Blindsight by Peter Watts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of those novels that make me feel like it's a wonder to be alive. Of course, that's a subjective statement implying consciousness, and therefore I am an evolutionary throwback who is spinning his wheels. And because I read this book and feel that the logic is unassailable, I still happen to think this novel makes me feel like it's a wonder to be alive.
Notice, of course, that this is the inverse of a depressive reasoning, and this is intentional, because this novel makes me feel like it's a wonder to be alive.
If I were a computer, I might call this a halting state. If I were a man with half a brain, I might never have had this problem to begin with.
I think that's rather the point. I love this novel. It goes way beyond a simple entertainment factor and pushes me hard into the abyss of philosophy, and as I laugh and flail my arms about, thinking about the lovecraftian horror that's building an artifact ten times larger than jupiter in our solar system, I wonder if I'll ever leave this book again.
Indeed, I'm thinking about rereading it right away.
All of the characters are beyond fascinating. Check out anyone's review for this book and you'll see what I mean. Was I skeptical about a vampire captain of a spacecraft? You better believe it. On the other hand, Watts pulled this off with so much panache that the bloodsucker is now living in my brain. How did this happen? I've read way more than my fair share of vampire novels. This is almost the diametrical opposite of all of those. It's not only the evolutionary standpoint. It's the way he's given the vampire truly superhuman mentation a-la quantum computer AI's allowing for massive superposition computations. I laughed for ten minutes when I discovered why intersecting right angles tended to blow vampire minds.
Of course, it's not that cut and dried, either. His character was well rounded and as alien as everyone else. It's kind of the point. Only the most alien among us are the most qualified to parley with the truly alien. It's reasonable in context and execution.
I can't say that the real alien was more fascinating that the narrator or the vampire, and that's actually something because the alien was freaking awesome.
I absolutely love the ongoing discussion about consciousness, as it relates to the characters, and how it relates to the planet-busting sociopathic alien. It's treatment was probably the best I've ever read, in any format. It was certainly a lot more entertaining than any other.
The only other sci-fi novel to come close to the philosophical bent of this one was Anathem by Stephenson, but that's about as close to a comparison as I can get. Neither novel intersects much, whether by tone, action, or subject.
I can't believe I hadn't read this Hugo runner up of 2007 until now. Sometimes I feel as if I've been living under a rock. This novel is and will be an ongoing classic of literature. It should be on your real bookshelf if you say you love science fiction.
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