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Publisher's Summary

Set in 2082, Peter Watts' Blindsight is fast-moving, hard SF that pulls readers into a futuristic world where a mind-bending alien encounter is about to unfold.

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

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Gothic Horror Hard Science Fiction

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.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Compelling modern hard sci-fi

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 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

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

I don't claim to understand it...

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.)

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

What an incredible, amazing story!

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!

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Dale
  • Springdale, AR, United States
  • 04-26-15

let's get ready to MUMMMMBLE!

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.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Dark and intelligent.

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.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • james
  • Hartselle, AL, United States
  • 11-17-08

You'll just have to imagine you're Siri Keeton

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.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


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.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 09-21-13

The alienness of humanness

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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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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.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful