Review – Blindsight by Peter Watts
Posted by senseichow on March 24, 2007
The bottom line – great high concept sci-fi with touches of horror thrown in. Highly recommended.
Although I’m equal parts sci-fi and fantasy geek (parts which combine to make one big super geek….. that’s right ladies….. oh yeah…..) my choice of reading material usually leans towards fantasy. No particular reason for it, its just always been that way. Having reviewed a bunch of fantasy books lately, I thought I’d better throw in a sci-fi review or too, and as luck would have it, along came Blindsight.
Now you may have realised that link above doesn’t take you to the usual Amazon page, but instead to the author’s website where you can download the novel for free (the rest of the site is also extremely cool and worth checking out). As I’ve said before on this blog, its available online under a Creative Commons license, and even if you don’t read another single word of this review, you should still go and download that book. It really is that good.
The plot takes place in the late 21st century. Human society, paradoxically stagnating in the midst of technological advancement, makes First Contact with an alien intelligence, the Fireflies. Desperate to find out more about this potential threat, they send a starship populated with the best and brightest crew Earth has to offer to the edges of the solar system.
And what a crew it is. A vampire who, under Watts’ writing, becomes far more terrifying than anything ever imagined by Bram Stoker; a biologist who, ironically enough, is more machine than human; a synthesist (think cross between empath and interpreter) with half his brain cut out; an augmented soldier; and a linguist suffering from the worst case of multiple personality disorder I’ve ever seen in print.
You may be forgiven for thinking that vampires sound a little out of place in high concept sci-fi but believe me, Watts explains their existence beautifully. The stuff about the Crucifix glitch (vampires have seizures when they see right angles – but this can be fixed by giving them ‘anti-Euclideans’) is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it doesn’t detract from the experience one bit.
Now, to give you honest readers out there fair warning- this book’s jam-packed with science, with a bit of stealth philosophy thrown in for good measure. If hard sci-fi’s not your thing, then stay away from this book. Head back to your Star Wars and Doctor Who novels.
If, on the other hand, you enjoy great reads that can amaze and scare you in turn, and leave you feeling just that little bit smarter for having read them, then dive right in.