book review: maelstrom

Maelstrom is Peter Watts’ sequel to Starfish. I thought it was better. I thought it was pretty fucking excellent in fact, (though Blindsight is still better).

All day today I’ve been absorbing the Twitterfeeds about the Fukushima nuclear crisis. One of the characters in Maelstrom, Desjardins, is a person who deals with those kinds of crises, by using statistics and analysis in the name of the greater good to determine when to quarantine something and say “this is beyond saving.” Desjardins’ is chemically wired up to be really good at pattern-analysis and is also unable to be corrupt in his decisions, through manipulations of the chemical components of guilt. One of the things I fucking love about Peter Watts books is waiting for the References section at the end to see how much of the science is true, how much might be true and how much is “Well it’s kind of like this but cranked up to 11.”

Two of the rifters (undersea adapted cyborgs) return from Starfish and there’s an apocalypse coming to the planet. One of the rifters is the harbinger for it. The awesome thing about Watts’ writing is that the whole situation is so bleak, everything is looked at so clinically (guilt is just chemicals, humans evolved to be able to handle quite a lot of sexual trauma, intelligence doesn’t mean a goddamned thing) you’re actually rooting for apocalypse. It’s amazing how well it works.

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