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Review

“Beyond the Rift”

Peter Watts

I had this book down as science fiction, and while that’s true, I don’t think that’s really the primary genre. It’s an anthology of horror sub-genres — there’s some body horror, a bit of existential dread, some psychological horror. Really runs the whole gamut! Frankly, if I’d realized it was going to be this creepy/bleak/depressing, I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up, but I’m glad I did. For all the gloom, it’s also captivating, and very well-written.

“The Island” was my favorite of the stories. Given the setting, it seems like something I’d love — more of that gigantic infrastructure, a road crew building a highway but for a civilization a couple of notches up the Kardashev scale from us. But for all that mind-boggling technology, I pictured it all as very dark; the aesthetic I imagined for the ship would fit just as well in a Diablo game as it does in this story. And the scary part of it is the sheer scale of time that passes, has passed, and will continue to pass.

“A Word for Heathens” was the most interesting concept, I think, although “The Things” is also a strong contender. I was a bit biased against the latter, as I haven’t seen the film it’s based on; if you have, you’ll probably like it more.

“Home” definitely wins the award for Most Horror; something about the body horror/creeping change over time really gets to me. Vaguely similar vibes to The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Or possibly that’s just my go-to for body horror? Cronenberg, you have been unseated.

“A Niche” hits on some of the same imagery, and thinking back, I believe they’re actually a shared universe. Which works… pretty well, overall. As does putting “Home” before “A Niche” — it predisposes you to think about that aspect of what’s creepy about it, and that’s really not where “A Niche” is going.

All in all, I absolutely loved this. My only regret is reading it at night because I suspect I’m going to have a rough time trying to get to sleep after this. Whoops.

So, if you want some gloomy (but surprisingly not doom-y) science fiction, give it a go.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

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