I really enjoyed the book conceptually. Obviously the author is well versed in the science of genetics and evolution, reminiscent of Crichton. There are good fictional twists that are thought provoking and written convincingly. The long stretches of hard sceince naration might put some people off. I actually enjoyed them, but I am in the field. Bear's character development and dialog is much better than most hard SF writers, but certainly not as good as a more literary SF writer like Margaret Atwood or Ursula LaGuin. The main thing that I found irritating was the narrators reading of the material. There were many times when the author actually states in the text that a character delivers a line in a specific way and the reader doesn't read the line that way. I repeatedly found myself saying that I would have read that character very differently in my own mind if I were reading this book than the narrator did, and it would have made it more compelling and enjoyable.
Saramago is a Nobel laureate, so I think we have to credit him with having insight worthy of our attention. Blindness is a powerful parable, but I think it has to be read as a surrealistic allegory rather than any attempt to portray the situation as it might actually occur in the real world. I agree with the reviewer that pointed out that this parable is much more accessible in the oral than in the visual format. The endless run-on sentences and lack of proper names makes the reading hard to follow, but as a narrative, it isnt so bad. Maybe this was the intention of Saramago. In the story he has the blind listening to readings from the only sighted individual as their only source of entertainment, and he may have intended this as a more powerful verbal parable that a written one. I am an ophthalmologist myself, I found this story to be an intriguing thought experiment, but I was waylaid by the fact that the author made no attempt, or possibly consciously avoided the attempt, to make the story scientifically plausible. There are so many incongruous elements in time and space, its like a Dali painting. For instance he talks about the doctors wife being distraught about not winding her watch. The last time I had to wind my watch was probably in the 1960s, and then he talks later about computers functioning the water system. The ophthalmologist talks about ordering an encephalogram , which we havent used since the 1970s, instead of a CT scan or MRI. He also talks about how the blind stop gesticulation when they talk. But people with acquired blindness have their gesticulations programmed into their extrapyramidal system and never loose that habit. Did he intentionally ignore present day science so as to make the story more surrealistic, or is he a lazy Nobel laureate researcher?
I thought it was a provocative read, intriguing and thought provoking. But dont expect Crichton. Think Lord of the Flies by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I'm not a big fantasy fan. I listened to this book to see if my 10 year old son would like it. I was captivated by it. The author has a great sense of humor and good character development. The story was compelling. It was a lot like the X-files, it took a lot of previously used ideas and packaged them in an exciting story with high production values.I'm looking forward to volume 2, and so is my son.
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