Blindsight by Peter Watts
(This post could be a bit spoilerish.)
As with my previous post I stumbled on this book browsing Amazon, here is the blurb for it:
‘Two months have passed since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us.Who should we send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet?Send a linguist with multiple – personality disorder and a biologist so spliced with machinery that he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find – but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them…’
How could a book with a cast description like that not be interesting? I actually ended up reading a different Peter Watts book (Starfish) first though before getting this one, even though this is the first one I found. I’ll do a post on that one in a different month.
The world Peter Watt’s creates is a dysfunctional futuristic world. Where many humans are enhanced with tweaks made to the brains, or with integrated technology. Some humans decide they just don’t want to deal with the real world and so become members of a place called Heaven, (think the Matrix, but where they have control). Oh and some smart people decided that it would be a good idea to bring Vampires back from the dead, a natural predator of humans. I love how he’s designed his Vampires in this, whenever humans see them moving they instinctively know that they are predators and that we should be very much afraid of them.
However it is not Earth that’s important here, it’s the 5 people on the ship investigating this potential alien threat to Earth. The story is told from the point of view of Siri, a man as the blurb says who has half his brain missing. (There is a reason for this.) The book will eventually explain that he is a black box and can translate things that people with very high levels of intelligence say into things us mere mortals can understand, he himself doesn’t understand this stuff either. He is quite a strange person to read as a POV as he doesn’t react to things in a way most normal people would but, then this crew is not normal.
The crew, for all their oddities do seem to work together quite well, when they aren’t going mad that is (which is quite a lot of the time, and there is a very good reason for it). Apart from the main character you only seem to learn anything about one other character, the Pacifist Warrior, and I think the only reason for that is because she actually seems the most normal of the lot. The back story is there to show why she is a bit odd and on the crew.
I have to say that I do at times find Peter Watts writing hard to follow, but it is a hard SciFi, which is not what I usually read. I do find that I have to re-read bits at times just to try and get a visualisation of what he is describing. Sometimes though it’s because he’ll introduce something but doesn’t really explain what it he means till later in the book. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it meant that I was a little confused some of the time.
Do not take that as a bad thing at all. The story is very interesting, quite complex and very dark, and his idea’s about what things might be like in the future are very very interesting as are the ideas on what aliens might actually be like.
I would highly recommend this book.