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Blindsight Paperback – March 4, 2008
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“Watts explores the nature of consciousness in this stimulating hard SF novel, which combines riveting action with a fascinating alien environment. Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story. ” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A brilliant piece of work, one that will delight fans of hard science fiction, but will also demonstrate to literary fans that contemporary science fiction is dynamic and fascinating literature that demands to be read.” ―The Edmonton Journal
“Astonishingly readable book. . . . [Watts is] one of the two or three best hard SF writers around, and this is his finest book to date.” ―Interzone
"Blindsight is fearless: a magnificent, darkly gleaming jewel of a book that hurdles the contradictions inherent in biochemistry, consciousness, and human hearts without breaking stride. Imagine you are Siri Keeton. Imagine you are nothing at all. You don't have to; Peter Watts has done it for you.” ―Elizabeth Bear, author of Hammered
“Peter Watts has taken the core myths of the First Contact story and shaken them to pieces. The result is a shocking and mesmerizing performance, a tour-de-force of provocative and often alarming ideas. It is a rare novel that has the potential to set science fiction on an entirely new course. Blindsight is such a book.” ―Karl Schroeder
“Blindsight is a tour de force, redefining the First Contact story for good. Peter Watts' aliens are neither humans in funny make-up nor incomprehensible monoliths beyond human comprehension -- they're something new and infinitely more disturbing, forcing us to confront unpalatable possibilities about the nature of consciousness. It's good, and it'll make your skin crawl when you stop to think about it. Strongly recommended: this may be the best hard SF read of 2006.” ―Charles Stross
“Blindsight is excellent. It's state-of-the-art science fiction: smart, dark and it grabs you by the throat from page one. Like a C J Cherryh book it makes you feel the danger of the hostile environment (or lack of one) out there. And unlike many books it plays with some fascinating possibilities in human development (I like the idea of some disabilities becoming advantages here) and some disconcerting ideas about human consciousness (understanding what action preceding though actually means). What else can I say? Thanks for giving me the privilege of reading this.” ―Neal Asher
“It seems clear that every second Peter Watts is not actually writing must be spent reading, out at the cutting edge of all the sciences and all the arts at once. Only that can't be so, because he obviously spends fully as much time thinking about everything he's read, before he sits down to turn it into story. His latest starts by proving that there are circumstances in which half a brain is better than one, or even a dozen-and then builds steadily in strangeness and wonder with every page. If Samuel R. Delany, Greg Egan and Vernor Vinge had collaborated to update Algis Budrys's classic Rogue Moon for the new millenium, they might have produced a novel as powerful and as uniquely beautiful as Blindsight. Its narrator is one of the most unforgettable characters I have ever encountered in fiction.” ―Spider Robinson, co-author of Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson
About the Author
Peter Watts is a former marine biologist and the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of novels such as Starfish, Maelstrom and Behemoth, and numerous short stories. He has been called "a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive" by The Globe and Mail and whose work the New York Times called "seriously paranoid."
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Blindsight is in my top 5 of hard science fiction genre. Watts' view of the future is rather bleak; joy is removed from life's equation and replaced with an almost duty-bound search for knowledge. The mood he creates is a little bit like the Blade Runner films, particularly the recent adaptation. Echopraxia is the follow up; actually, there is a short story The Colonel in between that should be read as well. If you prefer novels like Alistair Reynolds' where characters have their own private worm holes, and the characters seem like they are waiting for the movie-version of the novel, this might not be for you. I highly recommend Blindsight, along with the Starfish series as well.
And yet somehow - unbelievably - it works.
Watts has created a story where it's quite reasonable that both creatures exist, and neither one is toned down or dismissed. They are both terrifying in their own ways and present their own horrific implications. While the aliens are an external threat, the vampires are an internal one, representing humanity's apathetic indifference to each other and the most basic, selfish drive to survive.
The main character, Siri, is essentially a professional observer hired to tag along on a mission to intercept an alien spacecraft on the edges of our solar system. He and the entire crew all suffer some sort of neurological condition, with very different ways of viewing and interacting with the world. Working together, they attempt to comprehend the spacecraft, which proves unfathomable to human methods of thinking. Siri makes for a fascinating point-of-view character, his pathological detachment both an advantage and fatal flaw in discerning what is happening on board the ship.
While on the surface, the book is about humanity's interaction with an alien species, it's really about humanity's interaction with itself. How we define humanity, and how we connect despite the massive gulf in understanding between each person. It ends on a fairly dark note, but one that makes perfect sense, a twist that the story has been quietly building to all along. Of course it was going to end this way; there's no other way it possibly could.
I strongly recommend it as both a thriller and hard sci-fi. It'll mess with your head, but in the best way possible.
Blindsight brought with it a host of interesting ideas, such as the relationship between sentience and intelligence. Herein resides the novel’s biggest strenght: these ideas were deftly twined with the plot and characters. Due to this excellent weave-work, I will surely find myself awoke at night tormented by a mind that refuses to slow.
Tension… it’s so thick I can’t come up with a good enough metaphor to describe it. As I read this book I felt as if my heart would suddenly stop beating. There was this pervasive dread that something horrible would blindside me, would kick me in the solar plexus and leave me gasping.
The plot? This was great. There were plenty of turns and interesting reveals, such as in the beginning when the linguist made a certain discovery about the aliens’ communication. I was left crawling to the next page, desperate to see how things would progress. However, this is Blindsight’s weakest strenght. Towards the end I felt as if the plot started to drop off, and I wish there had been some more bumps in the road, but all in all the plot was enjoyable and engaging.
It would be a lie to say this book doesn’t have its problems, though.
1: Peter Watts has a tendency to be confusing. It’s not the heavy science that’s the problem—I quite enjoyed learning a thing or two as I read—no, this has to do with the way the story is written. The author’s wording is needlessly ambiguous at times and he often fails to provide enough explanation.
He also gives the reader glimpses into the past (of which are interesting) but they aren’t weaved into the narrative very well. For instance, there is one snapshot that gives the reader insight into Amanda Bates’s past, the pacifist warrior mentioned in the blurb. It wasn’t meshed very well into the narrative, and the information itself was told in a needlessly confusing manner.
2: Watts doesn’t do a good job with the imagery side of things. His descriptions are scarce, and those that do exist are AWFULLY written. I found myself unable to see anything that was happening in this book, not even simple still shots. Action sequences were the absolute worse because of his poor imagery prowess. They came off as being a mess that found I myself speeding through to get to the more interesting bits.