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(Rifters #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  7,097 ratings  ·  581 reviews
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 darkness.

Unfortunately the only people suitable for long
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Tor Science Fiction (first published 1999)
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Rebe The first book ends in a cliffhanger, so the main conflict has been presented but not resolved.

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  7,097 ratings  ·  581 reviews

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Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who wanted to like Six Wakes but didn't
Recommended to carol. by: Stephen
For the first half of the book, Starfish was shaping up to be one of my best sci-fi reads since Leviathan Wakes. Combining remote, hazardous deep sea environment with a larger mystery and character study was riveting, and if that at all sounds appealing, I suggest you try it. In the second half, Watts loses a bit of focus as he brings in larger issues of both physical change and a dystopian mystery.

"Beebe Station floats tethered above the seabed, a gunmetal-gray planet ringed by a belt of equato
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 bonu
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 i
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 w
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-to-a-watts, sci-fi
"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
Laura Dragon
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 individua ...more
Jamie Collins
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
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Beeb
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Peter Watts is just damn good.

Dark, psychological, claustrophobic and very clever. A deep delve (see what i did there?) in the psyche of abuse and victim-hood, wrapped up in a dark undersea mystery adventure.

It wasn't quite Blindsight, but few things will ever be. But it was excellent, and thoroughly enjoyable, if a little slow.

I'll read the sequel before too long, but first, something a little lighter.
May 09, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Starfish is Watts first novel and it shows to no small degree; while most of his work would benefit from a good editor, this one desperately needs one! That stated, this started off with a bang and for the first half of the book it I was enthralled, thinking this was going to be 5 stars all the way. Then, while it definitely did not fall completely apart, it did really lose focus and started to incorporate/add in/mix in/ a wide range of news ideas and plot strands that served (imo) to divert it ...more
11811 (Eleven)
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you want hard sci-fi with horror elements, you're probably looking for this guy. I preferred Blindsight but this book was still damn good.

I can't think of a single author to compare this one. It's unique ride.
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbr-clean-2020
That was some fun hard sci-fi! My second Watts book and it definitely lived up to the first. Watts' hard science is definitely founded in the biological due obviously to his PHD and subsequent training. It is a perspective not commonly found in sci-fi and refreshing because of that.

Body mods to the extreme, mysteries, explorations into psychosis and an entirely believable take on "alien" life. Most of the story was fantastic with a few parts somewhat hard to follow. The two I have read now, thi
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

Oh my god.

Oh my GOD!

I don't even know what to tell you about this book except it's gorgeous. I mean, it's really depressing and scary and gross and unhappy and never-ending levels of crazy but it's also gorgeously done. Just...perfect? Is that possible? I even liked the characters though they are pedophiles, wife beaters and victims of abuse. They're so human even as the author explores just how depraved we are.

Samantha (AK)
I didn’t particularly like this book. I also didn’t hate it, which is perhaps worse. The sum total of my emotions after turning the last page? Indifference.

3 kilometers below sea level, Beebe Station maintains geo-power for (at least a portion of) the world. The personnel are cyborgs, chosen specifically for their traumatic backgrounds to live on the ocean floor. But the rift has secrets of its own.

Starfish is filled with elements that I expected to like: hazardous environment, isolation, interp
Chris Berko
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the third Peter Watts book I have read and it is the first one that I have loved. I read Blindsight and Echopraxia years ago and liked them, they were good books. Starfish, his debut, was more up my alley. The story was vague enough to make me think, the characters were simply amazing, and I love books that get under my skin and leave me with a not too happy feeling. This was fast-paced, depressing stuff and I loved every word of it. Damaged people making difficult decisions while at the ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Peter Watts is writing the darkest and bleakest Science Fiction that I have come accross. His ability to render the alien world of the ocean floor is incredible and leaves you with this sickening, claustrophobic feel. As with Blindsight Watt's uses the outcast and mental nature of his characters to expound on his bleak vision of the future. Not recommended if you enjoy reading about sunshine and rainbows and flowers and pink unicorns basking in the delight of eternal love for the earth and human ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction

3.5 Stars

"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"

Starfish takes place in the year 2050 and centers
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
3.0 Stars
As someone who loves science fiction with a touch of horror, I really thought this book could be a new favourite. The story started strong with a sense of claustrophobia. I thought the human augmentation technology was interesting. Yet, otherwise I just wasn’t very invested in the story or the characters.
Bleak, suffocating look at look at the alien world of our own sea floors, and a dark look at a future ruled by sociopaths and corporations (what a stretch). Power stations set on underwater rifts and then operated by sociopaths evolved to survive in those conditions is the basic setup. Atmospheric, confusing, swimming in pathos, and for the most part earning its comparisons to Campbell, Clarke, and Ballard (Two characters are even named Clarke and Ballard), this is an intriguing if difficult deb ...more
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You know what I like? A whole lot of sci in my fi. Watts delivers. Watts delivers in spades. Not in the William Gibson way of the totally strange far-thinking future, but in the near-future way, and in great ways. Starfish was full of inventive science, fun to read, and felt like something just around the corner.

Past that, it was quite dark. Maaaaybe occasionally it slipped into what I felt was being dark for dark's sake but most of it came across as logical within the bounds of the story he's s
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have now concluded that Watts simply writes the kind of fiction that I like to read. I just wish he'd write MORE. It appears he does have two more on the way, one of which is a "sidequel" to Blindsight, so this makes me happy. I also, of course, have the rest of the Rifters series to read.

A very engaging read, this is an edgy story with some very real characters, with both the hard and soft sciences playing a major role. Starfish is set in the not too distant future, with the Earth being in a
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I wasn't sure what this novel wanted to be. It starts out with a character study of our protagonist, Lenie Clarke, as she adjusts to her surgically altered body and living on the ocean floor near a hydrothermal vent. Then it starts to turn into a bit of a soap opera as other damaged individuals are sent down to Beebe Station to work alongside her. Their personalities clash, people pair up, they argue over their treatment by "drybacks" with their jobs playing a background role. Finally, about 70% ...more
Corinna Bechko
So dark. So bleak. And yet so much surprisingly beautiful imagery for a story set in almost perpetual darkness. Reading this was an incredibly immersive experience, no pun intended.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coverlove, creep
Interesting characters, original story, creepy premise, crazy science: always a big pro! =D
It was not super engaging, so a nice four star rating! Nice surprise, cause I wasn't expecting much from this one, glad to be wrong =)
After reading Blindsight and having my mind blown, I couldn't resist following up with another one of Peter Watts's books. Starfish, part of his Rifters trilogy, didn't disappoint. Gut twisting, brainy, steely, dark, psychologically profound. (I can't believe I just discovered this guy's work!)

If it's not somewhere in space then it's in the oceans, right? Starfish takes place in the opaque darkness of the ocean, near the Juan de Fuca Ridge to be precise, right off the Pacific Northwest ("N'AmPac
Lorina Stephens
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
When reading I find it difficult to overcome the editor, the cynic, the person sitting there blue pencil in hand ready to pounce on clumsy characterization and phraseology, implausible premise and plotting.

Happily, Peter Watts, author of Starfish, put that editor and cynic to sleep, so that for the first time in several novels I was drawn in and engaged. It is a dark, inner world into which Watts calls us, made chilling by his choice of a cool, third person point of view.

I found myself immersed,
Mar 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: at-home
My favorite of Peter Watts's books so far, this is a story set mostly along a deep sea rift in a near-future overpopulated earth. The rift is the best and most powerful source of energy, but is at the bottom of the ocean, so people are altered to survive there and do all the maintenance and setting up to harness this energy for the world above. The people picked are of course amongst the most dysfunctional as they are best able to handly the stress of being in such a dangerous environment, havin ...more
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was just weird. The main characters are all sociopaths, which give the whole book a downright depressing feel. You spend most of the story following said sociopaths around on the bottom of the ocean. All the potential excitement and action goes on in the background. I think I kept reading because I expected some of the excitement to leak into the forefront of the story, but it never really did. The last 20 pages or so finally saw some movement, but what do you expect when (view spoiler ...more
May 09, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
DNF @30%
No rating

I absolutely adored the deep sea setting and the vivid atmosphere. However, the pre-adapted people who made up the characters and lived under water consisted of mainly sociopaths. One of them is a pedophile and the reader spends quite some time in his head and just... No. This is not a book for me.

TW for (child) abuse, pedophilia, violence. Claustrophobia.
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