Watts, Peter 1958–

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Watts, Peter 1958–

PERSONAL: Born 1958.

ADDRESSES: Home—Canada. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tor Books, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Novelist. Marine biologist for animal welfare movement, U.S. fishing industry, and Canadian government.

AWARDS, HONORS: Notable Book of the Year citation, New York Times, for Starfish.



Starfish, Tor (New York, NY), 1999.

Maelstrom, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

Behemoth: B-Max, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.

Behemoth: Seppuku, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.

Author of the collection Ten Monkeys, Ten Minutes, Tesseract Books (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 2000.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A literary novel about space vampires; Cuddly Vermin of the Sea, nonfiction.

SIDELIGHTS: As Peter Watts explained on his home page, he is a writer and a scientist, "ending up as a marginal hybrid of both." Watts spent ten years earning his degrees, and the next ten "trying to make a living on those qualifications without becoming a whore for special-interest groups." During the 1990s he advocated on behalf of marine mammals, then was paid "by the U.S. fishing industry to sell them out; and by the Canadian government to ignore them." His disillusionment with such a career prompted Watts's foray into fiction.

Watts's debut science-fiction novel, Starfish, is the first volume in his "Rifters" series. Rifters are emotionally damaged people selected to work in deep-sea geothermal power plants, and who are mentally modified to withstand the psychological pressure of becoming amphibious cyborg workers. Although modified, such workers are still threatened by bacterial creatures that use human hosts to carry them to dry land, where their advanced DNA can obliterate that of their human hosts. Watts's story is rendered in an atmosphere of paranoia and a world inhabited by phosphorescent sea creatures.

Booklist critic Roberta Johnson wrote that "Watts makes a brilliant debut with a novel that is part undersea adventure, part psychological thriller, and wholly original." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "the underwater setting and the technology employed there function as characters in their own right, and quite vigorously."

The sequel to Starfish, Maelstrom opens after a nuclear explosion in the power plants causes a massive tidal wave that kills millions of people in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Of the rifters who survive after being swept out to sea, one, Lenie Clarke, is intent on seeking revenge for the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. But in returning to her home on land, Lenie carries back the soil microbe called Behemoth, which could destroy life on Earth.

Johnson wrote that in Maelstrom Watts never loses "the tight focus on his fascinating characters." The author "has a deft touch with the complex storyline, full of unique characters, both human and non-human, trapped in an all-too-possible future" noted a Publishers Weekly contributor.

Behemoth: B-Max opens, five years have passed since Lenie emerged from the sea, and Behemoth is now destroying the world. On the sunless floor of the sea, the rifters and corporate executives, called corpses, take refuge in a colony they call Atlantis. They are flawed people who know they must cooperate with each other in order to survive. "They're uncomfortably believable, like us at our least generous moments," commented a Publishers Weekly writer who wrote that Watts's writing "is compelling, jittery, full of dark irony." When something begins to kill the rifters, rifter Grace Nolan, who suspects a conspiracy, goes after the corpses. Lenie tries to prevent an escalation of the subsequent retaliation, but she recognizes that Grace's suspicions may be valid. At some point Behemoth is altered and begins attacking in its new form.

In the last book of the series, Behemoth: Seppuku, Lenie and Ken Lubin return to land, where people continue to die because of the scarcity of vaccine. Behemoth is confined to North America, where quarantines are enforced by Watchers. Achilles Desjardins is a psychopath whose programming has slipped and who now wants to control the organism. Many countries want to end the threat from Behemoth by destroying North America. Seppuku is a mutation of Behemoth, but one which Lenie, Ken, and traveling medic Taka Oulette must study to understand if it is the answer to controlling the beta version or if it will cause a new wave of devastation of its own.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the plot of Behemoth: Seppuku "comes down to sexual torture, whose scenes, presented unsparingly, many readers will find utterly repellent." The same reviewer also wrote that Watts "shows significant signs of developing into a true stylist." A Publishers Weekly critic commented that, "like some adrenaline-charged fusion of Clarke's The Deep Range and Gibson's Neuromancer, Watts's trilogy represents a major addition to early twenty-first-century hard SF."



Booklist, May 15, 1999, Roberta Johnson, review of Starfish, p. 1684; October 15, 2001, Roberta Johnson, review of Maelstrom, p. 387; July, 2004, Regina Schroeder, review of Behemoth: B-Max, p. 1830; January 1, 2005, Regina Schroeder, review of Behemoth: Seppuku, p. 835.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004, review of Behemoth: Seppuku, p. 1126.

Library Journal, July, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Starfish, p. 143; October 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Maelstrom, p. 113; July, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Behemoth: B-Max, p. 76; January 1, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Behemoth: Seppuku, p. 102.

MBR Bookwatch, January, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Behemoth: Seppuku.

Publishers Weekly, June 28, 1999, review of Starfish, p. 60; September 24, 2001, review of Maelstrom, p. 74; June 21, 2004, review of Behemoth: B-Max, p. 47; December 13, 2004, review of Behemoth: Seppuku, p. 50.


Peter Watts Home Page, http://www.rifters.com (April 16, 2005).

Voyageur Web site, http://voyageur.idic.ca/ (June, 2001), Karen Bennett, interview with Watts.

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