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Blindsight by Peter Watts - Science Fiction

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Hard Sci-Fi with brilliant characterizations

  • Oct 31, 2008
  • by
'Blindsight' is a hard sci-fi novel well written enough for everyone to enjoy. Unique characters keep the mood while detailed descriptions set the atmosphere.

First let me introduce you to the eclectic cast:

Theseus - a ship with AI whose "body parts" (such as hatches) have reflexes. She's the Captain of the expedition.

Siri Keeton - Half of Siri's brain was removed when he was young, a dramatic cure for epilepsy that left him incapable of emotions such as empathy. Through observation, he can almost psychically predict the actions and thoughts of others. He's known as a Synthesist.

Isaac Szpindel - The crew's biologist, a mostly human looking cyborg

Susan James - The crew's linguist with surgically induced multiple personality disorder (known as The Gang, including Susan, Sascha, Michelle (Meesh) the Synesthete, and Cruncher)

Major Amanda Bates - The crew's "security", a professional soldier who's career defining moment involved consorting with the enemy. She shaves her head.

Jukka Sarasti - A sociopathic, genetically engineered vampire with the ability of conjoined intelligence with the Captain.

Robert Cunningham - Another biologist, also a cyborg, who doesn't use pronouns and chain smokes.

After an event called Firefall on Earth, when thousands of probes fell from the skies, Theseus was sent out into space to follow the trail back to the source of the probes. The crew comes out of "the crypt" where they have been kept inert and death-like for the trip, near Big Ben - a failed disc-shaped, black star. Orbiting Ben's chaotic field is an alien vessel unlike anything ever seen before. Then the ship makes contact, speaking their language and calling itself the Rorschach. Susan and "The Gang" communicate with Rorschach until, unbelievably, Susan cuts off communication, announcing that it's not a sentient presence they are speaking with. So what exactly is Theseus and the crew dealing with? Sarasti, working with the Captain, decides to send the crew over to the alien ship though from every aspect they have viewed it from, the Rorschach seems uninhabitable, uninviting, and possibly unfriendly. What they find, or what they don't find, will keep you reading right up to the very end. Between Scramblers, vampires, constructs, and AIs, the crew has their hands full.

The story is told in first person by Siri, and though it sometimes seems to slide to a different POV, its simply Siri using his talents as a Synthesist to project their thoughts through translating their speech and behavior. Believe it or not, Watts makes the concept work. There's even a first person glimpse from Theseus's POV. Siri also uses flashbacks to his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Chelsea to give us deep glimpses into who and what he has become after his childhood surgery.

Within the book, intriguing issues of sentience and intelligence are brought up. What defines sentience or consciousness for that matter? Free thought? Self-awareness? Speech? Higher brain? Brain stem? Reproduction? What separates a dandelion from a human? The story is rich and complex without losing any entertainment value, even when delving deep into these subjects.

The book is 362 pages, with acknowledgments following. There's also a section titled Notes & References, covering vampirism, human sight, "telematter", sun types (the "superJovian") Scrambler anatomy and physiology, Sentience/Intelligence, and misc notes. This section includes bibliography footnotes.

I think it would be fantastic if they made a movie from this book. I highly recommend it, whether you're a fan of hard sci-fi or not. Enjoy!

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More Blindsight by Peter Watts reviews
review by . February 28, 2010
Peter Watts is brilliant, and he's not too humble to tackle a theme that deserves his insights.  "Blindsight" takes the classic "first contact with aliens" story onto a whole new course  - an exploration of humanity and the biological basis of consciousness through a cast of characters who are post-human.      It's a challenging read in the sense that Watts gives no ground to the merely human consciousness of his readers.  We don't have his …
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I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
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About this book


A science fiction novel by Peter Watts, published in 2006.
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ISBN-10: 0765319640
ISBN-13: 978-0765319647
Author: Peter Watts
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (March 4, 2008)
Date Published: (March 4, 2008)
Format: Paperback: 384 pages, Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
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