Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review: Starfish

Starfish(Creative Commons Licensed electronic editions) is the first in Peter Watt's Rifters series. The novel is set in 2050, when under-water Geothermal power plants have become feasible, and are serving the power needs of a world flooded by the results of excessive fossil fuel consumption.

Now, you can't just put up a power plant and then not provide maintenance, so the authorities put in a crew to keep everything up and running. The problem is, what kind of people would be willing to live 3000m under the surface? The answer: misfits, pedophiles, and other criminals exchanging a work term in exchange for far less desirable consequences of their previous lives.

Peter Watt's web page claims that he's written a really depressing future, but to someone well versed in the actual predictions of what might happen if we keep burning fossil fuels, he looks quite optimistic. After the first half of the book exploring what it's like and what kind of modifications humans would need to live under-water, the book gradually expands to take in the rest of the world, revealing the scientists behind the project, and the sinister aims of the corporation running it.

The characters are wooden, and written in such a way that I could care less about any of them --- at no point did I feel anything resembling an emotional connection to anyone in the novel, and that is the novel's downfall. At the climax, when bad things start to happen really fast and things start to explode, I felt empty, as though everything was happening so far away it didn't matter. Even the action scenes evoked no reaction from me.

I have no intention of reading any of the rest of the series, but since it's all free, you might as well try it and see if you'll like it.
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