Review: Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts

November 15, 2013 4 stars, Book Review 11 ★★★★

Beyond the Rift

Combining complex science with skillfully executed prose, these edgy, award-winning tales explore the shifting border between the known and the alien. The beauty and peril of technology and the passion and penalties of conviction merge in narratives that are by turns dark, satiric, and introspective. Among these bold storylines: a seemingly humanized monster from John Carpenter’s The Thing reveals the true villains in an Antarctic showdown; an artificial intelligence shields a biologically enhanced prodigy from her overwhelmed parents; a deep-sea diver discovers her true nature lies not within the confines of her mission but in the depths of her psyche; a court psychologist analyzes a psychotic graduate student who has learned to reprogram reality itself; and a father tries to hold his broken family together in the wake of an ongoing assault by sentient rainstorms. Gorgeously saturnine and exceptionally powerful, these collected fictions are both intensely thought-provoking and impossible to forget.

​A wonderful collection of unique stories, Beyond the Rift had all the cogs in my brain whirring at full power. Watts has a very interesting writing style. I felt each story leads in with a rather disjointed feel that has you slowly piecing together things as you move through each page which then paints the final picture. These were stories that would definitely get a reader thinking.

THE THINGS
4/5
An alien entity came to earth goodness knows how long ago and was frozen…it’s just been thawed and is now jumping from human to human, and can morph its form as well as occupy more than one host at a time. It has a bit of a superiority complex but it was fascinating seeing things completely from this alien lifeform’s perspective.

THE ISLAND
4/5
A more confusing yet fascinating relationship between a mother and son you will be hard pressed to find. The writing style here just kind of flows from one sentence to another. With space, an A.I., a created human, a mother, that’s not a mother? You’ll just have to read to understand because I’m not entirely sure I understood it all. I have to admit it took me awhile to catch on, and even if I think some of it flew over my head I still enjoyed it by the end.​

THE SECOND COMING OF JASMINE FITZGERALD
5/5
A woman murders her husband and the psychiatrist assigned to her starts to wonder if she isn’t really crazy after all. She sees the world as a complex thing that can be manipulated…and it can be…can’t it? I enjoyed it immensely.

A WORD FOR HEATHENS (no rating)
The ravings of a religious zealot coupled with the church’s ability to make you “feel the presence of God” via technology. Because of that it makes this one a very interesting read. I liked the twist that we see here and it definitely was a good story but unfortunately I’m not a huge fan of religious extremity in my genre fiction so I’m not giving this one a rating.

HOME
5/5
The author seems to start off each story in the same disjointed style that slowly comes together over the first few pages. It’s like looking at one of those pictures your eyes can’t make any sense of until your brain catches up. Or vice versa. This one is one of those that I felt this style the strongest in. I don’t want to give anything away on this one, it was so out there…that you simply must experience it for yourself. But know that it takes place under the ocean.

THE EYES OF GOD
5/5
In the future technology has advanced so much so that advertisements can plant desires into your brain and security scanners at airports check your thoughts and change your personality so that you won’t do anything to harm others. While these changes aren’t permanent it raises an interesting question that explores the ethics/morality of such technology from the perspective of a man that has desires that he has never acted on. It brings forth an excellent question – one that is ages old, are you guilty of an act, even if you only entertain thoughts of it? One of the strongest of the collection in my opinion.

FLESH MADE WORD
4/5
A man is so consumed with finding out the last thoughts all people have when they die that he has spent the last 10 years in his lab studying and watching as people and animals die.

NIMBUS
4/5
In the future we find that the atmosphere and clouds, all the weather elements are alive. Are they old gods now waking to punish us for the havoc we have wreaked upon the earth and environment? Witness one man’s inner battle.

MAYFLY (WITH DERRYL MURPHY)
5/5
This was a rather twisted one, but so fascinating. In the future it is very difficult to have children. One couple agrees to have their child entered into a program to replace the brain she was missing at birth with an artificial intelligence. We see this child both in her body and yet in the matrix that she lives in when she is not within her flesh form. My first thoughts upon finishing?: Tripppppyyyyy!

AMBASSADOR
5/5
A man made A.I. is travelling the stars and makes first contact with an alien life form. But they certainly aren’t friendly and the A.I. is sent on a mad dash across the galaxy trying to escape.

HILLCREST V. VELIKOVSKY
3/5
A lawsuit brought against a museum for having on display something that explains the placebo effect. This feels like it has a religion vs science theme.

REPEATING THE PAST
3/5
A grandfather wants his grandson to truly understand the horrors of war and the pain and suffering that people went through. So he performs a procedure on him…

A NICHE
3/5
Deep under the ocean, two people are part of an experiment, they put on these strange skins and can go out into the ocean. I didn’t quite connect with the main character of this one, but the concept was intriguing since I have always found marine life fascinating.

OUTTRO: EN ROUTE TO DYSTOPIA WITH THE ANGRY OPTIMIST
This is an essay by the author to the readers. It seems a lot of readers over the years have said he writes really dark and brutal fiction. I really enjoyed reading this – I felt like it gave me a peak right inside his head. Definitely don’t skip this if you decide to pick up the book!

Beyond the Rift

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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11 Responses to “Review: Beyond the Rift by Peter Watts”

  1. nurmawati djuhawan

    sounds a interesting story…and i love reading about dystopia theme..
    thx 4 ur thoughts about this book 🙂

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Totally the wrong author there! This guy is so far from fantasy. Some of these were really deep reading. I feel like I need some fluffy unicorns and rainbows right about now. Very good stuff tho.

  2. Andrea J

    Such a good collection! If you get a chance, pick up Blindsight, by Peter Watts, it’s one of my all time favorite science fiction novels. I had similar thoughts as yours towards “A WORD FOR HEATHENS”, I just wasn’t at all sure how to respond to it. I absolutely loved THE THINGS, and MAYFLY, and AMBASSADOR.

    I really adore how Watts handles first contact stories. We all want aliens to be either friendly or benign, we think of course we’ll be able to understand them! yeah right.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      It was a really great collection indeed. I loved how different each one was! See that A WORD FOR HEATHENS…I did enjoy it but then I didn’t because I just hate religious fanaticism. It was fascinating though.

      I think my fav was THE EYES OF GOD because it just made you really think on some tuff issues.