4 out of 5
Having been split into two parts due to publishing finance loop-de-loops, Peter Watts’ Behemoth’s conclusion, Seppuku, is less able to stand on its own as compared to the all-build-up nature of its first half, B-Max. The Rifters’ world and its characters have evolved so frighteningly and massively over the course of these 3.5 books, the endpoints at which we arrive in Seppuku are wholly logical and earned, but if – like me – you took some time off between Behemoth’s former and latter parts, that means this concluding act feels more “settled” than the constantly turbulent events that led here: our main characters feel resolved to the tragedy; we’re done changing, and Lenie is now relatively human, Achilles a full-on villain. The lead-in was all things Watts, apocalyptic and depressing and emotional and mind-blowing, percolating into a nail-biting showdown and – although it wasn’t intended as such – an awesome cliffhanger. But if you view that cliffhanger in scope with Seppuku, it was rather a transition: Ken and Lenie from water to land, and from survivors to, potentially saviors. It starts as a selfish quest – to track the source of B-Max – but it grows far beyond that when they (and we) see how much the land and its dwellers have changed in the time since Maelstrom. They hook up with Tak, a mobile hospital operator, and start gathering data on a “new,” post-Behemoth plague that’s starting to strike, recognizing the similarities between it – Seppuku – and the tweaked virulent agent they’d emerged to find.
Meanwhile, Achilles has been fully liberated by Spartacus, and he’s now operating not only without Guilt Trip’s oversight, but also without much worldly oversight – he’s top of his class, and has a modicum of power granted to him by being seen as a hero, curbing Maelstrom’s / Behemoth’s wreckage. He’s also maybe holding sex playthings hostage in the meanwhile, no longer limited to his virtual reality fantasies.
Parallels abound between the biological and the technological; drawing lines connecting “good” and “evil” and simple ingrained directives. These Watts-y themes are as fascinating and frightening as ever. The redemption-seeking Lenie may not have the bite of her former book selves; Achillles may lack some dimension beyond his sadism; Seppuku may have a somewhat slower pace in which we’re no longer discovering the world, rather subjected to its crumbling state; and the blockbuster action concluding sequences may verge a bit on the ridiculous; but none of that really diminishes the impact of the story, and its complexities. Had it been packed together with B-Max – or if you do read them back to back – I imagine that impact and the character arcs could come across that much stronger, although that action stuff is still a little hard to parse in Watts’ writing style at this time. Even that, though, once you understand what he’s hoping to visualize, it’s damned badass.
All in all: a wholly satisfying way to draw this epic sci-fi tale to a close.