the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Peter Watts’ Category

Beyond the Rift, by Peter Watts

available November 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher











Peter Watts is the kind of story teller who doesn’t let us lie to ourselves. His writing style is aggressive and unrelentingly honest, he understands how easy it is, how natural human arrogance can be. We always think we know best, don’t we? Especially when it comes to people we’ve never met, or creatures we don’t understand.  That book, Blindsight, that’s on everyone’s “most important science fiction books” list? This is that guy.

Including two award winning short stories, The Things (which I reviewed here) and The Island, this collection could easily be subtitled “the best of”. Past the award winners, you’ll find the mind blowers – the stories that take what you think you know about how we think about our universe and flip it all inside out.  Thought crime control, the crushing dangers of the ocean’s bottom, a new way for religion to work,  a woman torn between her own body and that of a four year old child, a prequel to the Rifters trilogy, and so much more await you in Beyond The Rift. Head over to the Tachyon tumblr page to read some excerpts.

Be sure to read the Outtro, an intro of sorts, that comes at the end of the book instead of the beginning. It’s important that you read that part, and it’s important that you read it *last*.  Watts has a pretty good idea of how most people are going to react to his work, and now he’s going to explain himself.

confused yet? intrigued yet? a little  of both? Here are my thoughts on my favorite stories from Beyond the Rift.

The Island – Like the other workers on the Eriophora, Sunday and Dixon only wake up when they’re needed. The ship’s chimp brained AI has found a good spot, so it’s time to start building. A gate, that is.   Yes, Sunday, Dixon, and the other sleeping crew members are glorified highway construction workers. Sleeping most of the way, they travel far ahead, building transit gates in every corner of the galaxy. Humanity evolved, and left their road crews behind.  Sunday can barely even recognize what comes through the gates as human anymore. There is some brilliantly tight world building happening in this story, that’s for sure. Dix is still young, he wants to be awake all the time, he thinks there’s so much he can learn from the ship’s AI, no matter that Sunday tells him she ripped her port out years ago, and for good reason.  He’ll barely stand still long enough for her to try to explain what happened all those years ago. Regardless, they’ve found a spot, and construction has begun.  And then they find something strange, someone no one has ever seen before. The star they are near, it is surrounded by a sphere of organic material, it’s one huge organism. Sunday even describes it as a giant dyson sphere. She doesn’t want to hurt anything that might be intelligent, even if it’s not sentient, or is, and can’t communicate with them. After studying the star, she realizes it is benign and helpless, and that if she doesn’t move the gate, she’ll kill it. How arrogant, how human she is, to think she can understand this creature.  Maybe it can’t communicate in any meaningful way, but it knows how to get what it wants.

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read parts one, two, three or four, if you’d like.

This is the next to last in a series covering all the original fiction Clarkesworld Magazine published in their fourth year. You can read all of these on their website, and to that purpose the title of each story is linked to a digital version. Many also have audio available. The entire collection is available as a print volume, here (scroll way down).

The stories I’m doing quick reviews of today include a Shirley Jackson award winning (oh, a Hugo nominated, BSFA short listed, and Locus award finalist) and positively killer story from Peter Watts which is a homage to a science fiction horror classic and at the same time a pop culture reference and includes what is possibly the best ever final line of a short story. If you’re older than me, you’ll get all the references instantly, and younger folks might just have the shit scared out of them, which is fine too.   Also we’ve got a few very dreamy short stories that were very satisfying to read, but I felt their deeper meanings alluded me.  Ah well.

The Things, by Peter Watts.  Damn do I love Peter Watts, just damn.  The Things has a lot of surprises, and to tell you what it’s about, I have to spoil the smallest one. Read the rest of this entry »

My original review for Blindsight was written a few years ago and posted here. I recently re read the book, and made some updates to the review. Suffice to say, the book knocked my socks off even more the second time around.

Remember the movie Alien? Now add some H. Beam Piper, some Event Horizon, some of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. Populate with freaky characters, voluntary (and involuntary) lobotomies, and one very shy vampire. Welcome to Blindsight, Peter Watts’ scarier side of first contact, where aliens are truly alien, and do not want to talk to us, no matter how nice we are.

I remember Peter Watts from a number of years ago, I read his novel, Starfish, the first novel in the Rifters Trilogy. It was a harsh read for me, I wasn’t sure how to react to the sociopathic characters, but I appreciated Watts’ background in marine biology. Blindsight gets away from the marine biology, and introduces us to a warmer, fuzzier breed of sociopaths, and their vampire captain. Thanks to an ingenius explaination of the evolution, extinction, and genetic recreation of vampires on earth, Sarasti and by extention Watts, have quite the cult following.

Blindsight is told through the eyes of Siri Keeton, whose childhood operation to cure his epilepsy took half his brain with it. Siri’s single hemisphere of grey matter adapted enough to allow him to live a semi-normal life. A savant of interpreting body language, Siri is the perfect objective observer, the perfect recorder. He’ll read your “surfaces”, and while you’re talking about computer programming, he’s reading your favorite color, if you liked what you had for dinner last night, and what your sexual preferences are. He might not be able to tell you what you said, but he can tell you exactly what you meant.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.