cover image Beyond the Rift

Beyond the Rift

Peter Watts. Tachyon (IPG, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-61696-125-1

Self-proclaimed angry optimist Watts offers 13 disquieting tales of science fiction, constructing worlds of alienation and horrific transformation from the building blocks of cutting-edge science. Beginning with “The Things,” a lauded re-examination of a classic horror film from the monster’s point of view, Watts shows why he’s become known as “The Guy Who Writes the Depressing Stories.” Watts’s highly reductionist, determinist worldview provides visions of blindly expansionist colonialism (“The Things,” “The Island”), disquieting contact with nigh-godlike beings (“Nimbus,” “The Second Coming of Jasmine Fitzgerald”), religion and science combined to form an engine of atrocity (“A Word for Heathens”), and first contact as a parable about self-interest (“Ambassador”). While the occasional piece takes a more optimistic bent (“Mayfly”), Watts is drawn to gloomier conclusions like a moth to the flame. Though some readers will struggle to read more than a few stories at a time, there can be no denying Watts’s skills as a writer. (Jan.)