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 long-term 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?
Starfish, the first installment in Peter Watts' Rifters Trilogy
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Set in the early 21st century, Watts's debut describes a future when the search for energy leads to the tapping of geothermal sources deep in the ocean, as in the Pacific's Juan de Fuca Rift, near Canada's Northwest coast. The maintenance workers of the dangerous underwater power plants are selected for their psychotic tendencies, which enable them to forget their previous lives on dry land, and are then surgically altered to survive the intense pressure of the sea's abyssal depths. These changes, which render the workers amphibious, also leave them less than well equipped to face the threat of powerful, archaic bacterialike creatures that proliferate at the ocean bottom and use human hosts to carry them upward to dry land, where their superior DNA could render our species obsolete. The human resistance to these life forms is described with a great deal of explicit violence and graphic language, as well as well-orchestrated paranoia that recalls the classic SF tale "Who Goes There?" Watts's characterizations aren't strong but, as in Arthur C. Clarke's The Deep Range, the underwater setting and the technology employed there function as characters in their own right, and quite vigorously. The novel's pacing is excellent, making this, overall, a good bet for beach reading.
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I stumbled on this gem a few years ago its imagery still floats to the forefront of my imagination when I think of great sci-fi reads.