Sunday, January 11, 2009

Maelstrom-Peter Watts

Peter Watts
Tor, Jan 6 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765320537

Although the deaths were expected to reach millions, the nuclear strike on the Pacific Ocean floor geothermal power plant Channer Vent was rationalized as the only way to save the surface population from the ancient microbe that threatened the planet (see STARFISH). The surface dwellers destroyed the vent, but as predicted the earthquake led to a tsunami that killed millions on the coasts and left parts of continents like west coast America underwater. Still world leaders insist the collateral damage was worth the cost as the microbe could have made life on the planet extinct and so are the infected crew and any sea life near the drop zone.

However, there is one problem that surfaces beyond the devastation. The Channer Vent supervisor, rifter Lenie Clark, survived the nuke and though her eyes are gone, she seeks vengeance on those who tried to bury her. Part human and part machine Lenie understands collateral damage and like world leaders does not care as her mission starts with killing her abusive father. The cyberspace MAELSTROM notices her advancement as does peacekeepers; both trying to reach her, but she keeps moving forward driven by her quest. However, what neither detects nor does her sudden human following is that she has brought something with her from the sea.

Although much less a cautionary tale than its superb predecessor STARFISH, the second Rifters tale is much faster and filled with more action. The story line grips the audience from the onset with the amount of collateral damage and destruction, but tightens the hold when Lenie walks out from the sea like a monstrous version of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder from Dr. No. From there the action never slows, as the definition of collateral damage has been globalized.

Harriet Klausner

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