• Starfish

  • Rifters Trilogy Series, Book 1
  • By: Peter Watts
  • Narrated by: Gabriel Vaughan
  • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (178 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A huge international corporation has developed a facility along the Juan de Fuca Ridge at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to exploit geothermal power. They send a bio-engineered crew - people who have been altered to withstand the pressure and breathe the seawater - down to live and work in this weird, fertile undersea darkness.  

Unfortunately, the only people suitable for longterm employment in these experimental power stations are crazy, some of them in unpleasant ways. How many of them can survive, or will be allowed to survive, while worldwide disaster approaches from below?

©1999 Peter Watts (P)2019 Tantor

What listeners say about Starfish

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

An excellent story, but only half of it

EDIT: Despite being listed, Audible does not actually have the audio version of the next two books in the series. I also can't find them anywhere else. So given that Starfish isn't a complete story on its own, I can't really recommend it unless you have the time to switch to the text versions of the next two books in the series. (Get the audio version of Watts' book Blindsight instead. Its great.) The text versions of all of these books are available for free on the authors website.

This is an excellent SF story with novel ideas. It takes it's time, but doesn't seem slow. Which makes it feel all the worse when the audible sign off plays right after what feels like the end of the story's second act. Starfish is just the first part of a finished trilogy, and it has convinced me to get the next book in the series, so I guess that's a recommendation. Although if you are not generally intrigued by the premise, or aren't hooked after a few chapters then you might be better off dropping the book. It is unlikely to win you over further into the story.

The narrator is fantastic though. He may seem monotone at first but somehow that serves to almost hypnotically draw you in, only to realize he is actually very expressive, just in subtle ways. More than once I forgot I was listening to an audiobook just felt like I was daydreaming the story.

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Book Cover is a Lie; This is Amazing

As always, Peter Watts leaves me battered and bruised with my brain standing on the edge of some cliff to how everything could end around me at any moment.

As usual, the author has a very cold and uncaring way of telling a story. If you're getting into this book, just assume there's a trigger warning for literally everything. So far, his books often focus on a team of neurodivergents and the trauma that brought them to their current state, right before explaining another way all life as we know it can easily end using realistic concepts and science. The theme is "Normies not allowed and life is excruciating".

The narrator, meanwhile, is perfectly mediocre. He has enough stamina to narrate the whole book for recording without sounding tired, but he has maybe 3 voices he can do for different characters, so of there's 4+ characters in a scene, then you need to really buckle down and catch any and all context that comes your way.

Additionally, some characters have written screams for dialogue, and the narrator represents this with a soft pronunciation of "aaaaaah" at a quiet speaking level. The other narrators I've heard so far would actually back up from the mic and give it their all. I feel like the narrator has a lot more potential that he can work on, because he absolutely shows that he has the endurance and the skills to continue growing. Maybe he's exceptional later in his career.

Now, for the book cover. It's a lie.

The ocean is the primary setting for this, and Peter Watts realistically depicts it as black and murky with no visibility at all. The book cover, conversely, takes a more Subnautica approach. Additionally, intelligent machines are a main idea in the story, but they apparently look like cubes of gel, but the book cover has an android for some reason. I understand that cover artists don't always have all the context, and many in this genre are fashioned from stock images, but let's be clear: This book is not shiny, and it's not wondrous. It is darker than night, it is cold, and it leaves you a little shaken sometimes. It is art designed to challenge certain readers.

Overall, absolutely fantastically-done, and I am reminded again why some people can't read too many Peter Watts books in a row.

8 people found this helpful

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The Greatest SF Writer in the World

Bordering on nihilistically Grim, unexpectedly amusing, brilliantly insightful, narrative control deft as a concert pianist, original use of old SF tropes, scientifically and culturally literate...and one monster storyteller...all told, Peter Watts is the world’s best SF writer.

4 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Story. Where’s the Rest?!?!

Audible,
Please get it together and release the next two books in this series, they should’ve been available 2 years ago. This is an amazing story and I’d really like to spend more money and finish it. Make it happen!

3 people found this helpful

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amazing book, glad it's available now

while the narrator doesn't capture what I expect of Clarke specifically, I'm so happy to have this book available as an audio book I'm more than happy to have expectations challenged. great scifi,amazing book. This one would be hard for any narrator who hasn't read and absorbed the whole thing from the start.

2 people found this helpful

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social misfits at crush depth

I'd like to give this book a good review, but the fact is that I did not enjoy this listen. Way too much of the book is dreadful interplay between unlikable characters. There is almost imperceptible development of the plot during this first two-thirds of the book, leaving me at every minute wondering when the plot was going to engage. It does so near the end, but too late for me to consider following this series further; I suspect the next book will follow a similar pattern.

The narration added nothing to this book and perhaps took away from it.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Watts is phenomenal, great narration too!

Thoroughly enjoyable start to finish. watts is a master storyteller - no better biologically accurate sci fi

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic book, sequels not on Audible! :(

AUDIBLE GET THE SEQUELS RECORDED!! This is to good to not have the sequels here!

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Plot involves a Child Molester

Narrator sounds wooden as if reading from a script. I did not finish. In fact, I stopped listening as soon as I realized the plot involved a child molester. There should have been a warning about this as I would not have purchased this book if I had know it was about a child molester.

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What a ride…

As usual Watts delivers a winding tale that forces one way out of their comfort zone. In contrast to Blindsight the character development in Starfish, with its wonderful depth and at times distributing intimacy, would be my pick if I had to choose a stand out strength. Story arc, and pure originality being close second and third respectively. Looking forward to Echopraxia.

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