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
A complex work that needs to be read in print. Complex descriptions based on analytic geometric constructs requires long pauses to work out the 'vision'.. A great book but just not suited to audio.
too many to count
A brilliant, speculative, and very densely written work. I had to re-listen to the first several hours twice - but it was entirely worth it.
If you have some understanding of human neurophysiology this is a great story. That said, there is quite a bit of technical jargon. This is not your average "humans meet aliens" space opera. Instead it's an examination of the nature of consciousness and how humans would be able to understand beings that have a totally different way of existing and communicating.
The reader was adequate, but his tendency to have very similar voices for all the characters sometimes left me confused as to who was speaking and when transitions were happening.
Siri Keeton because I can relate to him (sort of). He's an outcast even among outcasts. I also enjoy the very mechanical way in which he views people. I understand that, though Siri , due to his radical hemispherectomy takes it to the nth degree.
When the characters start to question the importance of sentience. Sent chills down my spine.
Yes. It made me think. Hard. I was brooding all day after this one. It put my brain to work as I tried to sort out my feelings on it. What am I? Am I meaningless? Could my intelligence survive without my consciousness?
It really made me think.
There are so many ideas batted around in this story that it will be worth a second, third, and even fourth read.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
This one falls into roughly the same territory as Stanislaw Lem’s classic, Solaris -- a first contact story in which the alien and its motives are deeply inscrutable, raising questions about what it means to be sentient, and if humans and non-humans can ever truly understand each other. Or even if humans can understand themselves.
This story features a Lovecraftian alien construct lurking in the Oort Cloud that calls itself "Rorschach", has sent probes to Earth, and doesn't seem to want visitors. In addition, the Earth of the 2080s is somewhat of an alien place itself, filled with people who’ve retired into the terminal dreamspace of a simulated reality called "Heaven", plus various kinds of post-humans. These make up the contact expedition.
There's a woman who has had her mind partitioned into several different personas. There's a man who has given up some of his human senses in order to be able to interface with machines. There's a military officer with unconventional ideas of duty. There's the main narrator, Suri, a guy who lost his ability to empathize with others after half his brain was removed, but gained implants that enable him to "read" others more easily. His role is as an impartial observer (perhaps). Then, there's the most interesting character, a vampire. As it turns out in this story, vampires were real, an offshoot of humanity that existed in paleolithic times and were brought back through the miracle of genetics. Vampires are still fearsome to humans, thanks to racial memory, but they're extremely intelligent and think differently than us in various ways. It’s an interesting cocktail, and the authorities hope that someone on the diverse crew will figure out how to talk to the alien construct and discover what it wants with humanity.
There are some writers who will hold your hand and lead you into the story, but Watts is not one of them. Instead, we get incomplete information about the characters and universe, and must piece together what’s going on for ourselves. I don’t necessarily mind being challenged in this way, but it did make the first chapters a chore, and most of the characters felt more like thought experiments than people.
Fortunately, Watts has a lot of interesting ideas, which were what kept me engaged. There’s game theory, the Chinese Room problem, the notion of communication as a virus, and questions about the nature (and value) of empathy and self-awareness. I also enjoyed the disquieting persona of the vampire character, who’s the captain of the expedition; the eventual breakdown of crew dynamics; and the strangeness of the alien artifact and its inhabitants, who may or may not be sentient beings.
That said, I found some of the ideas a little questionable. A creature that makes itself invisible by observing human saccades (eye movements) and only doing things during the brief downtimes? Cramming multiple people into one skull? Um, okay. And I’m skeptical about the idea that the human brain can be neatly separated into “unconscious” and “conscious” parts. I believe, based on my own reading and thinking, that consciousness is an emergent thing, coming about as evolution made our ancestors’ brains more interconnected. While there’s obviously a lot of unconscious circuitry that’s pretty good at what it’s programmed to do, the interconnectedness seems to be what makes a brain think outside the box of instinct and support the complex, adaptive neural pattern dance we call “awareness”. The Chinese Room metaphor doesn’t do this powerful, chaotic, endlessly recursive process justice, and it may be the only realistic way to make an intelligent system.
Still, Blindsight got me to think, and I enjoyed pondering its questions. While it didn’t haunt me the way Solaris did, the possibilities it entails might keep you awake at night. 3.5 stars.
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.
I'm not sure if it was the tonation of the narration, the production quality, the content, or all three combined, but the audio had a quality that begged the listener to tune out. Try as I might, I couldn't keep my focus on the book. I gave up after listening for a couple of hours and realizing I still had no idea what was going on.
I've listened to about 150 audio books. Of those, I've only re-listened to six or so. I'm now on my fourth listen for this one. Of all of the books I've re-listened to, this is the only one that I keep getting more out of with each listen. I almost passed on it because of the vampire thing. However, Watts makes it work. As others have said, this book is high concept and requires full attention. That being said, it is not dry and stuffy or heavy handed. I think about concepts in this book more than any other I've read in years. According to Wikipedia, Watts is working on two additional books set in the same universe. I really hope there are audible versions and T. Ryder Smith narrates.
I definitely would. It is a quick listen, and it is full of fantastic, quotable insights into the perspective of modern science on consciousness.
I loved the manner in which it addressed the question of what it means to be human. From the illusion of free will, to the nature of consciousness, to the nuts and bolts of biology, neurology, and psychology, Peter Watts was thorough and artful.
Smith seemed at first to be a bland narrator, until I met other characters and realized that bland is precisely what Siri sounds like. His rendition of Sarasti was downright chilling.
My strongest reaction was intellectual, deeply enjoying the dense, hard science fiction as well as the cognitive science themes. However, I also had an emotional reaction during a particular death scene that surprised me (as much as it surprised Siri, I'm guessing).
No. I have not read the print edition.
Something less strange. It felt a little too close to the Clarke stories about Rama with vampires and gene modified being included.
The reading was drone-like and made it hard to follow.
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