Terry 's Reviews > Blindsight

Blindsight by Peter Watts
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really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi, canadian, horror

Wow. This was a tough one. It was a very good hard sf book that I don't think I'll be coming back to anytime soon. As others have said: "abandon all hope ye who enter here." A well written, excruciating exploration of the human "problem" where it turns out that it really is a problem. How do you take a book whose central premise seems to be that the development of self-awareness in human evolution was a wrong turn that wasn't meant to happen at all? That it was in fact contrary to the entire development of intelligence throughout the rest of the universe that only occurred due to a fluke in the evolution of a competing species? Talk about being alone in an uncaring reality. Watts manages to take Lovecraft's primary hobby horse and make it work in a way that is truly frightening in its utter nihilism. This isn't a scary universe because Watts tells us so (as it would have been had Lovecraft wrote the tale), it's scary because he shows us so.

Our primary filter for information is Siri Keeton, a man with literally only half a brain. Due to a childhood trauma he was essentially lobotomized and given computer processors to make up for what was removed. Siri obviously lost a lot during the process, but "gained" the ability to be the ultimate "Chinese Room" for humanity...for all that was worth. His whole life he has been trying to understand even 'baseline' humans and his facility with doing so, with looking at the human enigma on the surface and from the outside, and parsing it correctly has led him to become a professional conduit between these baseline humans and the posthuman entities they have created and made to work for them. He is a uniquely appropriate narrator for this tale as his very mode of existence showcases Watts' entire argument in microcosm; and interestingly his entire development as a character is the reverse of the development of the story and even of the universe itself. Siri's story starts and ends as a very lonely one, but for very different reasons.

Another fascinating element of the tale is the fairly unique use of vampires as an off-shoot sub-species of humanity originally destroyed due to humanity's self-awareness and then brought back by high science to be our servants. These are probably the most frightening vampires I've yet come across in fiction, not only because of the pseudo-scientific "plausibility", but primarily because of what we eventually discover about them in the story's conclusion.

I will say very little about "Rorschach", the alien entity with whom humanity attempts to communicate in this tale of first contact, except to say that the Lovecraftian enigma of its seeming indifference to human existence is truly chilling in its implications. Far more than any dreaming Cthulhu, Rorschach is an entity whose strangeness is truly to be feared.

All in all this was a rewarding, though deeply uncomfortable, read.

Also posted on Shelf Inflicted
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Reading Progress

July 21, 2011 – Started Reading
July 21, 2011 – Shelved
July 26, 2011 – Finished Reading
September 23, 2011 – Shelved as: sci-fi
October 14, 2011 – Shelved as: canadian
June 11, 2012 – Shelved as: horror

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Wonderful review, Dulac3. I have been meaning to read this for a while.

Terry Thanks very much! It's a great book, but certainly not a very upbeat one. I really like Watts, but I'll need awhile before I think I'll be ready to tackle another of his books...it sounds like they don't get any cheerier.

message 3: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen I feel the same way reading Cormac McCarthy. Love his books, but need a break between each one.

message 4: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob I hadn't made the Lovecraftian connection when I read it, but you're absolutely spot-on there.

Terry Yeah I've never felt the "uncaring universe" vibe like I did in this book. It really took the element of loneliness and existential horror that would have entailed and dialed it up to eleven.

message 6: by Paddy (new)

Paddy I stumbled across this book in a store today and made a note to check out what people were saying about it on Goodreads as something about it grabbed me.

Your review was fantastic Terry, so it's now on my Christmas list.

Terry Thanks Paddy, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Stuart Already have the audiobook and need to make time for it in the new year. Might avoid it during Christmas to avoid becoming a pessimistic grinch

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