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An enormous tidal wave on the west coast of North America has just killed thousands. Lenie Clarke, in a black wetsuit, walks out of the ocean onto a Pacific Northwest beach filled with the oppressed and drugged homeless of the Asian world who have gotten only this far in their attempt to reach America. Is she a monster, or a goddess? One thing is for sure: all hell is breaking loose.

This dark, fast-paced, hard SF novel returns to the story begun in Starfish: all human life is threatened by a disease (actually a primeval form of life) from the distant prehuman past. It survived only in the deep ocean rift where Clarke and her companions were stationed before the corporation that employed them tried to sterilize the threat with a secret underwater nuclear strike. But Clarke was far enough away that she was able to survive and tough enough to walk home, 300 miles across the ocean floor. She arrives carrying with her the potential death of the human race, and possessed by a desire for revenge. Maelstrom is a terrifying explosion of cyberpunk noir by a writer whose narrative, says Robert Sheckley, "drives like a futuristic locomotive."

Published: Macmillan Publishers on Jan 6, 2009
ISBN: 9781429982214
List price: $7.99
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The description of evolution in the maelstrom was fascinating, and the post-disaster world as well as Lenie's transformation into agent of mindless vengeance caught my imagination. But once again the violent details made me feel queasy, and I struggled to read onwards.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was as good as the first in the series, but... it doesn't really have any action/plot. It's an exploration of technology (or maybe technology gone awry) and is excellent for that.Sentient technology? A "lifeform" that competes with human existence? Chemical and neurological "tweaks" that change the definition of humanity. The book is full of very very interesting and well-thought-out concepts. The plot "device" seems a bit unrealistic (and I was left wondering why the "vector" behaved the way she did). Maybe there was some explanation in the psychological background of it all, but I missed it. The ending also was a bit disappointing - it seemed like it was concluded in a rush - the author sort of wrapped up the story, but it felt tacked on.Regardless, it's a very interesting book and I'm off to read number 3 in the series now.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
So your team of misfits maintaining a geothermal power plant at the bottom of the ocean have come into contact with a really nasty microbe that has the potential to usurp the basic functions of Earth's biosphere and end life as we know it. Do you (a) inform them of the problem and put them in quarantine or (b) attempt to quietly set off a five hundred megaton fusion warhead right next to their facility in hopes of sterilizing the contagion, and incidentally releasing a few hundred years' worth of tectonic energy and triggering a massive earthquake that wrecks the West Coast?The corporate types in Starfish chose (b)... but didn't keep it quiet enough. One of the rifters, Lenie Clarke, managed to get out before the bomb went off-- and she's a little bit unhappy about being nuked. And wherever she goes, she unknowingly spreads the contagion named βehemoth, while some people scramble to stop her and others try to help her.Watts keeps up the pace he starts in Starfish with yet more of his unpleasant future, and provides excellent reasons not to use evolutionary algorithms to run your Internet.read more
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Reviews

The description of evolution in the maelstrom was fascinating, and the post-disaster world as well as Lenie's transformation into agent of mindless vengeance caught my imagination. But once again the violent details made me feel queasy, and I struggled to read onwards.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was as good as the first in the series, but... it doesn't really have any action/plot. It's an exploration of technology (or maybe technology gone awry) and is excellent for that.Sentient technology? A "lifeform" that competes with human existence? Chemical and neurological "tweaks" that change the definition of humanity. The book is full of very very interesting and well-thought-out concepts. The plot "device" seems a bit unrealistic (and I was left wondering why the "vector" behaved the way she did). Maybe there was some explanation in the psychological background of it all, but I missed it. The ending also was a bit disappointing - it seemed like it was concluded in a rush - the author sort of wrapped up the story, but it felt tacked on.Regardless, it's a very interesting book and I'm off to read number 3 in the series now.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
So your team of misfits maintaining a geothermal power plant at the bottom of the ocean have come into contact with a really nasty microbe that has the potential to usurp the basic functions of Earth's biosphere and end life as we know it. Do you (a) inform them of the problem and put them in quarantine or (b) attempt to quietly set off a five hundred megaton fusion warhead right next to their facility in hopes of sterilizing the contagion, and incidentally releasing a few hundred years' worth of tectonic energy and triggering a massive earthquake that wrecks the West Coast?The corporate types in Starfish chose (b)... but didn't keep it quiet enough. One of the rifters, Lenie Clarke, managed to get out before the bomb went off-- and she's a little bit unhappy about being nuked. And wherever she goes, she unknowingly spreads the contagion named βehemoth, while some people scramble to stop her and others try to help her.Watts keeps up the pace he starts in Starfish with yet more of his unpleasant future, and provides excellent reasons not to use evolutionary algorithms to run your Internet.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really enjoyed Maelstrom. The second book in the Rifters trilogy took the speculative fiction I love from Charles Stross and William Gibson and totally geeked it out. The way Watts takes real science (complete with footnotes) and builds a story around it makes for a very compelling story, and I love that he doesn't use the unexplained as a plot device. In this, he reminds me a lot of Brandon Sanderson, a writer who creates detailed and well-defined (if impossible) magic systems and then builds a story around them.Concepts I loved -* Gene-based systems that can pass turing tests if they mutate fast enough* Humans modified for pattern recognition* Not being sure what neural network based AI systems learn when we teach them* Modifying humans to enforce behaviors at the chemical level* Organisms fitter than us that also outconsume us and can cause giantism (and the end of the world)* The concept of self as mutable (what are memories if you can edit a brain?)* An inkling of the concept of the Chinese Room problem that was central to the later-published Blindsight; if you can pass a note under a door and get a valid response back does that mean the thing on the other side of the door understands you?It was interesting how much viewpoints bounced around. In contrast, Blindsight and Starfish were much more told from a single point of view, rather than parallel stories. I like both styles, but liking Achilles' story so much is what made me really embrace it in Maelstrom, and I don't think any of the viewpoints could have stood by themselves. Not that you'd want to read a story from the point of view of Lenie in Maelstrom; she was filled with nothing but hate.Peter Watts is quickly becoming a favorite author.
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