Peter Watts' BLINDSIGHT
A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
Peter Watts’ Blindsight is hard SF. Normally I like hard SF but I had some trouble with this one:
- None of the characters is sympathetically drawn. Put another way, I don’t think I’d want to have any of them over for dinner with the family (well, maybe the vampire, who, oddly enough, stands out from all the other characters as having a real personality).
- Watts’ prose is well constructed, expressive, action oriented — but essentially lifeless. Also colorless and odorless. I just don’t think he portrays life inside a long distance spaceship very well — the sounds, the odors, the things that get misplaced. My vision of the ship was based on memories of reading about Skylab, I have to admit, with a bit of the messiness of the space station from Armageddon.
- The aliens. I admit I like a good “First Contact” story, but I really had a hard time not envisioning the little guys as looking and acting like the starfish in the tank in Finding Nemo. I know that is NOT the mood that Watts intended!
Still, I’d recommend this one for the fascinating ideas:
- Ruminations about consciousness and intelligence. This is always fun but Watts really gets into this in a big way.
- Genetics. I like the fact that all the characters have been genetically altered in some way. They may all be special cases but I think that’s where we’re headed as a species.
- Orbital mechanics. I love the vision of the alien “mother ship” navigating a virtual Sargasso Sea of objects. Still, key points in the story are punctuated by the reality that if you’re in orbit around a body you sometimes may disappear from the view of another observer.
In summary, I didn’t like the characters, and I didn’t like the prose, but the ideas and storywere more than enough to keep my attention. Highly recommended if you want a challenging, thoughtful read!
Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D. McDonald
Thanks to Lisa Junker for recommending this book to me!