Blurbs & Pull Quotes

Pull Quotes for Echopraxia

Pro Con

A paranoid tale that would make Philip K. Dick proud, told in a literary style that should seduce readers who don't typically enjoy science fiction. ... Watts' nihilistic meditation on evolution and adaptation is by turns disturbing and gorgeous, with a biologist's understanding of nature's indifference. ... This scientifically literate thriller's tight prose and plot create an existential uneasiness that lingers long after the book's end.

Kirkus

 

Watts displays his knack for meticulously researched, conventionally unsympathetic characters, and their complex manipulations give color to an environment in which it is difficult to distinguish bloody catastrophe from "plans within plans." The novel delivers an intricately inventive and coolly deterministic lesson in the futility of trying to outthink evolution, less a critique of human transcendence than an indictment of its basic assumptions.

Publisher's Weekly

 

As for science fiction, well, traditionalists in the field now face some hard choices: either lobotomize themselves to dumb down enough to continue to approach SF without seeing the implications of what Watts is doing; or get serious about the science part of science fiction; or throw up their hands in helpless despair and go away and try some other genre instead. Horror, maybe — because Echopraxia also manages to be more truly frightening than much self-styled horror fiction. ... I snarfed down this book as soon as it downloaded, and am writing this review at 6am after waking early to finish it. Recommended doesn't even begin to.

TeleRead

 

...not content to inhabit the same scenarios that allure the majority of writers and readers [Watts is] caviar, not potato chips. ... Watts's language reflects [a] jazzed-up, posthuman environment with plenty of juicy neologisms and info-dense syntax. Yet there's never a moment when what is happening is less than crystal-clear. ... Peter Watts is some precisely engineered hybrid of Lucius Shepard and Gregory Benford, lyrical yet hard-edged, purveyor of sleek surfaces and also the ethical and spiritual contents inside.

Paul Di Filippo, Locus

 

It was impressive enough, in Blindsight, to see how Peter Watts went about creating a vampire born of science, complete with a traditional allergy to crucifixes that had nothing to do with religion. Seeing a hard SF author go on a fictional quest for God, though, is another order of magnitude. ... Watts's novels blow the mind pretty much on every page ... Every word has been tuned and polished: there's a perfectionism at work here, a refusal to write a novel that's merely as good as the last one if something better can be wrung from cutting edge science and the English language. There is some real tour de force writing in this book.

Tor.com (by Alyx Dellamonica who is, full disclosure, a dear friend)

 

Watts welds philosophy and science in original ways. His novels are interested in not only the possibilities of technology but the nature of sentience and humanity. This is not an easy read, but just as you think it will be another discussion of religion and postsingularity intelligences in the ship's galley, action breaks out. The danger of hard sf is that the writing can sometimes seem clinical and dry, but Watts manages to keep his prose lush even when serving high-concept science. This book is quite an achievement and should appeal to those who enjoy the works of Ian MacDonald and Hannu Rajaniemi.

Library Journal

 

... reads like some dark, twisted superhero ensemble piece, but with all the prose gravitas of a novel by Cormac McCarthy or Philip Roth. Its late twenty first century future feels at one and the same time dizzyingly outlandish and all too grimly real, exploding with high-end concepts, laced through with harsh human truths. If science fiction can really be claimed as a literature of ideas, then Watts is without doubt its premier practitioner— Echopraxia is a depleted uranium shot across the bows of complacent, by-the-numbers SF, and a bright rallying cry for the soul of the genre.

—Richard Morgan

 

Echopraxia is science fiction on steroids— or better, on some intensely mind-bending and energizing drug that hasn't been invented yet. ... But Echopraxia is also fun in a visceral way, with space travel and lots of high-speed action. ... All in all, Echopraxia is ferociously intellectual pulp writing. This may sound like an oxymoron, but I mean it as high praise. The book induces a vertigo of speculative information overload.

Los Angeles Review of Books

 

...scores 'diamond cutter' on the sci-fi hardness scale: plenty of science and philosophy, no soppy rubbish. ... less a spaceship-based story and more a serious, albeit fascinating, treatise on what exactly a person is if their memories, perceptions and abilities are all as malleable as the way they wear their hair. ... Echopraxia is a philosophical discourse with a smattering of plot points— still brilliant but heavy work.

This kind of exclusionary writing has many fans of course, but it's often tempered with fast-paced writing and easy-going plotting, both of which are in rather short supply in Echopraxia. Instead, you get long involved arguments about the nature of self in a bleak dystopic future-Earth where we didn't bother with any solutions to pressing issues like climate change and population growth.

The Register

... one of the most thought provoking books I've read in quite some time. [Watts] gives the entire genre a kick in the butt that it needs and deserves. With Echopraxia, Watts establishes himself as a pioneer of 21st century hard science fiction. Five stars.

Perihelion Science Fiction

 

Watt's (sic) literary science fiction is engaging and stunningly bleak, but he asks all the right questions about our evolution.

Washington Post

 

The famously dismal brilliance of Watts's imagination ... at first stuns you with its barrage of smart ideas and cutting-edge research, then disarms you with its grim determinism and unsympathetic, semi-posthuman characters, and ends up, pretty much, by just making you want to crawl under a rock. It's SF hard enough to break a tooth on. ... an almost elegiac ending somehow evokes both [Childhood's End] and Matheson's I Am Legend. It's not quite where we expected to be in a novel that sometimes reads like a graduate seminar for which we lack the prerequisites, but it's undeniably powerful, and surprisingly humane.

Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

Watts ... is fascinated by the science behind all aspects of his constructed world in Echopraxia, and wants you to sit still for some dauntingly dense asides about it ... Watts makes sure we understand the biology and neurology behind both vampirism and zombieism, whether we want to or not.

Peter Watts seems to be Neal Stephenson-esque in the wealth and diversity of knowledge he brings to his writing ... Echopraxia is a very worthy successor to the wonderful Blindsight and one which may be more accessible to casual readers. It's not shy of asking you to engage your brain at a serious level but certainly not to the point where it's going to burn you out before the end. If anything it'll leave you refreshed and churning with fresh ideas.

The Taichung Bookworm

 

Even when Watts is wrong he is brilliant, and when he is on his game he can break genuinely new conceptual ground. Some of the stuff in this novel about the theological implications of computational models of physics (yes, I said theological implications) is like that. This is SF at a level above even where the likes of Charles Stross and Hannu Rajaniemi have been playing. I hope Watts gives us a lot more of it.

Armed and Dangerous

 

Watts provides some of the most provocative speculation on consciousness and perception in current science fiction.

Chicago Tribune

Watts, himself a marine biologist, makes few compromises for readers who might find intimidating all the references to "streptococcal subroutines" or "viral encephalitides laterally promoted from their usual supporting role."

Watts's fiction is too thoughtful and, frankly, too dour to traffic in human exceptionalism. ... There's nothing here that really departs too far from the genre's present consensus future, but it's still a rare pleasure to see it so carefully and consistently executed. ... a rewarding book for fans of hard science fiction in general and Watts in particular.

—Matt Hilliard, Strange Horizons

Echopraxia has a less sympathetic protagonist, a less interesting crew, and a much smaller part for the still delightful and menacing aliens. ... unfortunately it feels very much overshadowed by its Hugo-nominated predecessor.

...by far Peter Watts's best work. ... think of Echopraxia as Neuromancer if it was written by a completely strung out and paranoid neurologist who seriously needs an intervention. It's amazing. (5 stars)

The Core Dump

...one of the most brilliant hard science fiction novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading, a tour de force exploration of the nature of consciousness and its utility for intelligent life.

DeKalb County Public Library

If you can get on Watts' bitterly funny wavelength ... this sequel to his strongest novel is just as potent a dose of his abundant strengths, right down to the author's note, where he walks you through all the papers that go into his horrifically plausible futures. When Watts' stories are scary, they're scary not because of violence or monsters but because of ideas, and that gives them a charge that's missing from too much current SF. ****½,"Top Pick"

Romantic Times (?!?)

Absolutely mad & engrossing ... the pure tripped-out strangeness sf does best

M. John Harrison (on Firefall)

ECHOPRAXIA is a wild ride. ... you will enjoy the friendships and twists and turns in the story. The prose is beautiful and most of the characters are relatable. ...Watts is a very powerful action writer, especially considering all the amazing terminology he has to weave into the scenes.

—Ashleigh Compton, Fresh Fiction Reviews

I was expecting a moment of clarity, a moment when it would all make sense. It never came. There is definitely a lot of social commentary and criticism to be gleaned, but I never was sure what exactly Peter Watts wanted to say.

Echopraxia is one of the weirdest sci-fi novels I've read in quite some time, and that's part of its charm. ... I remain thoroughly impressed at the author's boundary-pushing style. Watts has definitely proved that sci-fi still has new frontiers to explore.

—Glenn Dallas, San Fransisco Book Review

...some parts of the novel didn't work for me

Watts delivers a thrilling story with concepts so fresh and original the reader does not want to disprove them. ... Echophraxia's real stars are Watts' writing and the characters. ... a creative and well written hard scifi novel based in a well thought out and an eerily possible future. Well worth the price

Bartleby's Book Reviews

Watts has a way with taking the human condition and really, really forcing readers to look at, well, pretty much everything differently. He's illuminating, confusing, and his books require plenty of work, but the payoff is glorious. Peter Watts is the Will McIntosh of hard science fiction. His books, like McIntosh's, refuse to be defined, summarized, or adequately reviewed.

They are too big and too amazing for any of that nonsense.

Bookworm Blues

The latest novel of dark futurism by Peter Watts is more than a polished, literary sequel to his controversial Blindsight; it's a meticulously-crafted narrative of biological determinism where paranoia and neurology are the true protagonists.

Sunburst Awards Committee

Pull Quotes for Blindsight

Pro Con

Intellectually challenging hard science fiction ... Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story. Combines riveting action and a fascinating alien environment with a stimulating exploration of the nature of consciousness.

Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

 

Entirely unique ... [a] mind-bending novel. Watts packs in enough tantalizing ideas for a score of novels while spinning new twists on every cutting-edge genre motif from virtual reality to extraterrestrial biology. Watts' fifth, finest, most-fascinating book."

Booklist

 

"Blindsight is a tour de force, redefining the First Contact story for good. Peter Watts' aliens are neither humans in funny make-up nor incomprehensible monoliths beyond human comprehension? they're something new and infinitely more disturbing, forcing us to confront unpalatable possibilities about the nature of consciousness. It'll make your skin crawl when you stop to think about it. Strongly recommended: this may be the best hard SF read of 2006."

—Charles Stross

 

"Blindsight throws down a challenge to every banal first-contact tale that features quirky but ultimately lovable life forms, novels where humanity meets up with bipedal, oxygen-breathing aliens whose primary differences from ordinary people can be resolved with some empathy and fast talking. Edgy, humorous and heartbreaking by turns — impossible to put down. Blindsight is a real tour de force."

—A.M. Dellamonica, Science Fiction Weekly

At times it is difficult to keep up with the tightly packed ideas that pour from its every page.

"Watts continues to challenge readers with his imaginative plots and superb storytelling."

Library Journal

 

"Insanely good—the perfect example of what science fiction, and ONLY science fiction can do. A phenomenal exploration of Consciousness, Biological theory, empathy and emotion ... ambitious in scope, successful in execution, and audacious in implementation. If there is any justice in the Universe, it will be on every awards ballot next year."

—Jeremy Lassen, Night Shade Books

 

"Far better than anything in the warmed over sci-fi of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. Too bad the literary types who drooled over that one won't give Watts a try."

—Peter Simpson, The Ottawa Citizen

 

"It seems clear that every second Peter Watts is not actually writing must be spent reading, out at the cutting edge of all the sciences and all the arts at once. Only that can't be so, because he obviously spends fully as much time thinking about everything he's read, before he sits down to turn it into story. His latest starts by proving that there are circumstances in which half a brain is better than one, or even a dozen— and then builds steadily in strangeness and wonder with every page. If Samuel R. Delany, Greg Egan and Vernor Vinge had collaborated to update Algis Budryss classic ROGUE MOON for the new millenium, they might have produced a novel as powerful and as uniquely beautiful as BLINDSIGHT. Its narrator is one of the most unforgettable characters I have ever encountered in fiction."

—Spider Robinson

 

"A terrific piece of new hard SF. It's full of deep theory that winds through the plot like a cancer gone wild, and the result is that best of all possible worlds, a hard SF novel that won't let you go, and a bombardment of ideas that you won't be able to let go of once they've wormed their viral way into your meaty little brain. [Watts's] best yet."

—SFRevu

 

"Peter Watts has taken the core myths of the First Contact story and shaken them to pieces. The result is a shocking and mesmerizing performance, a tour-de-force of provocative and often alarming ideas. It is a rare novel that has the potential to set science fiction on an entirely new course. Blindsight is such a book."

—Karl Schroeder

 

"Peter Watts amps up the sensawunda throughout the book. This is a very ambitious story, very successfully done. As a novel, it's gripping enough that my last-weekend glance to fill in details became a complete rereading. Rare, that, but this is a rare book."

—Jim Hopper, San Diego Union-Tribune

 

"BLINDSIGHT is fearless: a magnificent, darkly gleaming jewel of a book that hurdles the contradictions inherent in biochemistry, consciousness, and human hearts without breaking stride."

—Elizabeth Bear

 

"Blindsight is excellent. It's state-of-the-art science fiction: smart, dark and it grabs you by the throat from page one. Like a C J Cherryh book it makes you feel the danger of the hostile environment (or lack of one) out there. And it plays with some fascinating possibilities in human development, and some disconcerting ideas about human consciousness. What else can I say? Thanks for giving me the privilege of reading this."

—Neal Asher

 

"A searching, disconcerting, challenging, sometimes piercing inquisition."

—Kirkus

Watts carries several complications too many ...

—Kirkus

This is a smart book, worth reading for the ideas it contains alone: hard SF at its hardest. Watts surfs the cutting edge of technological exploration, weaving his future humans from the dark edges of today's research and development.

—Cat Sparks, Talking Squid

 

Blindsight scores over Watts's earlier books—and, indeed, most sf around these days—in its narrative drive, the sustained urgency of its telling. It's a dense but astonishingly readable book ... [Watts is] one of the two or three best hard sf writers around, and this is his finest book to date.

—Graham Sleight, Interzone

Terrific. ...dense with philosophy, with invention, and Watt's shiv-sharp writing ... (The "Crucifix glitch" is a conceit worth the price of the book all on its own.) The novel, gripping and creepy in equal measures, builds a multivalent argument that consciousness is a looser concept than we're accustomed to believing, opening the door to some chillingly persuasive devil's advocacy about free will and the bounds of the individual.

—John Burns, The Georgia Straight

 

Blindsight does, among other things, what hard SF should aspire to but in fact so rarely achieves: demonstrate the literary value of a scientific worldview. What impresses most about the book is the extent to which Watts follows through on the implications of [his] stance. Watts meets the challenge head-on: the visceral relentlessness of Blindsight's story is a large part of its beauty. It is a roller-coaster, and not just because it's the result of precision engineering. ( ...) by the end of Blindsight we're left feeling that Siri Keeton might be able to show us the truth of the world, just once, and make us understand, just for a moment—if only we could trust him as we trust his creator. If only we could trust ourselves.

—Niall Harrison, Bookslut

 

Intriguing.

—Tom Easton, Analog

 

Watts has certainly done his homework and has come up with a ton of cool SF-nal ideas—Watts has created some truly unique aliens ... the whole book can be seen as an introduction to a whole host of scientific concepts. Blindsight really shines in this area. A worthwhile entry in the hard SF/first contact genres.

...marred by its talk-heavy narrative and dark setting — all that science and research means a lot of talking and infodumps. ... All the talk is a drag on the book.

SFSignal.com

One of the best sci-fi books I've ever read. ... not so much about a meeting of races as it is about a meeting of different models of mind. ... A smart book that forces you to think.

—Peter Darbyshire, The Vancouver Province

 

Many critics currently point out that perhaps the best SF is that which is firmly based in science, but challenges using cutting-edge concepts. If that is the case, then this is a book which does this admirably. ... what makes this such a dazzling book, is the sheer force of Watts' style. The book also deals with weighty issues - ethics, morality, intelligence and self-awareness ... the book's climax is both revelatory and satisfying ... [Blindsight] challenges the reader with its scientific ideas, even more than many of the writers currently heralded as the new wave of SF. This is the work of a writer not frightened of using real science to ground his unique take on an old SF standard. For those up to the challenge, highly, highly recommended. I can see this one walking away with prizes in the next year.

Watts's prose is so supersaturated with science that sometimes for me it was just a case of hanging on and hoping it will all make sense. Filled with scientific jargon ... often baffling.

SFFWorld.com

This sounds really awesome, and it is. Watts takes his science really, really seriously. ... The rewards are worth the investment, and Watts' dedication to hard SF is something to be rewarded, —if you've got the patience and the willpower to wade into some heavy science and truly character-driven plotting, BLINDSIGHT is the only book you should be reading right now.

Less patient readers won't think it's awesome that 80 percent of BLINDSIGHT is setup ... those unaccustomed to the author's other novels might be tempted to call things off halfway through.

—Ryun Patterson, Bookgasm

"Watts combines linguistics and science with fascinating characters in a novel that is challenging, clever and thought-provoking."

—Rebecca Oppenheimer, Arbutus Times

 

"The genius of Blindsight is that its author has been clever enough to build a story that demonstrates [his] case ... Much of the narrative pleasure of Blindsight comes from a conjoined experience of doubled discovery: as we gradually get to understand the nature of the crew ... we find ourselves simultaneously beginning to get some sense of the alien species orbiting Ben in something ... that Watts describes in terms that evoked, for me, some great, granulated, anfractous ratking of shrikes multiplied a thousandfold from the simple single shrike out of Dan Simmond's Hyperion which so goosed my midbrain. ...it is a sign of the pervasive toughness of Blindsight that its human readers can take pleasure in [the] message, because what the scramblers say to us in the end is, "Shut up".

...undigested geek static, a deincentiviging fug of unverb, as depressive as old cigarette smoke: another iteration of the old NO GRILS ALOUD treehouse argot of hard sf ... The problem with all this sclerosis is that it comes close to shutting Peter Watts off from most of his potential readership

—John Clute, New York Review of Science Fiction

"An intriguing story with prose that dances across the page in complex yet precise rhythms. It's intricate and beautiful, heartwarming and dark. Many times your head will spin in joyous incredultiy, or you'll freeze in jaw-dropped wonder. Blindsight is a brilliant piece of work, one that will delight fans of hard science fiction, but will also demonstrate to literary fans that contemporary science fiction is dynamic and fascinating literature that demands to be read."

—Wayne Arthurson, The Edmonton Journal

 

"There is delightful whimsy in the author's scientific basis for vampires ... However, their re-animation in the 21st century is as dark as anything else in this bitter novel. Watts maintains a vicious narrative tension ... Blindsight is the best book I read in 2006. Peter Watts' evocation of contact is sharp, swirling, dark and intense. The conception of his aliens is original, vivid and horrendous. Both narrator and reader are trapped by our own expectations, by the limits of our understanding of the nature of the universe, or the nature of SF. By the time the proof is laid out before us, he is under our defences and rewiring our brains."

—Duncan Lawie, The Zone

 

"Blindsight is an astonishingly dense and philosophical novel; unflinchingly dark, unashamedly literary, and unapologetically couched in scientific language and thought. ... It is rare to discover a work of science fiction that relegates the human race to such irrelevancy in the universal scheme of things. ... the naked suggestion that we are a mere smudge on the radar screen of evolution lends a rare dark cynicism to Blindsight — a draught that is strangely refreshing, despite its bitter aftertaste. Blindsight is a triumph that raises the bar for serious science fiction literature as a genre."

"Both the philosophical pessimism of the novel, and its unabashed adoption of the hardest of science for the skeleton of its ideology, ensure that Watts is not going to enamour the vast majority of readers. Blindsight demonstrates (and revels in) the impenetrability and jargon that is often blamed for the perceived marginalisation of hard sf."

—Paul Raven, Velcro City Tourist Board

"Welcome to the new work by Watts. Blindsight doesn't take the reader through the twisted, hi-tech human sewers of his Rifters novels, but the characters here are no less uniquely twisted. They're composed of the same literary putty that sticks to you. The author's view of space travel is just as compelling as the pressure-haunted diseased landscape he painted earlier. Once again, the darkness is waiting: either as a hiding place, or as a threat"

Starlog

 

"An utterly remarkable book ... A novel of rare intelligence and subtlety ... nothing less than a triumph. Watts is a skilled writer who not only does a fantastic job managing the book's Big Ideas; he is also able to handle complex characterisation and the pacing of the plot. ... What elevates Blindsight above other pieces of SF and into the realm of great literature is that, for all its scientific soundness, it is a book that expresses its ideas in a number of different ways, including symbolically through the characters. Blindsight manages to combine both the scientific literalism of traditional Hard SF and the more figurative modes of expression common to intentionally transgressive works of literary SF. This locates Watts not as the modern heir of Arthur C. Clarke but rather Stanislaw Lem and his work Solaris. This book is so thick with ideas and subtext ... I warmly recommend it to anyone that wants to read not just some bleeding edge SF but a solid work of literature. "

SF Diplomat

 

"Surreal, dislocating, scary, bizarre, filled with wondrous sights and Big Thinks easily comprehended, this is why many of us read science fiction. But for all the science fiction reasons to read 'Blindsight', the primary reason to do so is to see a great writer at work."

—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

 

"Watts's dark, suspenseful, nightmarish vision of intelligent life in a hostile universe is remorseless in its outlook and unflinching in its conclusions."

—Greg L. Johnson, SF Site: 10 Best of 2006

 

"Watts is completely at ease using his richly developed characters to spin possibilities and theories on the cutting edge of science. His dense idea storms may slow some readers, but most will sail through the tech-heavy patches purely for the thrill of seeing what happens next."

—Gwenda Bond, The Washington Post

 

"Challenging ... fascinating and rewarding. Watts' all-but-declared literary ambition is to be a first-class hard science fiction writer on the sophisticated literary level of Gregory Benford or Arthur C. Clarke. And with Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth, and now Blindsight, he demonstrates that he can achieve it."

—Norman Spinrad, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

 

"Definitely not a novel for escapists or the occasional reader, Blindsight is extremely thought-provoking, taking its premise to the ultimate conclusion, showing that the alien without might be closely related to the alien within."

—Jetse de Vries, Interzone

 

"Blindsight is a brilliant book, and it was inevitable that it would end up on the Hugo ballot. ... For hard-SF fans, it's just what the doctor ordered. I suspect it'll go far."

—Alma A. Hromic, SF Site

" ...tough to warm to; the "human" creatures are just as alien, if not more so, than the aliens they are sent out to hunt and find and understand, and it's hard to care about what happens to them."

I have a great deal of admiration for Watts. He has the courage of his convictions, and he doesn't back down. His voice is always consistent, always taking the presuppositions that the rest of us pay lip service to, and taking them to their logical conclusions. If science fiction sometimes succumbs to happy myths to make things easier for the reader, Watts has no patience for that crap.

—James Schellenberg, Challenging Destiny

A finely judged literary performance, but still one that repels as much as it attracts ... I'm not sure if I could handle it if every writer was like Watts.

[C]ombines the the extensive scientific grounding we expect of the best Hard SF writers while also presenting complex and believable characters. ... This is an impressive book, with elements that should appeal to any serious SF reader as well as to fans of the myriad subgenres the book invokes and subverts.

—Dominick Grace, SFRA Review

 

Powered by puzzles, angry wit, and a first-person narrator ... a gripping novel. Blindsight is classic science fiction.

—Carol Franko, SFRA Review

 

What Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" did for computer technology, "Blindsight" does for neuroscience and exobiology.

—Kathy Ward, The Juneau Empire

 

The contact is thoroughly developed and richly detailed, the mystery intelligently constructed, and the train of developments that follows will appeal to those who found a novel like Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama short on visceral thrills. Watts's characters, moreover, are more than cardboard figures existing just to discuss the big New Development; their personalities, extending to the details of their altered bodies and mind are not just part of the background, but affect the drama.

—Nader Elhefnawy, Strange Horizons

 

Pull Quotes for Beyond the Rift

Pro Con

...13 disquieting tales of science fiction, constructing worlds of alienation and horrific transformation from the building blocks of cutting-edge science. ... Though some readers will struggle to read more than a few stories at a time, there can be no denying Watts's skills as a writer.

Publisher's Weekly

Holding himself to a higher standard of storytelling, Watts uses the effects of mainstream sci-fi (a la Alastair Reynolds, John Scalzi, Richard Morgan, Charles Stross, Neal Asher, etc.), yet continually aims at something deeper in humanity and society's soul; William Gibson, Brian Aldiss, Iain Banks, John Brunner, Ted Chiang, and to some degree Greg Egan, are more his contemporaries.

Speculiction

... a sharp and incisive stylist with a rather tragic, if clear-eyed, view of human nature, and the capacity for some remarkable hard-SF inventions. ... His grimmest stories celebrate at least the possibility of survival, while his lightest ones touch upon things like the Holocaust and faith-based reality-denial. There are plenty of boneheads in his fiction, but hey, we're not all boneheads all the time. Can't get much more cheerful than that.

Locus

Watts has a clean, engaging prose style, a knack for narrative structure, and the ability to include solid, hard SF worldbuilding without toploading his stories with a lot of impenetrable jargon. ... a well-written, thematically cogent anthology ... excellent concepts, execution, and structure.

Strange Horizons

Beyond the Rift presents a disconcertingly othering view of women. ... consistent alienation and stereotyping of female characters...

Peter Watts is in the thick of a discussion that places him in the front ranks of hardcore science fiction writers, and the artistry with which he depicts his misplaced characters is a convincing argument that such a place is exactly where Peter Watts deserves to be.

The SF Site

Watts ranges from huge-scale ideas ("The Island," with a living membrane surrounding a star) to the immediate (what if airport scanners grew sophisticated enough to detect even potential criminals, in "The Eyes of God")? He asks the questions that the best science fiction writers ask, but that the rest of us may be afraid to answer.

Chicago Tribune

A new book from crazy genius Watts is always cause for celebration— and this collection of short stories brings together some of his greatest work ... Known for his pitch-black views on human nature, and a breathtaking ability to explore the weird side of evolution and animal behavior, Watts is one of those writers who gets into your brain and remains lodged there like an angry, sentient tumor.

io9

Peter Watts is a biologist by training and a visionary by inclination. His novels are hard-edged yet coolly psychedelic extrapolations of our gene-modded future. Possessing the stern moral acuity of James Tiptree, he also exhibits the intellectual zest of Arthur C. Clarke. His killer opening sentences are rabbit holes to strange futures.

—Paul Di Fillipo

"From the award-winning author of the Rifters trilogy (Starfish; Maelstrom; Behemoth) comes a collection that demonstrates Watts's skill with short fiction. ... a good choice for fans of the author or those who appreciate a good sf short story."

Library Journal

A strong collection of short fiction that shows the author's versatility and range at shorter lengths. ... For me, what Greg Egan is to Science Fiction from a Physics point of view, and Rajaniemi is to Science Fiction from a Mathematical point of view, Watts comes to and enriches Science Fiction from a Biology, especially a Marine Biology, point of view.

SF Signal

His writing may not be for everyone; dialogue and characterization firmly take a back seat to rigorous speculation and working out of premises and ideas.

[Watts is] an author who isn't afraid to stare off into the bleakness of space and ponder our own insignificance, but one who also isn't afraid to look inward and question the very core of what makes us human. ... Beyond the Rift is deep, daring, and deliberately thoughtful. It's not a collection to be breezed through in a few sittings, but one which demands we pause after each story to let it settle, and to see what our imagination can make of it. It is definitely hard in the sense of where it falls in the genre spectrum, but easier reading than most tales claiming to share that same space.

Beauty in Ruins

This collection, consisting of a baker's dozen short stories and an essay, is one of the best (and in many ways darkest) I've read in quite a while. ... [Watts is] able to get into the heads of his characters in a way few other authors can. His protagonists are sympathetic even when they're extremely flawed and not always pleasant people.

Futures Past and Present

Pull Quotes for Starfish

Pro Con

" ...the dark universe of the sea bottom and rich characterization captivate to the last page.  Watts makes a brilliant debut with a novel that is part undersea adventure, part psychological thriller, and wholly original."

Booklist (starred review)

"A powerful first novel ...A savage, bitter, and often blackly comic vision of the near future ... Watts has rendered a character whose emotional complexity demands our respect.  ... [The ending] is both startling and oddly satisfying in its earned nihilism.  A terrific debut from an author we will be seeing again."

The Edmonton Journal

 

"No one has taken this premise to such pitiless lengths — and depths — as Watts ... In a claustrophobic setting enlivened by periodic flashes of beauty and terror, the crew of Beebe Station come across as not only believable but likeable as they fight for equilibrium against their own demons, one another, their superiors and their remorselessly hostile surroundings."

The New York Times (Notable Book of the Year)

"A dark jewel of a book.  [Watts] undersea environment is sensual and realistically detailed.  His speculations about several aspects of cutting-edge science are worthy of Gregory Benford and Joan Slonczewski ...[the] prose is muscular and poetic.  A somber and disturbing story."

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"An excellent first novel ...a stylishly-written and entirely successful melange of hard science and character- centered story ...The sort of novel that in more innocent days people would have said is what good science fiction is centrally about.

—Norman Spinrad, Asimov's

"Fizzing with ideas, and glued together with dark psychological tension: an exciting debut."

Kirkus Reviews

"—poor organization, drifting points of view, an inconsistently-applied, tough-to-read present-tense narrative ..."

Kirkus Reviews (again)

"Watts' first novel elegantly captures the isolation and claustrophobia of the lightless ocean depths, smoothly blending psychological suspense with high-tech sf adventure."

Library Journal

"A tense tale of deep-sea exploration ... A potent first novel."

Locus (New & Notable)

"Watts has created a beautiful yet dangerous world for us to explore.  The story is compelling, rich with character and nuance, and delicately flavoured with a little danger.  For anyone tired of the usual space opera or elf-ridden fantasy tale, Starfish is a delightful breath of ...seawater."

The St. John's Telegram

"Peter Watts delivers—solid, inventive hard sf about the deep sea, but as we've never seen before. This moves like the wind."

—Gregory Benford

"Once in a while that rare gem comes along amidst the ranks of SF writers who can integrate science, story and character. Peter Watts is one such writer. Starfish is an example of science fiction at its best: great science, great story, and, ultimately, profound humanity."

Outer Rim

"Watts' true enemy is human stupidity, the sort of thing that turns children into walking disaster zones, treats adults as interchangeable things, insists that unchecked fertility is a Good Thing, and blindly trusts that our artificially intelligent creations must share our priorities.  As Watts develops that point, he tells an absorbing tale set in a bizarre world and hinging upon intriguing technology.  He's done his homework well, and it shows."

Analog

"The book's single greatest flaw is surely its last few paragraphs, so madly desparate that they damage the suspension of disbelief at the very last possible moment."

Analog (again)

"[P]lenty of satisfying incidents, developments, couplings, and luminous descriptions of life in that ghostly, light-amplified world ...Watts writes confidently and well.  A highly interesting and thoroughly-researched debut novel."

—David Langford, The New York Review of Science Fiction

"The story drives like a futuristic locomotive. It's a hypnotic read, somber and compelling. Best thing I've read in a long time. Peter Watts is an author to watch for."

—Robert Sheckley

"The speculative spin on a locked-room mystery would be enough to make it readable, but its setting gets it singing.  Watts creates a meticulously solid environment into which he shanghais his dysfunctional heroes ... a satisfying, complex first outing."

The Georgia Straight (Choice of the Week)

"A strong debut, featuring several powerfully-drawn characters, with a nicely sketched background of culture and technology ... Perhaps most unusual, especially for a first novel, is the author's ability (guts?) to end the book with several questions unresolved, leaving readers to put the pieces together and answer some nasty questions on their own."

—Duane Wilkins, Talebones

" ...a gritty deep-sea tale ... a restrained yet chilling subplot ... Watts's evocation of the nightmarish claustrophobia of Beebe Station is good, and he writes well and with authority about the weird beauty of the vents and their strange inhabitants. He's clearly in for the long haul."

—Paul J. McAuley, Interzone

" ... suffers from a clumsy episodic structure which doesn't quite knit together ... a relentless melodramatic pitch, and far too much synthetic angst — its characters find it hard to get through a door without suffering a nervous breakdown. 

—Paul J. McAuley, Interzone (again)

"In Starfish, Watts creates in his protagonist a poetry of dysfunction which is angry and eerily redemptive, and which makes compelling, almost compulsive reading."

—Candas Jane Dorsey

 

" ...a hard-nosed dystopian page-turner ...a sleek and stylish sci-fi début; rife with grave ecological warnings, Watts' novel is also ripe with promise for this Toronto biologist-turned- novelist."

Indigo

 

"A high-quality first SF novel ... an impressive array of state-of-the-art scientific ideas ...Watts feels a lot like [Brian] Stableford in his deep knowledge of biology and his realistic, rather cynical characters operating amidst complex scientific bureaucracies."

Internet BookInfo

 

" ...a very impressive book, highly original in its setting and unusually ingenious in the careful combination of information from several different scientific fields."

—Brian Stableford

 

"Watts's magical descriptions ... enchant the reader.  In Starfish, Watts stretches the boundaries of humanity up, down, and sideways to see whether its dimensions reveal anything we'd be proud to be a part of."

Amazon

 

"Watts is certainly a writer with talent— his prose is crisp and efficient, he introduces us to a compelling variety of misfit characters in his opening chapters, and his idea of a world-threatening biohazard is both original and convincing ...Lenie Clarke in particular is a fascinating and multileveled invention. Watts does his homework and thinks things through ... a fine craftsman."

—Gary Wolfe, Locus

" ...at times [Watts] seems so fascinated with his own setting and characters that he forgets, until almost too late, to set them in motion ...the one thing I'm not convinced of is that he yet has a firm grasp on the difference between a dramatic situation and a story"

—Gary Wolfe, Locus

"With gritty action and realistic science, Peter Watts brings to life a dark and vivid world."

—David Brin

"The story is murky and claustrophic, well-imagined and well-realized.  I'll give you just a little hint about one of the scariest elements in anything I've read this month: Not all recovered memories are real."

The San Diego Union-Tribune

 

" ...well-orchestrated paranoia that recalls the classic SF tale Who Goes There? ...the underwater setting and the technology function as characters in their own right, and quite vigorously. The novel's pacing is excellent, making this, overall, a good bet."

Publisher's Weekly

"An interesting, entertaining, and most of all, promising debut novel" div

Science Fiction Chronicle

"A pleasing combination of hard-sf and solid story-telling ... [Lenie Clarke's] development from utterly passive victim into the de-facto leader of the rifters is well handled and intriguing"

—AM Dellamonica, Science Fiction Weekly

"Integrating the deeply self-focused milieu of the rifters with a melodramatic save-the-world storyline, [Watts] bleeds off much of the novel's power ... There is considerably less impact in watching them play out the endgame once the seabed's mystery has been clarified."

—AM Dellamonica, Science Fiction Weekly

"You'll be spitting grit out from between your teeth after this one.  It's dark.  It's dirty.  It's oppressive.  It's a helluva first novel."

—Neil Walsh, The SF Site

"Science fiction, as a genre, is obliged to consistently reinvent itself or lose freshness.  One of the many virtues of Starfish is that Peter Watts has succeeded in making the deep-sea setting all his own.  Read Starfish by all means, but don't expect Captain Nemo.  Expect Peter Watts.  Watts is more interesting."

—Robert Charles Wilson

"A character-driven thriller, incorporating along the way a number of disturbing speculations derived from current real-life scientific developments ...Peter Watts has combined his scientific expertise with a gift for sublime storytelling."

—Indigo.ca's Pick of the Crop, Fall 1999

 

"Compelling and excellently written, evoking an almost palpable sense of dread."

—Bill White, Voice of Youth Advocates

 

"A harsh, intelligent look at a future of real physics, real biology, and sadly real governmental bureaucracies."

—David A. Drake

"A good job, but I didn't like it at all."

—David A. Drake

...a wonderfully complex, emotionally charged read. Watts has mixed hard science, soft science, and that wondrous alchemy which talented writers possess, to produce an SF novel that reads like a thriller. Good hard SF, a little horror, and a bit of mystery, all in one book—now that's a rarity.

—J.G. Stinson, Strange Horizons

The unpleasant world that Watts is constructing is certainly a world worth visiting, if you're not prone to depression upon reading well-rendered dystopian visions. ... Starfish is quite something. Every detail is front-loaded with a suggestive background. Every dark space hides another, larger space with more details.

—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

Pull Quotes for Maelstrom

Pro Con

Watts has grown into a powerful sf voice in the space of only two books. [Maelstrom] comes with a vastly more complex setting than its predecessor ... the increase in dramatic effect is exponential. With its worst-case-scenario setting and thoroughly compelling characters, Maelstrom delivers on all the promises hard SF has ever thought to make, bundling future science and a suspenseful story into a single thrilling package.

—Alyx Dellamonica, Locus

 

Watts has expanded his focus without diminishing the obsessive drive of his plotting or his prose. [His] vision of the near future offers scant reason for hope. What makes his novel exhilarating instead of depressing is the conviction and control he brings to his material -- I have no hesitation in recommending both books to readers interested in up-to-date science fiction with a seriously paranoid edge.

The New York Times

 

Watts moves from the relentless pressure of Starfish to the frantic speed of chaos in action, never losing the tight focus on his fascinating characters in this excellent sequel to his debut novel.

Booklist (starred review)

 

Watts's hard-boiled prose screams along, nothing to step it down ...Lifting Maelstrom beyond cyber-conspiracy are Watts's convincing writing, his killer pacing, and the delicate secondary themes: is free will more than a chemical chimera, a dosable network routing impulses through the meat of the brain? Do the needs of some theoretical all have to trump the rights of the visible individual? What is the cost of mortals playing God? All this, plus a twist—Watts invents false-memory syndrome volume 2.0 (shades of Philip K. Dick)—that turns Starfish inside out: this is speculative fiction of maximum wattage.

—John Burns, The Georgia Straight

 

Maelstrom brilliantly and grippingly transcends its parts ...this is, to say the least, a vision at the opposite pole from much hard-sf. But the darkness of his vision shouldn't put readers off seeing Watts's future. It's one you cannot take your eyes off.

—Graham Sleight, The New York Review of Science Fiction

On first reading, some of the characters can seem undifferentiated ... Maelstrom flickers between its storylines too often for comfort. (Comfort, of course, is the last thing that Watts wants to give his readers.)

—Graham Sleight, The New York Review of Science Fiction

[Peter Watts] is a hard science fiction writer through and through—and one of the very best alive, a peer of writers such as Neil Stephenson, Allen Steele, and the Three Gregs, Benford, Bear and Egan. Hard sf writers rarely create characters as complex and appealing—or as ethically tortured—as the ones who tumble tragically through Mr. Watts's Maelstrom.

—Spider Robinson, The Globe and Mail

 

Maelstrom ultimately remains a novel about humanity and how humanity behaves in extreme circumstances. Both as a sequel to Starfish and as a novel on its own, Maelstrom is a gripping read.

Outer Rim

 

Author Peter Watts has created a compelling and convincingly dark view of the future. Extrapolating today's headlines into the near future, Watts' vision rings frighteningly authentic ...Fans of dystopic science fiction will find Maelstrom a hotbed of ideas, concerns, and partially explored moral consequences. Love it or hate it, Maelstrom is a fascinating and powerful novel.

Booksforabuck.com

Maelstrom is an issues novel and suffers from one of the problems endemic to this kind of book--its characters lack full development and are difficult to identify with. Watts tries to overcome this by giving deep-sea survivor Lenie Clark a truly interesting background, yet he is only partially successful in this attempt.

Booksforabuck.com

[Watts'] fiction exhibits a wonderful Darwinian adaptability. Internalizing the lessons and modes taught by cyberpunk and fusing them with the Bear/Benford pedigree of hard SF, Watts has bred a robust, streamlined, snarling kind of science fiction which achieves both a sharp-edged verisimilitude and visionary exuberance ... these two novels are state-of-the art SF. And best of all, Maelstrom does not merely repeat the successes of Starfish but extends them into new territory, thus giving hope that Watts is no mere one-hit wonder.

It's now officially a cliché to label anyone "the new Heinlein," so I won't do so here. But I will say that this is a novel Heinlein would have endorsed.

—Paul Di Filippo, Science Fiction Weekly

I admire dark novels, and this is about as dark as they come -- from the trashed and crisis-wracked landscape of 22nd century North America, to the vast corporations that engineer people as routinely as equipment ...Bleak as this vision is, it's balanced by the spare vividness of Watts' prose, the fascination of his speculations, and the subtlety of his characters ... Especially compelling is the treatment of Lenie's semi-mythic metamorphosis from survivor to Meltdown Madonna ...The epilogue, evoking the great destruction and stubborn love of which human beings are simultaneously capable, is perfect.

—Victoria Strauss, The SF Site

The ending, where too many things seem to happen too quickly and some threads are dropped, is the weakest part of the book.

—Victoria Strauss, The SF Site

Watts displays a gleefully macabre inventiveness combined with scientific rigour. With its chaotically alive portrayal of the World Wide Web and its disturbing ruminations on the uses of conscience, Maelstrom is a dark, sardonic, and uncompromisingly moral book. I strongly disagreed with many of its despairing, deterministic conclusions about human behaviour and motivations, but for the duration of this excellently-wrought fictional argument, I found myself willing to grant Watts his premises so that I could keep turning the pages.

—Nalo Hopkinson, Quill & Quire

Peter Watts has seen the future, and if it's not murder, it's the next closest thing—[He] examines nearly every single one of our current nightmares, and extrapolates past them. Watts shows us a frightening world, most terrifying because of its plausibility. As a whole, Maelstrom certainly equals the general atmosphere of doom and despair and events out of control of [John Brunner's] The Sheep Look Up, and the scientific basis for Watts' statements are up-to-the-minute and well documented. Can a book change the world? After having read Maelstrom, I can only hope so.

Crystalline Sphere

Dramatically, Maelstrom has less going for it than thematically. One of the main plot twists is essentially a latecoming reverberation to the central perfidy of Starfish, depending on Starfish for emotional depth.

Crystalline Sphere

An eerie journey of revenge and salvation. This sequel to Starfish depicts a dystopic near-future, where cyberspace and real space interact and unique life forms emerge from the depths of the ocean to claim their place in the world. A good choice for most sf collections.

—kinda faint praise from Library Journal

This sequel to Canadian Watts's well-received debut novel, Starfish, delivers more of the same exciting hard SF adventure and imaginative plot. . .Watts has a deft touch with the complex storyline, full of unique characters, both human and non-human, trapped in an all-too-possible future.

Publisher's Weekly

The premise is interesting, the humour dark ...unexpected plot twists and an ending that is complete in itself, while, naturally, leaving the door open for a third in the series.

Edmonton Journal

The wise reader will read Starfish before picking up Maelstrom. Watts is most unhelpful in getting us up to speed about what went before as the book opens, leaving us piecing plot and characters together and puzzling out the techno-speak and science jargon sprinkled throughout the pages.

Edmonton Journal

Watts paints a bleak future world collapsing under the domino wave of the unforeseen consequences of technology. A fascinating book based on hard science and issues.

Netsurfer Robotics

...I'm not about to give away the plot, but I will say that Watts confirms my 1999 statement that the enemy of humanity is humanity's own shortsighted stupidity and greed, the sort of thing that turns children into walking disaster zones, treats adults as interchangeable things, insists that unchecked fertility is a Good Thing, and values billions of dollars above billions of lives. The ending may strike you as too pat, but you'll enjoy getting there.

Analog, recycled

A sequel of considerable merit. [Maelstrom] becomes something quite different from Starfish, and quite fascinating as well ... A unique version of cyberspace rendered beautifully with literary skill and a technological sophistication admirably verging on mystical speculation ... an excellent and, on balance, quite literarily-successful science fiction novel.

—Norman Spinrad, Asimov's

Tying the two books together has necessitated weighing down virtually the first third of what could have just as well been a free-standing novel with a detailed recapitulation of the events of Starfish .... would have been a good deal better if it had been conceived to stand on its own.

—Norman Spinrad, Asimov's

Pull Quotes for βehemoth

"Con" quotes rendered in orange relate to book-splitting marketing decisions which Ain't My Fault!
Pro Con

βehemoth ... is the most gripping and the most thought-out [book that Watts has yet written] ... Like Greg Egan's "Reasons to be Cheerful", Watts is arguing for an entirely different way of understanding and presenting character, one that reconfigures both how personality is constructed and how actions are to be understood. This seems to me a unique and particularly science-fictional contribution ... For all Watts's dark humor, and for all the incidental thrills of his future, βehemoth caps a series which is one of the two or three most challenging works I've read in the last decade.

—Graham Sleight, The NY Review of Science Fiction

 

A taut thriller fueled by cutting-edge scientific speculation, whose fast-moving plot doesn't neglect the subtleties of character. Watts presents a world that is recognizably our own, yet as alien as a distant planet: the microbe-ravaged mainland ... and an intensely atmospheric evocation of the claustrophobic ocean depths ... It's a profoundly dystopian vision, plumbing the blackest depths of the human psyche and the ultimate extremities of environmental disaster ... [an] acute examination of the meaning of moral responsibility, when conscience is a product of altered brain chemistry. This is the most memorable SF I've read so far this year — absorbing, thought-provoking, and above all intelligent. It's a terrific conclusion to a notable series.

—Victoria Strauss, The SF Site

 

As a great admirer of Watts's uncompromising fictional vision, I'm happy to report that the wait for the conclusion of the trilogy was well worth it. ... [A preceding] bare-bones synopsis cannot convey the complex moral calculus that Watts embodies in his ambitious tale of conscience deferred. Everyone involved in the harrowing denouement is both wounded and culpable. And, very much to the point, even readers may feel complicit when they find themselves sympathizing with characters who have been responsible for as many as a billion deaths.

—Gerald Jonas, The New York Times

 

Intense, beautifully written conclusion to [Watts'] Rifters trilogy ... Like some adrenaline-charged fusion of Clarke's The Deep Range and Gibson's Neuromancer, Watt's trilogy represents a major addition to early 21st-century hard SF.

Publisher's Weekly (Seppuku—Starred Review)

 

The writing is compelling, jittery, full of dark irony.  One of the novel's most fascinating aspects is its extremely inhospitable setting ... Readers will also find themselves gripped by the flawed and ferocious characters shaped by a social situation bleaker than anything outside John Shirley's early novels.  They're uncomfortably believable ...

Publisher's Weekly (β-Max)

 

Watts's thorough research renders the details vivid and telling, and he shows significant signs of developing into a true stylist.

The basis for what plot there is comes down to sexual torture, whose scenes, presented unsparingly, many readers will find utterly repellent. ... Watts has to decide whether to write SF or horrific porn.

Kirkus (on Seppuku)

Watts has set up another highly provocative thriller plot ... He's got a profoundly black sense of humour about the apocalypse he has constructed ... and writes with passion and wit. His characterization is subtle and sharp: while the central figures are deeply disturbed, riven by black anger, loss, guilt or the lack of it, they challenge preconceptions and gain a reader's trust, even concern.

Edmonton Journal (on β-Max)

It's too bad Watts's publisher felt it had to split his final volume in two, as [β-Max] ends on a cliff-hanger ...

Much violence follows, as it must in the world Watts has constructed for his dark future ... Watts is not only a top hard-SF writer, whose scientific speculations are cutting edge, he can create truly interesting, if also truly disturbing, characters. Few writers can mix the felt realities of contemporary science with such a truly frightening view of where it might take us.

Edmonton Journal (on Seppuku)

 

Watts tells his story with hard-hitting prose and fast-paced action scenes that should appeal to fans of hard sf and sf thrillers.

Library Journal (on β-Max)
(Although I can't shake the feeling that there's an insult in there somewhere)

Memorable characters and action-packed scenes of high drama and taut suspense make this a good choice for sf collections.

Library Journal (on Seppuku)

 

Fast-paced and dramatic, promising revelations in a satisfactory (one hopes) conclusion.

Booklist (on β-Max)

A cliff-hanger of the worst sort, leaving almost every end loose ... another volume will conclude the story ...

There is hope for the world, after all. βehemoth: Seppuku lives up to the promise of βehemoth: β-Max.

Booklist (on Seppuku)

 

A deathly-dark near future ... [a] gorgeously grim series.

San Diego Union-Tribune (on β-Max)

Dark and scary ... the series comes at last to a notion-rich resolution. "Behemoth: Seppuku" ... wraps up a lot of complicated and inventive material pretty neatly.

At half a year between sections ... it's difficult to keep every plot thread straight. ... [Seppuku] would be a difficult stand-alone novel.

San Diego Union-Tribune (on Seppuku)

Peter Watts continues to do a number of things brilliantly ... [he] succeeds beautifully in conveying his milieu.  This is a very visual book ... some genius of the screen would have a heyday with such scenes as Lenie battling hypertrophied sea monsters or cracking open her chest to reprogram her somatic parameters. The claustrophobia, the constricted life-support modules and the eerie, deadly, mysterious beauty of the seabed are conveyed in finely tuned, poetic prose.  [Lenie Clarke's] painful mental adjustments are palpable.  Subsidiary characters ... come across vividly.  And Watts remains a master of tight, intricate action scenes, staging battles and rescues and explorations like a choreographer.

There's no sense of new frontiers being opened up, just one of old threads exfoliating. Although Atlantis is beautifully evoked, it's still basically a single stage set ...[and] the Machiavellian doings by both the rifters and the corpses are just too ultra-convoluted and drawn out.

—Paul Di Filippo, Science Fiction Weekly (on β-Max)

Watts's writing is just as intricate and involving as ever ...Taken together, the three books represent a sustained assault on the status quo, within science fiction and without, that's hard to read without being affected. It's all very uncomfortable, but it puts the Rifters Trilogy squarely in a noble tradition within science fiction. Authors such as Orwell, Brunner, and Watts have all told us: Avoid this future at all costs, you bloody fools! It's a message worth repeating until it's heeded.

—James Schellenberg, Challenging Destiny

 

Peter Watts is one of the foremost contemporary science fiction writers, a skilled craftsman with a visionary imagination firmly rooted in hard science. ... Behemoth is far superior to the bulk of contemporary science fiction writing, deftly balancing elements of thriller and military writing with post-apocalyptic visions and a fully realized world terrifyingly near our own. The trilogy is a must-read for even a passing science fiction fan.

While it's hard to pass judgement on what is really only half of a novel ... There is an air of perfunctoriness to the storytelling, with a superficiality of characterization and rushed pace at odds with the slowly mounting paranoia of Starfish and the carefully modulated developments of Maelstrom.

Quill & Quire (on β-Max)

Watts has this Apocalypse thing down, readers. He's got the chaos and the details, the horror and the wonder, the science and the fiction, all the components of the end of the world, not as we know it, but as we feel it. Maybe that's not a feeling you want to experience twenty-four-seven. But the old two-four-seven sure won't seem the same after you read this book, that's for effing sure.

—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

 

Although Watts is a skillful storyteller ...

...you might want to wait until you have both halves in hand because the sense of incompleteness left me feeling unusually unsatisfied.

—Don D'Amassa, Chronicle (on β-Max)

Will civilization crumble? Will Achilles Desjardins, with his own dark twists, hold things together? Will Lenie Clarke save her world, and perhaps the larger one as well? I think it safe to say that readers will be satisfied.

—Tom Easton, Analog (on β-Max)

Peter Watts sure knows how to write ...the real drama is interior: both the corpses and their wardens, black-clad psychopaths implanted with enough machinery to let them live a thousand metres underwater, are interested in guilt, and just what humanity is capable of without it. βehemoth: β-Max is a moody meditation enlivened with sporadic violence ...

...but it lacks the obsessive tech talk and doomsday drama of its predecessors. ... There's a reason porn films never stop to ask the principals How did it feel for you? Do we really want to know?

—John Burns, The Georgia Straight (on β-Max)

That [βehemoth: Seppuku] mostly overcomes the handicap of its sundering is a testament to the storytelling ability and imagination of Peter Watts. [He] blows things up with panache ... Readers who have stuck with Clarke through three books will find much to enjoy. Lubin really comes into his own here.

While by no means shallow, it lacks the depth and sense of outrageous surprise that characterized its predecessors ... The psychological intensity and acuity of earlier volumes slackens accordingly, with the notable exception of Lubin ... Some readers will be disturbed by the clinical attention paid to Desjardins' exploits as a sexual predator; Watts probably crosses [the line]. Some of these flaws would have been less visible had the book been published as the author intended; Seppuku [is] really just the climax of something much longer, as though the last 20 pages of a novel were published separately as a short story.

—Paul Witcover, Science Fiction Weekly (on Seppuku)

Though I did not read the prior books, I was able to catch up, was quickly engrossed in the action, and am anxious to read everything this author has written ...Peter Watts writes excellent underwater SF. I highly recommend βehemoth Book One (and can't wait for Book Two).

—Hilary Williamson, Bookloons (on β-Max)

Don't miss this series. I enjoyed both volumes of βehemoth very much and look forward to whatever Peter Watts chooses to write next.

—Hilary Williamson, Bookloons (on Seppuku)

 

Watts's primary talent is his skill at projecting paranoia and unease. His characters infect the reader with psyches as twisted as much as their bodies have been modified. There's nothing pleasant or rollicking about this book, but—as with Watts' earlier works—that cold darkness somehow manages to evolve into something fascinating.

Starlog (on Seppuku)

 

The future that Watts has crafted is deep and well-fleshed ... The digital monsters that prowl what was once the Internet are a delightful touch, adding a face of sub-sentient malice to the enemies that besiege the surviving North American enclaves ... There's also a great appendix in which the author discusses which of his Sfnal conceits are already real, which are entirely made up and which have become more feasible since he finished the novel. It's fascinating stuff and made all the more readable because Watts has a caustic and highly cynical wit. 'Behemoth: B-Max' and 'Behemoth: Seppuku' are enthralling reads and although the decision to publish the two volumes separately is a regrettable one, they both come highly recommended. This is contemporary SF at its best.

—Shaun Green, SF Crowsnest

 

Well-written, high-powered science fiction, with fascinating, if not always appealling characters, and a wide range of interesting technological extrapolations. ... the underwater scenes are particularly well done. This is the real stuff.

—Michael Levy, SFRA Review (on β-Max)