them do what they do best Survive at all costs.Of course, between the psychological pressures, insane real pressure, and creeping maladjustments, you might think this was already a great psychological thriller with enough transformed humanity to keep any SF fan thrilled but he goes a bit further and gives us the basis and an amazing exploration of a clearly superior and truly alien life form taking up residence down in the trench.Watts does aliens AWESOME He gets the concept that alien is probably going to be VERY alien No blue suit humans, but thoroughly alien across the board.I LOVE this stuff Original, well written, pushing all the boundaries, and it s even full of heart.To think it s FREE, too On the author s website We really ought to re think our concepts about popular fiction Just because it sells super well doesn t mean it s good and just because a book is free doesn t mean it s not brilliant Popularity is capricious This is the kind of novel that blows me away on even the science and species level, not just story or characters He knows his marine life and even offers up a long biography at the end Gotta love it. For there is something special about this tiny part of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, something unexplained We don t know the secret of the Channer Vent We don t know how it creates its strange and fascinating giants The program s visual display goes dark We only know that here, on the shoulder of the Axial Volcano, we have finally tracked the monsters to their lair Monsters, human and abyss m al alike This is Peter Watts world inhabitants This is their story Take a dozen children, any children Beat and mix thoroughly until some lumps remain Simmer for two to three decades bring to a slow, rolling boil Skim off the full blown psychotics, the schizoaffectives, the multiple personalities, and discard Let cool Serve with dopamine garnish What do you get Something bent, not broken Something that fits into cracks too twisted for the rest of us The book is brimming with info on geology, biology and genetics As the author says at the end, there is very little he made up in this book Almost all details about the environment 3000 km under the surface of Pacific Ocean are facts the creatures anglerfish, viperfish, giant squid, the hydrothermal vents, the tectonic movement of Juan de Fuca plate, and so on.The plot is pretty weak actually and it won t get revealed until after the second half of the book, so I won t say anything about it the story isn t about that, anyway It s all about the Rifters, who are corporate workers sent into the abyss, at Beebe Station, to keep the geothermal vents clear.They are modified humans, able to survive in that high pressure environment and all have something else in common they are either victims of abuse or the abusers themselves pedophiles, rapists, killers, psychotics, some with suicidal tendencies, others addicts on something No problem if casualties appear they are not welcome to live among normal people and nobody would miss them anyway, so who else isfit to work in such a high risk environment Doesn t sound pleasant and it isn t, but somehow Watts plays his card masterfully it may startle you at first as a story on dehumanization, but amazingly, it is a story on humanity And above all, his writing style is somehow poetic at times You know, when they first sent me down here I thought this place would be a real shithole I figured I d just knuckle down and do my time and get out But it s not like that You know what I mean, Lenie I know But she doesn t answer I thought so, he says, as though she has It s really kind ofwell, beautiful, in a way Even the monsters, once you get to know em We re all beautiful He seems almost gentle Is not a comforting reading, it really gets you at some point You can feel all those atmospheres pressing on you You choke due to lack of air You crave for a ray of sunlight in those black waters and a bit of warm too The alternate points of view between conversations and repetitive inner thoughts, almost mantras, are hypnotic, to say the least It almost lacks action, so it won t be on everyone s taste However, it is highly compelling It raises so many questions, not only about the characters and what they ll do next, but also on how you feel about them Is it possible to sympathize a pedophile and a killer I didn t think I would ever say this but, yes, I did Sort of And why Starfish Starting from the premise that these creatures can regenerate lost limbs, there is a beautiful metaphor and connection between it and the main character Lenie Clarke But you ll have to discover that.Anyway, it s one hell of a book Both literally and figuratively speaking The combination between those wackos and so many interesting facts about deep sea environment was a hit for me An irresistible Twilight Zone P.S If you re interested in this series, it can be downloaded legally from the author site, along with his other works if you feel like it, you can also feed the cats check the bottom of the above page LE 05.01.2019 I just found out about William Beebe and therefore I think that the Beebe station here is an homage to him Good thing I read Underwater to Get Out of the Rain A Love Affair With the Sea by Trevor Norton, otherwise I might have never learn this. A really interesting near future SF with an awesome setting deep underwater Starfish is for the most part a taut psychological thriller rather than an alien contact or monster story, and it definitely keeps up the level of tension pretty much throughout the book It was my first book by Canadian author Peter Watts, but won t be my last While I wouldn t say the ending here was a cliffhanger exactly, it did end in such a way that I feel invested in continuing on to the next book.As an added bonus, Watts distributes this book and others through his website under a Creative Commons license, so you can download and read Starfish and the two sequels for free.http www.rifters.com real shorts.htm Good book.Not at all what I had expected, though Because I simply refuse to read the blurb before I start reading a book, I thought this would be about a group of people encountering gigantic monsters in the deep sea and subsequently struggling for survival, with lots of action and or suspense.Well, yes, most of this takes place in and around a deep sea station And there are monsters Though the most terrifying ones might be within those people They are bioengineered humans, made to survive in that harsh environment Equally as important as their altered bodies are their psychological profiles, though We end up with rapists, pedophiles, borderline psychotics, and victims of same You would be surprised how much the author makes you care for nearly all of them by the end of the book.Why are they down there in the first place To help provide energy to our near future society We re not at the point yet where this can be achieved fully automated A human presence is still necessary And the company mandated to provide safe, reliable energy to its consumers opted for Something bent, not broken Something that fits into cracks too twisted for the rest of us. They re speaking of our heroes here.So, what about action and or suspense and battles with gigantic fish Well, here s where my anti blurb reading strategy failed me What unfolds instead is an interesting psychological thriller, often taking place in close quarters or only in the characters minds , and one that is generally a very slow read Or maybe it s just me and my wrong expectations I m actually rather happy, though, that I didn t read the blurb Because this book holds quite a few surprises, especially towards the end, when it all becomes rather big and scary and, yes, about survival And the blurb here on Goodreads does give a few things away, that I m glad I didn t know.I can sense this review becoming all wishy washy now So let me just say that it is a well written and well constructed book that concerns itself with psychological and transhumanist questions, survival of the body and the mind , and something much bigger that comes as a rather nasty twist towards the end.The reader is thrown from one character to the next and back again and therefore often has a kind of limited view on what s really going on Making assumptions, just like the characters do But I actually enjoyed being left in the dark for substantial parts of the book There are also some pretty sciencey parts that, even though integrated in what felt like a natural way, sometimes are a little dense And, to be honest, I didn t understand all of it So you might want to keep that in mind As well as the abuse the main character had to endure off page , if you are sensitive to such topics.Overall, well earned four stars I have a feeling it might get the fifth one upon a re read.The book is free to read or download on the author s website, btw cool A very entertaining SF novel.Reminiscent of William Gibson and Paolo Bacigalupi and with tones of Frederik Pohl s brilliant 1976 novel Man Plus, writer Peter Watts serves up a heaping order of WAY COOL with this psychological thriller set in a deep ocean rift.This also made me think of Arthur C Clarke s 1957 classic The Deep Range because of the ocean setting SF writers are quick to go into outer space or explore cybernetic themes, but the deep ocean is a fecundity of SF stories and I wonder whywriters don t try their hand at something watery Watts is a marine biologist and all around smart person so I can see the connection here as he makes great use of his hard science background to make this sponge worthy.A future not too far though corporation has built DEEP stations on the ocean floor to take advantage of geothermal energy and some other benefits To man the outposts they have bio engineered people to be able to breathe underwater and to sustain the pressure and cold Psychologists have learned that normal people will go insane because of the conditions and so good candidates are found in the population of people who are already dealing with heavy issues See Robin Williams great line at the end of Death to Smoochy for a succinct explanation.All s going well except that the operators begin to go native way down there and develop some unexpected side effects and behavioral traits A less competent writer would not be able to pull this part of the story off, but this becomes one of the strongest elements of the narrative and kudos to Watts for putting this together so well We end up with a hard science story with psychological and philosophical questions And there is some alien stuff and some microbiological creepiness that would make Michael Crichton grow a coupleinches.This was my first introduction to Watts fine work and I will be back for .Highly recommended. Some science fiction writers have an excellent understanding of science The science and technology employed in their stories is gritty and realistic, even when the story itself is thin and uninteresting Others write great story Their science is flaky and their characters often one dimensional but their novels are jam packed with high stakes, high action and high adventure from start to finish Others still are strong on character Their characters are fully developed, well rounded individuals who would no doubt be fascinating if their stories weren t so flat and soap opera ish Once in a while, however, that rare gem comes along amidst the ranks of SF writers who can integrate science, story and character Peter Watts is one such writer.The characters of Starfish are society s detritus Child molesters, murderers and other violent offenders, along with the victims addicted to their abuse Society cannot help them There is no rehabilitation for the criminals none that works They rape and beat and murder again As for the victims, there is no help for them either They seem to seek out abusive situations again and again They are unable to integrate into normal , healthy society These are humanity s lost children There is no place for them in the world At least, there is no place for them on the world.When humanity s ever growing needs for energy entice giant corporations to build facilities along the Earth s deep ocean rifts where energy from the Earth s core spews out of sea bottom vents ripe for harvesting, humans are needed to live down on the rifts to babysit the operations Life on the rift is a strange enterprise dark, isolated, claustrophobic, and bereft of many sensory stimuli which humans living on the Earth s surface enjoy It also requires bio mechanical and electro chemical modifications to the body Rifters sacrifice one of their air breathing lungs to make room in their chests for machinery which allows them to electrolyze oxygen from their aqueous environment They also bear other implants which regulate chemicals and internal pressure modifications necessary to allow the Rifters to survive in their high pressure, high saline, ocean floor homes The Rifters aren t entirely human.It turns out, however, that bio tech alone cannot create a Rifter There are psychological considerations which science has not yet learned to overcome Most people crack when exposed long term to the distorted life imposed by the rift environment Most, but not all.Society s lost ones both the abused and the abusers prove to be the only ones able to adapt to the Rifter lifestyle They not only survive on the rift they thrive there Sociopaths and psychopaths all, they find on the rift what they were never able to find on land friendship, peace, belonging.Peter Watts Starfish is an expert weaving of the lives of seven such Rifters and their interactions with each other, their environment and the world above It is a fascinating and thoughtful study of how an environment shapes both the individuals and the society which inhabit it.Starfish is farthan merely an excellent psychological exploration, however There is plenty of intrigue and plenty of danger within the pages of this novel to keep them turning The Rifters adventures are not merely psychological but also physical in extreme ways as the Rifters are forced to fight for their lives, both with the monsters of the deep and the monsters from above and within.Starfish examines what it means to be human by stretching its characters to the very limits of existence How do people behave when faced with the threat of extinction both that of their own lives and of the entire human species When survival is on the line, do the psychopaths on the ocean s bottom behave any differently than the so called normal drybacks on land How does evil manifest in a human In a machine Starfish is an example of science fiction at its best great science, great story, and, ultimately, profound humanity. I am a sucker for books set underwater So keep the recommendations coming When this one was recommended to me quite a while ago, I was hesitant It sounded pretty strange, potentially filled with really unlikeable and twisted characters Well, they were, mostly But the supposedly healthy and normal people topside were not necessarily a lot saner or nicer in the long run I ended up liking this quite a lot and I already downloaded the sequel Kudos, Peter Watts So, the book Welcome to Beebe Station.You re three kilometers below the surface of the Pacific Ocean You re perched on the shoulder of an active volcano The local fauna is very large and very nasty If it doesn t kill you, a mudslide or an erupting smoker probably will Your fellow employees are rapists, pedophiles, borderline psychotics, and victims of same You feel very lucky to be here This is a damn sight better than the life you left behind. Nice introduction in the prelude Makes you anxious for whoever is going to end up living down there.Chapter 1 gives us a tour of black smokers, gulper eels and other weird deep sea fishOur main character, Lenie, is as odd as expected Not quite sure how things work with other people Afraid to go outside at first But by chapter 2 alreadycomfortable out there in the dark than inside the station, with another person Outside it s apparently only dark when you have the lights onWhile I read the opening chapters, the soundtrack of Jaws was playing in an endless loop, by the wayIn part two we met all of Lenie s weird and dysfunctional colleagues Things got stranger and tenser And stranger still in the following parts But somehow these pretty horrible characters started to grow on me.I ended up rooting for the rapists, pedophiles, borderline psychotics, and victims of same I guess you will either like this book a lot or hate it fiercely.The reference books mentioned at the beginning sound really interesting I was tempted to look up some of his sources, but the likelihood that I would actually read any of these books is slim.Here is an old and partly defunct website for the book, I would suggest reading it after you ve read Starfish, as it gives away some background information the author smoking, monstrous, bio luminescent stars. So you ve established a facility to harness geothermal power at the bottom of the ocean, in an incredibly scary, claustrophobic, dangerous environment, and you man it with the Right Stuff, yes Like astronauts You send down a group of smart, fit, psychologically stable people equipped to deal with the stress.Or maybe not In this book, management has apparently decided that instead of ruining perfectly good personnel, they ll send down a bunch of pre damaged individuals instead People already preadapted for stressful situations the criminally violent, the perverted, and the emotionally traumatized It s kind of an interesting idea, but I was never convinced that this set of people could refrain from killing each other, much less do a single meaningful day s work.That s most of the problem I had with this novel it s well written, with a fascinating setting and some cool technology, but the author doesn t take the time to convince me of anything He presents ideas rapid fire I didn t have time to become attached to any of the characters or to buy into the plot before it was over This kind of storytelling doesn t appeal to me There are sequels which undoubtedly flesh out this world a little , but I m not interested enough to read them.If you re a fan of hard science fiction, and if you enjoy cool concept explorationthan character development, then you may like this bookthan I did.Huh I ve been reading other reviews, and some people think he spends too much time on characterization and not enough time on plot I agree that the plot is thin and by the way, any civilization that hands over the fate of humanity to an ill tested A.I deserves what it gets but I found the time spent exploring the characters also very unsatisfying.I enjoyed the author s 2006 novel Blindsight, which has many of the same elements and the same bleak style as Starfish, but for whatever reason Blindsight worked better for me. A Huge International Corporation Has Developed A Facility Along The Juan De Fuca Ridge At The Bottom Of The Pacific Ocean To Exploit Geothermal Power They Send A Bio Engineered Crew People Who Have Been Altered To Withstand The Pressure And Breathe The Seawater Down To Live And Work In This Weird, Fertile Undersea DarknessUnfortunately The Only People Suitable For Long Term Employment In These Experimental Power Stations Are Crazy, Some Of Them In Unpleasant Ways How Many Of Them Can Survive, Or Will Be Allowed To Survive, While Worldwide Disaster Approaches From Below If you want hard sci fi with horror elements, you re probably looking for this guy I preferred
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Starfish book, this is one of the most wanted Peter Watts author readers around the world.
- 384 pages
- Peter Watts
- 12 April 2018 Peter Watts