Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blindsight – review

Author: Peter Watts

First Published: 2006

Contains spoilers

Blindsight is, in the first instance, hard-core sci-fi and if that is not your bag, look away now. If, however, like me you prefer your sci-fi hardcore then this may well be for you and, of course, it has vampires.

We are at the end of the 21st century and an event called firefall has occurred. Essentially the world was surrounded by probes, 656536 probes that fell to earth and burned up in the atmosphere. Out by Neptune something is noticed and a team is sent to investigate an alien presence that doesn’t want to be seen.

The team is made up of Siri Keeton, a synthesist and our narrator. A synthesist takes high information ideas and breaks them down into something consumable by the masses. Kiri himself has half a brain, all his functions pushed into one hemisphere after the other was removed to help cure the violent seizures he suffered as a child. There is Bates, a pacifist soldier. There is Susan James a linguist with multiple personalities separated out into cauterised areas of the brain with each personality sentient and able to function in their own brain area. There is Szpindel, a biologist who has so many implants that he no longer feels his own flesh. The mission commander is Sarasti, a vampire.

These make up the crew who have to make first contact with an alien race and, if necessary, save humanity.

I actually came across the lore for this novel some time ago (although I didn’t associate it in immediately with the book until I actually started to read it) when I came across this short film about the scientific recreation of vampires. Essentially vampires were a sub-species of homosapien who became extinct, their genetics still dormant in humanity and slightly reactivated in sociopaths and high functioning autistics. The vampires’ doom was due to a genetic flaw that led to the crucifix glitch – essentially right angles in the field of vision caused potentially fatal grand mal seizure. This was not an issue in the wild but, as humanity developed geometry, the vampires found themselves at a disadvantage as a species.

I won’t go much further into the lore, as you can watch the film, but will mention that the entire crew has had part of the vampire makeup placed into their systems in order that they might hibernate (the un-death state) which is essential for interstellar travel. Links from the page gives you much more information about other aspects of the novel as well.

The vampire aspects of the novel are important; much depends on the vampire’s unique way in which it can see the world and its much higher intelligence. The predatory aspects are perhaps, in the main, less important but are always there. A shadow constantly hanging over the crew.

The book weaves a fascinating world around us but, as I said, it is hard-core sci-fi. This is not the simplest book to read if that genre does nothing for you. If it does, however, it is one of the best examples of merging the sci-fi and vampire genres I have come across and the book deserves no less than 9 out of 10.


Mateo said...

Sounds fantastic. Merging scifi and vampires is something I'm familiar with myself, so maybe I'll give this a look to steal some ideas.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Mateo, somehow I thought you might like the look of this. I didn't really go to into the sci-fi aspects but, at heart, this is a erally good first contact type novel.

Margaret Schalliol said...

Ok, because this was so highly scored by you, and because it had a really great and intriguing beginning, I tried to read it. The operative word here is TRIED. And I really did try. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I found myself constantly reading and re-reading sentences and just saying to myself, "Wait...What?" I guess hardcore sci-fi is NOT my thing because I could just not for the life of me get past this author's horrific writing style. There was so much use of jargon that I was utterly confused half the time on what he was trying to say. Not to mention, there was no real description or explanation of things. There was a lot that was vague and abstract but with some added jargon. If that is what hardcore sci-fi is like, I give up. Clearly I am not well read enough on these concepts and in this genre for a novel like this, but on the other hand, the author was doing nothing to help me with my confusion. He was writing as though the reader should just naturally understand what he is talking about, and for my part, I didn't. A bit more description and explanation in layman's terms would have gone a long way for me here. Unfortunately, to have to try THIS hard to understand a book, well, as I said, I give up. Maybe someday I will give it another try, but for now, it is utterly to confusing to me.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Margaret, unfortunately it isn't necessarily this author but the genre, what you've put is a common issue with hardcore sci-fi. It tends to be a 'you get it or don't' (not a reflection on the reader at all, but on the genre). Hardcore sci-fi writers do, in many, many cases, just expect their audience to get it, without necessarily explaining 'it' and I admit that is a failing of the genre and you are certainly not an idiot.

Sorry it wasn't your thing, especially as I led you to it.

Margaret Schalliol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret Schalliol said...

Hey, that's ok! If we never tried anything new, how would we ever know if we like it or not? Now I know I am probably ill prepared for hardcore sci-fi and it is not really my thing.

Now onto your next recommendation!