After the Firefall, all eyes are locked heavenward as a team of specialists aboard the self-piloted spaceship Theseus hurtles outbound to intercept an unknown intelligence.
©2006 Peter Watts; (P)2008 Recorded Books LLC
I really enjoyed this one...a lot...really refreshing
It's a dense, demanding work. Watts, a marine mammal biologist, requires that the reader keep up and isn't afraid to put out a term or concept without spoon-feeding. Given his background, he's covering the areas of intelligence, consciousness, language, etc from sort of a neuroscience perspective (which can have a bit of a different feel than some of the classic physics-driven hard SF)
As can happen with hard SF sometimes (Clarke is a good example) the plot itself can be more of a scaffolding for the exposition of speculative concepts...so I think plot-driven reading isn't the best way to approach the read (not that there isn't a plot, just if you focus on the plot, you miss the goods and can misunderstand the pacing..the pacing and "payoff" is in the concepts, not the plot)
After about - Oh 1,200 or so audiobooks I'll say this one really refreshed the medium for me (not so much in production style, which is fairly typical, but in the writing and the type of attention you have to give this work)
It's a different type of read - but well worth it and I enjoyed it greatly
Really some fresh air
Just finished Blindsight and I'm amazed and exhausted. Books like this are rare indeed. Not that it's an easy tale ... no, no, no. The science can be complex, difficult. The characters sound like they would be nonsensical - for example, what's a vampire doing as part of a crew going out to meet aliens? But the tale, and the writing, are incrediblly engaging and so well done. This is a classic, up there with the very best of SciFi ... I consider myself a tough reviewer, but this one bowled me over. Go for it!
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
This is a terrific exploration of intelligence/sentience, or what humankind understands intelligence to be, and the potentiality of meeting/becoming aliens that exist in a manner inconceivable to us.
The concepts are DEEP. Are we really human if we're hitched to computers. Can our brains hold more than one functional personality? Are there aliens so smart and fast that to them we'd look like imbeciles? If there are aliens, what are the chances that we'd ever find them, ever understand them, ever "know" them?
The vampire component is sort of beside the point - it's just one more alien (meaning foreign to human) in a book that is exploring the nature of being alien. (Even those characters that are human are explored for their "alien" characteristics).
Don't read this if you're expecting action (there is little action) or if you're not in the mood to explore the nature of alien-ness because you'll be disappointed. That being said - the narration is very good and the story is engaging and very hard to put down once you get started.
(Though I'm not making any promises that it makes sense in the end... I'm still not sure I understand.)
One of the best books I've yet to listen to. Watts puts the Science back into Science Fiction without sacrificing the story. His characters are singular and engaging. Great narration.
The best sci-fi treatment of vampires I've seen, in a dense, head-spinning novel about first contact with very alien aliens... and even worse dangers. The crew of the space ship Theseus is indeed a bunch of freaks, each one with dark secrets and a ton of baggage. This is the sort of book that requires you to pay attention -- don't blink or you'll miss an important detail. Watts's writing was a pleasant surprise; not enough sci-fi writers put effort into their prose, sticking to the story and neglecting style. I read for story first and foremost myself, but I appreciate literary flourishes, and Watts provides plenty of those. This is one of my new favorite hard sci-fi novels. It's dark and intelligent.
I had read multiple reviews of this book that said it was dark, and it is but only in a nihilistic, deterministic way--it was not that depressing to me, but maybe it should have been. Either way, I could hardly resist the quirkiest character ensemble since the Wizard of Oz. The crew selected to make first contact consists of a biologist so interfaced with hardware that his wetware is now buggy, a linguist with surgically induced Multiple Personality Disorder, a military officer with too much empathy for her enemies, and a designated observer who comprehends more with his one remaining brain hemisphere than most do with both. The mission commander is a genetically resurrected vampire and the ship is captained by an AI.
They are off to see some truly alien aliens whose actions are less scary than their implications. The book is a study of consciousness, sentience, and the Chinese Room concept. This is definitely hard SF with lots of scientific concepts and terminology, but most of the time you can grasp the science from context when it is not explained outright. That was not a big deterrent for me and I actually learned a great deal.
The Peter Watts website also has some interesting end notes.
Finally! A well-written, inventive, smart, hard science fiction novel written by a scientist on the cutting edge of neurobiological/linguistic thought. Peter Watts clearly takes delight in the well constructed sentence. I thoroughly enjoyed this audio-book as a perfect mix of literature, action/mystery novel, and thought-provoking, lucid explanation of cutting edge science. Blindsight was a great "read"--exactly what I Iook for in SF as an information scientist and long-time science fiction aficionado. It will be apparent to you, too, that Peter Watts is exceptionally well read. (Dorothy Parker would have become an SF fan had she read Watts!) Watts reaches for the stars in this book brimming with novel thoughts and entertaining writing.
Many sci-fi novels treat the communication barrier between aliens and humans as a minor inconvenience, to be hastily patched by something like a 'universal translator' so that we can get on with the plot. Refreshingly, in Blindsight, the communication barrier between the aliens and humans IS the plot.
Watts imagines an alien species so unlike us, evolving in such different conditions, that it is unclear whether the humans are communicating with a consciousness or an elaborate stimulus/response system like a computer program. The narrator, Siri Keeton, has seemingly been chosen for the mission because his bizarre personality is well-suited to dealing with this problem. A childhood brain hemispherectomy has removed Siri's ability to empathize with people, so he negotiates social situations as an elaborate computer program would, calculating and adapting responses that result in successful interactions.
The other characters are as interesting and bizarre as Siri, but his (understandably) emotionless narration style does keeps the reader from knowing their motivations and feelings very well. Aside from a stupid bit about vampires and crosses, this book avoids almost every sci-fi cliche and keeps the reader thinking at every step.
Tell us about yourself!
Other than his slightly-off pronunciation of a few words, I thought the narrator did a good job of portraying the moods and attitudes of the central character who had suffered a brain/mind altering surgerical procedure as a young child (to correct epilepsy). The surgery left him with a limited ablility to relate to or even to empathize with others. While these ablilities (as it is shown in the story) are not missing altogether, this limited ablility to "walk in another's shoes" makes him cold and unfeeling at times, but also bewildered at his lack of understanding of and connection to others. The whole story is seemingly set up to enhance that fact. Transitions and movement in the story from scene to scene was often hard to follow. In several instances I had difficulty making the leap with the author in the "action". I like a complicated and intricate plot, but this was something else that I find, even now, hard to put my finger on often asking myself: What just happened?
The story is very disjointed and painfully slow. I have read books where jumping back and forth from the characters memories to the present has created a tether, this creates a noose that makes the listener want to place their head in it.
There are holes in the "science" so large that you may need the Hubble to get a grasp of their boundaries. While there are elements that grab the imagination, the very tedious character development is painful to say the least. There was so much useless information that the author could have easily cut half of the book and it would be far more bearable. There are parts that are just glossed over that could be interesting, while others are examined in such minute detail that I almost turned the book off a number of times.
To be fair, this reminded me of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. There is just no redemption. If you are looking for something slow and artsy, this may just do it for you. If you found yourself liking the main character in Stephen R Donadlson's Thomas Covenant series, then you may indeed like this. If you wanted to slap Thomas Covenant because he was so self pitying, then this is not the listen for you.
I have been happy with all of my purchases except this one. I really wish I could get my money back for this book.
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