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Blindsight Hardcover – October 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Canadian author Watts (Starfish) explores the nature of consciousness in this stimulating hard SF novel, which combines riveting action with a fascinating alien environment. In the late 21st century, when something alien is discovered beyond the edge of the solar system, the spaceship Theseus sets out to make contact. Led by an enigmatic AI and a genetically engineered vampire, the crew includes a biologist who's more machine than human, a linguist with surgically induced multiple personality disorder, a professional soldier who's a pacifist, and Siri Keeton, a man with only half a brain. Keeton is virtually incapable of empathy, but he has a savant's ability to model and predict the actions of others without understanding them. Once the Theseus arrives at the gigantic and hideously dangerous alien artifact (which has tellingly self-named itself Rorschach), the crew must deal with beings who speak English fluently but who may, paradoxically, not even be sentient, at least as we understand the term. Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sf's best visionaries have played out the ever-popular theme of alien first contact in so many different ways that fresh variations are now in short supply. Yet Watts manages an entirely unique approach in this mind-bending novel. In 2082, with utopia waiting just down the electronic pipeline in a virtual domain called Heaven, Earth experiences the sudden shock of a baffling extraterrestrial visitation in the form of bright probes that surround the globe. Within days, the lights vanish, leaving only a faint signal of outbound communication near the Kuiper belt. Possessing few clues about the aliens' culture or intentions, scientists dispatch an unlikely exploration team that includes a linguist with multiple-personality syndrome, a cyborg biologist, and a spectral captain whose genetic code incorporates vampirism. Watts packs in enough tantalizing ideas for a score of novels while spinning new twists on every cutting-edge genre motif from virtual reality to extraterrestrial biology. Watts' fifth, finest, most-fascinating book. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This book has one of the most unique and fresh idea's on aliens. It is extremely dark, well-researched and complex. Alien's are truly alien's. We don't understand them, we can't understand them. And the scary part is, we are the same to them.
The vampire bit is also interesting, it's not Twilight, but it adds a whole new dimension on the evolution of our science and mankind. I loved everything about this book.
But one must counterbalance that with meandering streams of consciousness, a love story that never took off and most of all, head-scratching attempts at the confusing events, locations and times that seemed more like a Proust dream than real action. No character was developed. **** SPOILER ****** A future Earth awakes to alien artifacts above the planet. A team of augmented post-humans led by a rejuvenated vampire travels to the edges of the solar system where "something" waits. Watt succeeds in presenting the idea that aliens are truly beyond human comprehension. Cutting-edge Ideas abound - VR wars, an electronic "Heaven" on Earth, advanced nano, AI and human augmentation. Phrases were equally original - The Bleeding Edge, The Fourth Wave, Burns-Caulfield, BIg Ben, Rorschach, Gang of Four... But the extreme confusion is setting and action descriptions made reading as much chore as pleasure sometimes.
In the end, the reader must ask, "Is consciousness a good thing and is it peculiar to our species?" The author asks the hard question - Can directed intelligence exist without self-awareness and if so, is communication even possible?" My grade: B+
Top knotch word smithery.
ps. There were a handful of editorial mistakes throughout the text but it was still readable.
Don't be put off by the reviewers who wonder at the endnotes to a novel. Watts is exploring our own imagined existential selves by asking questions like - is unconscious intelligence superior to consciousness? Is consciousness a maladaptation? What are the types of beings that can navigate the stars using less than light speed modes of transport?
Inventive - aimed for those who like to think about what is happening rather just being rushed from one dramatic scene to the next.