Book review: Starfish by Peter Watts

Starfish by Peter Watts

This is book one of the Rifter trilogy, and I am hooked. Let me tell you why (this is after all a review of said book.)

Preamble, I downloaded this book (yes legally) without knowing that it was part of a series. And when I had read this one through I was overjoyed to discover this fact.

Peter Watts has in this book created an underwater world which you are glad to discover and explore along with the people in it. It describes creature’s environments and personalities in such a way that you actually wish you could see for yourself.

There is of course a sinister undertone that starts to hum in the story, and diverges into several different tunes to the point where you are left uncertain to which one you should be humming along to. But this is a good thing, it keeps the suspense, keep you turning pages waiting for a clue with anticipation and then marvel at your own surprise when all the different tunes start to harmonize.

If I sound a bit vague it is intentional, I could be more specific and not ruin anything major, but all the little twists, turns and bends are part of what makes this story good, and I will not risk divulging even one of them.

I can however give you a quick introduction to the story which becomes evident within the first two chapters. The world need power (the electrical kind) and the seabed has loads of thermal vents. These have been harnessed, but they are deep down and require maintenance and general tinkering with. So the lucky few, the misfits, abused and disturbed are drawn to this. They inhabit a small underwater habitat, which I somehow picture as a small version of the oilrig in “The Abyss.” To begin with the story is driven mainly by the tensions between the crew stationed there and this is the way we get to know them. After a short while there is a sinister tune that starts as an undercurrent to the story. And it weaves itself into it adding more to an already exiting read.

The characters are intriguing and develop nicely throughout the story, there are no two dimensional card board cut-outs, and the habitat itself can also be considered a character. Lenie Clarke is our main girl, as everyone else she has been altered to live in the deep dark blue, and though her we discover the wonders of life on the seabed. But even though it is clear from a very early point that she is the one we are following in this story, the others are given stories of their own. These stories give all the characters depth and a presence that is refreshing.

The only hiccup I have with this book is that the author sometimes seems to describe a particular subject or tech thing in a way that can seem a bit confusing, luckily this does not happen often as has no consequence on the story at all. But you might draw a comparison between a few chapters and an episode of House MD. In that you might not get half of what they are saying but it doesn’t prevent you from understanding the situation.

A point on the author, in the very beginning of the book… before the story starts there is a list with comments. This list is all the research that the author has loosely based his tech in this story on. Furthermore and this is I suspect the reason the underwater world he has created seems so authentic and marvelous; he is a marine-mammal biologist (source: Wikipedia.)

And to top things off you can download this book legally on a Creative Commons licence at can also ble downloaded from

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