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Behemoth: Book One B-Max    by Peter Watts order for
by Peter Watts
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've often wondered why so few undersea SF stories have been written, after Arthur C. Clarke set the stage with The Deep Range. Perhaps it's because few writers have the depth of expertise required. Peter Watts, a self-styled 'reformed marine biologist', brings us an SF adventure in two parts (a prologue warns that this volume ends in a cliffhanger), that follows on from his previous Maelstrom and Starfish. Though I did not read the prior books, I was able to catch up, was quickly engrossed in the action, and am anxious to read everything this author has written.

The edgy (anti-)heroine is Lenie Clarke, a surprisingly likeable character despite the fact that she's unleashed an acopalyptic infection, 'Behemoth', upon the world. With a diveskin that operates like a second skin, Lenie and her fellow 'rifters' enjoy the freedom of the ocean depths. These 'fish-heads' ride motorized, mechanical 'squids' and swim within range of a mobile underwater habitat, Atlantis, a series of modules, where surviving 'corpses' ('corporate executives') live in an uneasy truce with the rifters. Atlantis roams the Mid Atlantic Ridge.

Other key players include 'corpse' Patricia Rowan, once an enemy and now a friend to Lenie, Patricia's young daughter Alyx, ex-assassin Ken Lubin whom Lenie trusts, and sociopath Achilles Desjardins who wields the power of the 'Complex Systems Instability Response Authority' in N'Am. There are also Internet demons running wild with their own agendas. Lenie and Lubin find a badly injured rifter, whom the corpses suspect is infected with a mutated form of Behemoth. Suspicions run high on both sides, and Lenie tries to mediate, a thankless task, and ends up using 'psychic surveillance'.

There's plenty of action, including an attack by a 'leviathan' and sabotage by rifters, who suspect the corpses of deliberately infecting them with an engineered disease, 'Behemoth Mark Two'. But someone from the surface is after Atlantis as well, and Lenie and Lubin may have to stop it at the source. Peter Watts writes excellent underwater SF. I highly recommend Behemoth Book One (and can't wait for Book Two), but suggest that you start at the beginning of this thrilling series with Starfish.

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