July 20th, 2009

Kitty: Angry Calico

Watts, Peter: Blindsight

Blindsight (2006)
Written by: Peter Watts
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 384 (Trade Paperback)

The premise: Earth was heading towards a happy utopian future until sixty-five thousand alien objects appeared in the sky and quickly burned to ash. All anyone knew about the encounter was that he aliens had just taken pictures. Now, in order to get more information on the interstellar neighbors spying on us, Earth scrambles together to prepare a crew for first contact, and the crew just might be stranger than the aliens they're getting ready to meet: a linguist with multiple personalities carved into her brain, a pacifist warrior whose career defining moment was an act of treason, a biologist who's so radically interfaced with machinery that he sees x-rays and tastes ultrasound, a synthesist whose mind is literally half-gone, meant to observe the entire mission and report back to Earth, and a vampire, resurrected from the past using junk DNA and the blood of sociopaths, to command them all. It's part hard SF and part philosophical treatise.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: but with a warning: I feel this is a niche read, and it's certainly NOT for the SF newbie, not by a longshot. If I'd read this book when it first came out a couple of years ago, I think I would've been turned off at the time. But if you're a reader who's ready for this kind of text--which is certainly enjoyable with all of its ingredients, though not perfect--then I think you'll really enjoy this book. I'll happily read it again, which is a good and bad thing. Good because hey, I enjoyed it enough to WANT to read it again to catch what I missed the first time. Bad because, well, I missed stuff the first time that I need to catch the second. But in the end, I'm a very happy reader. How happy you will be might depend on the following:

1) If you're entertained by the notion of vampires in space, and not the magical, sexy kind populating so much urban fantasy, check out Watts's little mockumentary here to get a taste of not just Watts's voice (it's what you'll be reading, folks), but also so you can get a solid grasp on his vampires, which I feel is necessary to get BEFORE reading the book, rather than trying to piece it together WHILE reading the book. At least, it would've been nice for me. One warning, run-time is around 35-40 minutes or so, but the pause button and arrow functions prove to be quite useful if you have to stop the player and come back to it later. If you enjoy this video, if you enjoy the biology behind the vampires (and the snarky, tongue-in-cheek voice-over), then you've got a solid chance of enjoying the book.

2) Why not sample it for free? Admittedly, the whole darn thing is available online if you just can't afford to buy anything now, but if buying is an option, sample it first. I suggest the prologue and the first chapter at least (if not a little more), because it gives the reader a clear sense of how Watts's style varies, from very personal to more scientific passages. The link to the whole thing is here.

I enjoyed this a lot, but it should be known that I'm partial to dark, somewhat cynical views of the future and the human race, so this book makes me delightfully happy. I definitely plan on attacking Watts's backlist, and I'm very glad I finally gave this author a shot. However, I'm also glad I waited until I was ready. As I mentioned before, if I'd read him when the book first came out, I think I would've had more trouble than necessary. But still, for anyone truly interested in this, I'd say, give it a go. Sure, it's a first contact story, but it's also much more than that.

Review style: Two sections, what I liked and what I didn't. Expect spoilers in both, simply because it's difficult for me to talk about this book without talking specifics. However, bear in mind that this is the kind of book that knowing the spoilers really shouldn't affect how you read it, in fact, it may help. Yet, if spoilers bother the snot out of you, just skip the jump to my LJ.

As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Happy Reading!