Starfish by Peter Watts

November 9, 2006 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment
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I have a confession to make. I know modern fiction is supposed to be gritty and realistic. But I can’t get around the fact that books in which every single character is a complete psychological screwup depress me. Unfortunately these books are rather common. Starfish is one of these books, but at least it has an interesting reason. Set in a power station on the ocean floor, the book’s thesis is that no functioning human being can stand the soul-crushing experience of being surgically modified to survive in the depths and then stuck down where no natural light ever reaches. I’m not at all convinced this is true, but it’s a more believable premise than you find in most science fiction, so why not? If you can get past the unpleasant characters Starfish is a pretty interesting little book. It reminds me of Crichton’s early work in that its limited cast is sequestered from the rest of the world, allowing the author to carefully sketch out a small social system. As my initial complaint ought to make clear, though, this book is far more concerned with characters than Crichton, though the technological bells and whistles are still nifty. All told it is a pretty effective story and cautiously recommended to science fiction fans.

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