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.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Peter Watts has crafted a novel that is quite unsettling. The protagonist never seems to be comfortable in his own skin, and since Watts manages to build a certain empathy for him, you the listener are kept off balance as well. I really enjoyed the advancing narrative interspersed with flashbacks exploring the main character’s psyche. I found this novel to be excellent but difficult to categorize.
Hard Science Fiction Space Opera? Certainly.
Vampire story? Of a fashion, but not in any way the typical fashion.
Character study? Certainly true of the protagonist.
First Contact Science Fiction? It has all the essential elements.
Happy ending? Sort of—but only if you think the movie A L I E N ended on a pleasant note.
Recommended? Yes ! .
When I heard “Audible hopes you enjoyed this program” I was left with that desirable, but all too rare, sensation that even though I just had a very enjoyable experience, there was so much more to discover. This book will require a repeat listen. It left me with the same feeling as some of the novels of Gene Wolfe—the book ends but, since there is no real closure, the story lives on in your head like a rogue subroutine awaiting a necessary command. Blindsight was recommended by Richard K. Morgan (author of Altered Carbon) as his, “If you only read one book this year,” endorsement. I can now understand. This will get my recommendation as well, even though I do not pretend to have more than a rudimentary understanding of it.
The above was written after my first pass through Blindsight. I then went on to read Peter Watts’ follow-up novel Echopraxia. Then, after finishing Echopraxia, I listened to Blindshight a second time. One reason for this experiment at repeat listening is that I find so few well-written serious modern Hard Science Fiction novels; this being one, I wanted to experience it again. The impact of the horror element for me was much reduced the second time through. I was more focused on the use of scientific concepts and less emotionally involved. I was fascinated at Watts’ ingenious utilization of scientific concepts to advance his psychologically driven story. The story is now more comprehensible to me after a second listen, although, because of that greater understanding, I was more settled mentally and, therefore, less susceptible to the gothic horror elements that so impacted me during my first listen. This is a novel that will appeal to lovers of psychological thrillers and space opera fans alike. In fact, this is an exemplary SF novel that I will recommend to those who think that Science Fiction novels do not have anything to offer.
I had not listened to anything narrated by T. Ryder Smith before Blindsight and so was pleased to discover that he has a deft way of blending-in seamlessly with the text; giving each character a subtly distinct voice. He is not as dramatic as some of my favorites but is, in his own way, top notch.
Long haul trucker, nerd, and scifi fan.
My major issue with this book is the narration and engineering. The sound quality is aweful. The narrator has a softly pleasant voice, but no sense of performance. The result is a mumbling narration in a muffled recording.
The story if a narrator could vocally signal when the story changes character, flashback, and substory... it would be MUCH easier to follow. .. as it was, I found the number of bugs on my windshield far more interesting than this book. It's one of the few that I simply could not bear to finish.
PLEASE consider reperforming. I may buy it again, but.. it's a definite return.
Most reviewers find it "compelling", "amazing", "brilliant". So I wasn't too put off by Michael (WI). I wish I had listened to him! He pretty much says it for me.
My caring about what was happening slowly dribbled away until, after a couple of hours, I just couldn't be bothered listening to any more.
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?
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