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OK, big gap - I posted this in August of last year.

Ok, first off this is a discussion of book two of a trilogy, Peter Watt's Starfish, Maelstrom, and Behemoth. Now I'm only about a third of the way into the book, so it's questionable how much of this counts as a spoiler, but it's kinda hard NOT to talk about it without providing spoilers for Starfish, especially the ending. So if you've not read it and want to (here's the review I wrote of it when I read it a couple years back), do not click on the lj cut.

OK, I'm only about a third into Maelstrom, I intend to read the rest of it, and probably Behemoth as well, and I'm beginning to wonder why. The situation is grim, even without the proximate threat of extinction by biological grey goo (simple mirror-image protein microbe with a taste for sulfur and the ability to get at it just about anywhere including inside other cells); society is fractured and frankly the fragments have me this close to uttering the Eight Deadly Words about an entire species*, though some of the characters are at least mildly sympathetic. Then again, I'm pretty sure if I really cared what happened to the characters I might well stop reading Right Now.

OK, now that I've probably driven all of you off, there ARE some interesting bits in here. The "Maelstrom" of the title is the name for what the Internet has evolved into, with lots of electronic wildlife descended from the viruses, spambots and whatnot and forming a continuously, and very rapidly evolving electronic ecology. We learn about this by following one of the inhabitants for awhile as it wanders about, mates by conjugation with a similar program, then gets eaten by something else, first managing to squirt out an archive of itself that carries itself elsewhere. OK, eventually this bit finds just the right environment, and finally fulfills its destiny - it's a spambot advertising a porn site. This message gets splashed across a monitor currently focused on a petri dish growing microbes. The monitor is being watched by an automated system** which can't read, and takes the splash of sudden typescript to mean that the microbe colonies are spreading at an incredible speed, and it launches the plague warning. For a minute it looks like we're about to witness the Fall of Civilization (what there is of it) due to a porn spam...

We watched a complex situation develop in a relatively small space in the first book, and the author has made what's going on out in the Rest of the World complex as well. And interesting. But somehow, not quite involving. Oh well...

*To add to the fun, the same could be said of the attitude of Lenie Clarke, who managed to make it ashore after surviving the nuke at the end of the first book and is now wandering the land shedding the aforementioned microbe in her wake. Semi-intentionally. Leastwise she's psychotic, for pretty good reasons, too.

**Which nearly blows my suspension of disbelief - why the monitor; wouldn't just connecting it to the pickup over the petri dish make more sense?



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
And a reprint of the comment I added later.
OK, finally decided my main interests here were 1) to find out how it comes out and 2) more interesting bits like the one with the spambot. I could get 1) by reading the end, and the intro to Behemoth made it plain that 2) are heavily interspersed with things I'd as soon not give headroom. So I went and checked the ending of Behemoth to see if humanity and the current ecosystem survived (mouseover)Apparently - I could have misread events not knowing the rest of the story.(end mouseover). I shall now go read something else from my overflowing to-read shelves.

Edited at 2012-08-08 11:42 pm (UTC)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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