It’s a nearish future where the Net’s been riddled with viruses (this is not the focus of the story, just one of the excellent bits about how the future doesn’t have to rest on some ever progressing curve) geothermal power in the rifts at the bottom of the Pacific are preventing brownouts all through N’AmPac. The problem is that working at the bottom of the ocean so isolated from human society requires people that aren’t “well-adjusted” or “happy with normal life.” So the station the book is about is filled with people addicted to trauma, mostly of abusive relationships (giving and receiving the beatings), but there’s an almost MPD pedophile involved as well. These psychologically broken people were selected as pre-adapted for life on the bottom of the sea.
Oh and they also have organs that collapse to press all the gas bubbles out of themselves so they can withstand the hundreds of atmospheres of pressure in diving skins. They’ve each had a lung removed and replaced with machinery that lets them process the oxygen out of water so they don’t breathe. They are rifters instead of humans (one psychologist in the book refers to them as vampires, but I don’t see that as being very accurate). It’s all very cool.
One of the techniques I loved (and was made more sensitive to because of reading About Writing) is how Watts switches up the tenses in narration. On the surface everything is in the past tense, but in the depths it’s in the present, which is more artificial and distant, and very nicely keeping us distant from these characters who don’t want to be touched.
So yes, it was very good, but didn’t end up resolved as well as I’d like since it leads into its sequel.