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Starfish (Rifters #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,047 Ratings  ·  343 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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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules VerneSphere by Michael CrichtonMeg by Steve AltenThe Beast of Cretacea by Todd StrasserThe Dragon Dreamer by J.S. Burke
Oceanic/marine science fiction
7th out of 99 books — 153 voters
Revelation Space by Alastair ReynoldsThe Martian by Andy WeirFoundation by Isaac AsimovUse of Weapons by Iain M. BanksA Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
best hard science fiction
57th out of 248 books — 394 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Laura Rainbow Dragon
Jul 30, 2015 Laura Rainbow Dragon 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
Aug 01, 2013 Tim 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
Aug 03, 2013 Guillermo 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
Dec 02, 2008 Ben 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
Jul 16, 2011 Kevin 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
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
Feb 04, 2016 Thomas rated it it was amazing

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.

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 Lorina Stephens 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,
Nov 04, 2010 Michèle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
It's so gooood!

Sorry for the outburst. But reading this first novel from Peter Watts was like finding a plate of good, whole, sustaining food after a diet of chips and popcorn!

Science-fiction cannot be better than this. The science, action and inner feeling - or ethical dilemnas - of the characters meld together seamlessly.

We follow a cast of mavericks, biologically adapted to man a deepwater ridge power station. To withstand the isolation, the pressure, the Corporation chooses individuals wit
Mar 31, 2007 Clarice 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
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.
Feb 19, 2014 Xavi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: llegits-2014
4'5 .
Genial novela de Watts, muy claustrofóbica, ubicada en el fondo del oceano en una estación geotérmica con humanos modificados para aguantar las adversas condiciones. Muy variada, llena de ideas,a pesar de lo limitado de la ubicación.
Mas aquí:
Aug 27, 2015 Heather rated it liked it

Humans need to get more power, so they turn to deep-sea rifts. They need humans to keep the undersea stations running, so they send a bunch of people down who are "preadapted" to stressful conditions -- you know, your garden-variety pedophiles, rapists, murderers, and battered women. What could possibly go wrong?

I was very interested in the hard sci-fi aspects of the book. The "rifters" have surgical enhancements that allow them to breathe underwater and withstand the co
Oct 25, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
A geothermal power facility on the bottom of the ocean floor isn't the most inviting place to work. Overwhelming pressure, constant danger, near-complete darkness, monsters of the deep, not to mention them having to cut into your body to let you survive the necessary excursions outside the station. Under such conditions, normal people might bend, or break, in unpredictable ways. So if you're a big corporation that just wants to get the job done, it might occur to you to send down people who were ...more
Ramsey Isler
Dec 22, 2011 Ramsey Isler rated it really liked it
If you like your sci-fi hard and your main characters psychologically disturbed, this is the book for you. Peter Watts takes a mission on the floor of the ocean and turns it into a crucible where some mad beings are formed. But, as Dickinson once said, much madness is divinest sense. The crazies aboard deep-sea station Beebe are smarter than their masters on the surface think they are, and they uncover a government plot with mistakes that would be comical if the circumstances weren't so dire.

Oct 31, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
So, in a radical departure, I read this baby exclusively on my phone. The author has been considerate enough to put the entire trilogy online for free and my phone has a thingy that lets me download books and the book was there so I said, that's me, all cutting edge and cyberpunky and whatnot.

Peter Watts. Not the most cheerful writer. Not your cuddly romantic heroic hard-edge but soft-hearted type of author, and this is not the most cheerful of books, and the whole trilogy's been a downer so far
Argh, had a whole review here and lost it! Don't feel like writing it out again. Suffice it to say that this reminds me of the pulpy sci-fi I used to get lost in over long summer vacations. Not flawless by any means but at least nominally researched, perfectly adequate, and fairly enjoyable. I like my science fiction with a good dose of the biosciences and this has a ton: wetware, human hacking, extremophile organisms, environmental armageddon. Amazingly, it's all put together logically so it do ...more
Alex Tank
May 17, 2014 Alex Tank rated it liked it
id give the first half four stars and the second half like one star. the first half focuses on the changes that humans undergo in alien environments. The underwater setting is detailed, murky, dark, eerie, full of scary monsters, and compliments the personalities of the loner inhabitants. The first half focuses on about five characters, their relationships, and how they are slowly adapting, through directed body/brain manipulation and general 'use it or loose it' brain adaptations, and becoming ...more
Apr 16, 2014 Cathy marked it as pass-bad-reviews
Jamie's 2-star review convinced me. Again. I apparently "liked" it last time I looked the book up as well. The book isn't for me. And if the iPhone app ever let's me see and edit private notes then I won't have to bother anyone with this type of reminder to myself misplaced in the public review field. I'm very sorry, but I'm tired of looking up the same books over and over again.
Aug 22, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Here's my tagline for the movie version of this novel: "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!" "Here" is on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, 9 kilometers beneath the ocean's surface, at a geothermal power station. The employees are mechanically and biologically engineered to survive 300 atmospheres of hydrostatic pressure, no light, and no air. Early on, we learn that the dangerous and claustrophobic working and living conditions entail that the emotionally damaged and sociopathic make t ...more
Mar 08, 2013 travelgirlut 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 10, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: already-read
Set in a near-future world that's almost relentlessly grim (until you get to the next book in the series and the apocalypse starts, which makes this entry in the Rifters Trilogy series almost cheery by comparison), Starfish covers the lives of a dysfunctional group of surgically altered humans who man a geothermal power station on an undersea rift. I know, it doesn't exactly sound riveting, but Watts fleshes out the characters and their dynamics in the solitude of the cold ocean floor, and perha ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Mathieu rated it really liked it
I think I heard about Peter Watts from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing, since he usually points out SciFi writers releasing stuff under Creative Commons.

Well, suffice it to say that free downloads are not the only reason to read Mr. Watts' prose. Starfish is Crichton's Sphere , done right.

No time travel deus ex machina plot-twist at the end, no mystery fun-house mirror-ball for the staff psychologist to gaze into, just a bunch of acknowledged crazies living three miles under the surface of the oc
short review in ukrainian:
трилогія rifters того ж таки вотса — в дещо іншому жанрі: три частини складаються у пост-апокаліптичний роман-катастрофу, але з елементами кібер-панка, детектива, місцями психологічного трилера, і з елементами фантастики. читається повільно, тому місцями важкувато, але в цілому — цікаво.

* starfish
* maelstrom
* behemoth

трилогія доступна на сайті в різних форматах (див. сторінки кожної частини), а сам ве
Sep 05, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it
I enjoy almost all the scifi I've read, but this is a cut above the rest. The characters are chosen to work on a deepwater geothermal plant because they are psychologically damaged and perform better under extreme stress. And it's all downhill from there. There isn't so much a major plotline as characters breaking down and drifting. I assume the exterior plot introduced in the last quarter of the book will be fleshed out in its two sequels. Good stuff, and available free online here, along with ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Michel rated it really liked it
't Is science fiction over de nabije toekomst die geschreven is in het jaar 2000, en het is begot nog niet verouderd!

Ik schat ergens 2040-50 of zo, met een internet dat niet meer bestaat (virussen hebben alles kapot gemaakt!), met licht hertekende landen en wat militair-industrieel complex, heb ik de indruk, een begin van artificiële intelligentie (gekweekte hersencellen als primitieve biologische computers), en ook energiecrisis.

Eén van de manieren omenergie te winnen (ik heb de indruk dat hetg
Willy Eckerslike
It took me a while to get into this book; the beginning is monotonous and lacks pace and plot but this, (I think) is intentional, allowing the author to construct a deeply dark & claustrophobic backdrop to the slowly unfolding plot. The crew of Beebe station hate themselves & each other most of the time and there is deliberately no attempt to engender empathy with the reader, the only solace for both crew and reader alike are their excursions into the thoroughly alien deep ocean environm ...more
Benjamin Ethridge
Feb 12, 2013 Benjamin Ethridge rated it really liked it
Wonderful, visionary "hard" science fiction writing. I felt a little disconnected toward the end when the social science fiction aspect went completely geological. For a bit there, I lost train of what was at stake between the characters and got caught up in ocean earthquakes and smart gels. It seemed as though the book changed raw materials mid-stream and transformed into a different structure altogether. Masterful work though. Peter Watts is a helluva a writer and I will read him again.
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Rifters (3 books)
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“It’s really kind of… well, beautiful, in a way. Even the monsters, once you get to know ‘em. We’re all beautiful.” 12 likes
“She can still feel the memory of what it was to be fully human, and mistake that ghost for honest sensation.” 0 likes
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