Starfish by Peter Watts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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. :)
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