Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@ddmcd.com) consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management. Follow him on Google+. He publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain and volunteers with the Alexandria Film Festival. He is also on Linkedin. To subscribe to emailed updates about additions to this web site click here.

Peter Watts' BLINDSIGHT

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!

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