Starfish by Peter Watts

There are few books I’ve enjoyed less than this one. I wouldn’t have finished it at all if Peter Watts didn’t talk about such compelling science all the time. What can I say, science, I love it.

I’m not sure if Peter Watts thought he was writing a character driven story or a plot driven story. What he ended up doing was writing a theme based story. The theme being that everybody is a psychopath, and not in the all-CEO’s-are-actually-psychopaths way.

There’s an underwater station named Beebe that supplies power to the entire west coast. For some reason its staffed by psychopaths, sex offenders, and domestic violence addicts. They spend most of the book being really creepy and depressing with nowhere to go and no real reason to even exist and then a plot comes careening out of nowhere to interrupt our broadcast with an important message. That message being that even normal people are pretty messed up and logically we should all die.

I kept thinking there must be some point later on to all the random thoughts of crazy people that are scattered throughout the early parts of the book but it never materialized.

Peter Watts appears to be a brilliant writer. He has the ability to really get into the heads of his characters so deeply that it becomes uncomfortable to read about them. He’s also done his research and the science would make an interesting read in many scientific journals, some of it real, some of it hypothesized but believable.

He is not a great story teller. In fact I’m not even sure he told a story in this book. There are characters that at first seem really dark and scary and really hard to identify with because they’re all very mentally and emotionally damaged. Then they all seem to coalesce into the same person, more or less. They have different vices each but they all think the same things, say the same things and have conversations of the type where nothing is actually being said that makes much sense.

I found this book so dense with repetition and psychopathic navel gazing that it was hard to keep reading it at times. The fact that not a single character was sympathetic or likable made it even worse. I definitely won’t recommend this book to anybody — I’ll personally never subject myself to anything Peter Watts writes again.


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