Customer Reviews


34 Reviews
5 star:
 (17)
4 star:
 (10)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really impressive, cutting-edge science fiction
If you like your science fiction hard, deep, and philosophically compelling, you're going to like Peter Watts. Self-awareness, consciousness, communication, ethics, intelligence, and the nature of life and reality are just some of the high-brow subjects Watts wraps into the plot of Blindsight. Eschewing the age-old question of what consciousness is, Watts probes deeper...
Published on 5 April 2007 by Daniel Jolley

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'd read another one
3.5
Oh, this is a hard one to rate. It was an well written book that was almost painful to read. The science in this fiction is quite heavy handed. At times it felt a little like like sitting in on a conversation between Einstein, Hawking and Feynman. I generally consider myself a relatively intelligent person, or at least well educated. Though admittedly not in any...
Published 15 months ago by Sadie Forsythe


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really impressive, cutting-edge science fiction, 5 April 2007
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blindsight (Hardcover)
If you like your science fiction hard, deep, and philosophically compelling, you're going to like Peter Watts. Self-awareness, consciousness, communication, ethics, intelligence, and the nature of life and reality are just some of the high-brow subjects Watts wraps into the plot of Blindsight. Eschewing the age-old question of what consciousness is, Watts probes deeper to try and get at what consciousness is actually good for. Obviously, this isn't light-weight science fiction, so I suspect the complete science fiction novice might have a little trouble getting into this book. Sure, there is some great action taking place in a deep-space environment, but Watts' philosophical questions are truly at the heart of this novel.

If you want to get Earth's attention, sending sixty-five thousand objects (dubbed "fireflies") careening into the planetary atmosphere is a pretty darn effective way to do it. All of the objects burn up in flight so no physical damage is done, but this shocking event serves as quite a wake-up call for a now-nervous human race. When, two months later, a distant space probe picks up whispers (in English) from the edge of the solar system, no time is wasted on trying to figure out who is out there and, perhaps more importantly, what its intentions are. An extraordinary crew is assembled to fly out there and investigate: a linguist with multiple, surgically-induced personalities allowing her to process information in four different ways, a biologist almost Borg-like with his machinery-enhanced senses, a pacifist warrior who may or may not be able to accomplish anything if the aliens prove hostile, a synthesist to serve as a conduit of information back to Earth, and a genetically reborn vampire to call the shots. We view all of the action through the eyes of Siri Keeton, who, as a child, basically had half of his brain removed in order to cure him of epilepsy. The operation could be said to have removed the truly human part of his personality, leaving him an analytical being who lives and makes decisions based on algorithms and logic rather than human emotions. In other words, he is the perfect objective observer, and his role as synthesist on this space mission is to observe everything and everybody on the mission and update Earth with information on what is really going on out there - with the aliens as well as the human crew.

The novel quickly becomes a story of first contact with a completely alien race. Initially, the human crew struggles to figure out if the communications they receive from a most alien of vessels identifying itself as Rorschach are coming from actual aliens - or if the ship is empty and the communications computer-generated. Surprisingly, that question doesn't get all that easier when they first encounter the creatures they call scramblers inside the alien ship. These creatures are somehow able to affect the human brain, conjuring up unseen shadows and unbidden emotional reactions, as well as hiding things (such as themselves) in plain sight. And even if the creatures are alive, are they intelligent? Are they even self-aware? The more the crewmen learn, the less they seem to know about these absolutely alien beings. These questions of intelligence and self-awareness eventually come back to attach themselves to Siri and his crewmates, culminating in a pretty shocking series of events and revelations. It goes without saying that this is cutting-edge material.

Basically, Peter Watts' Blindsight is hard science fiction at its best - a little daunting to the sci-fi novice but immensely thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating to the reader seeking something far and beyond a good action-packed story. If there's a weakness in the novel, it's the separation the reader feels between himself and the characters. It is difficult to relate to the crew members (let alone the mysterious aliens who may or may not be sentient). It's even difficult to truly understand Siri, despite the fact we see and learn everything that happens from his perspective. As such, however, the novel is basically about us, human beings, and the way we perceive reality and ourselves. Watts provides us with some remarkable insights in that regard, and that is what makes Blindsight such an extraordinary science fiction novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, 16 Feb 2007
By 
Patrick St-Denis "editor of Pat's Fantasy Hot... (Laval, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blindsight (Hardcover)
If you've been frequenting popular SFF message boards lately, you are aware that a lot has been said about Peter Watts and his latest hard scifi novel, Blindsight. The more so since the author has made the book available for free on his website [...] Many critics and readers opine that Blindsight should be a sure contender for a number of awards, and few people disagree. In addition, my recent interview with Watts leaves no one indifferent, at least judged by the responses I've been receiving. All of which, in the end, is for the best, for I believe that the more people get to know Peter Watts, the more will give Blindsight a shot. Those who do won't be disappointed, let me tell you!

Whenever I hear the appellation "hard-SF" I'm a bit concerned, because such works habitually require a Science degree or Ph. D. in order to understand what the concepts contained within the novel are all about. Neophytes never know if they'll "get it." Not so with Blindsight, though at times things are not that easy to follow.

The notes and refrences found at the end of the book show what sort of extensive research the writing of Blindsight required. Many claim that Peter Watts is on the cutting edge of science fiction. Be that as it may, although Blindsight is based on science and contains loads of scientific facts and jargon, the book also tackles enough philosophical issues to make it truly stand out from the other scifi works out there. As such, that makes Blindsight a demanding but utterly satisfying read.

The permise is traditional: First Contact with an alien race. Typical, you say? Not so, at least beyond that premise. Watts has many surprises up his sleeves, have no fear. The presence of vampires alone should pique your cusiosity.

I found Watts' cast of characters rather unique. When I originally read the blurb, I wondered what the hell it was all about. A linguist with multiple personalities, her brain surgically partitioned into four separate, sentient cores. A biologist so interfaced with machinery that he's barely human anymore. A pacifist warrior. A Synthesist with half his brain gone, there to act as a conduit between the mission and Earth. And a vampire to command them all. I found the story to be well-crafted and interesting, but it's the characterizations that really make Blindsight such a good reading experience.

Some readers have complained that the book is too "talky." I beg to differ in that regard. There is a panoply of facts and information that needs to be conveyed to the readers through the dialogues between the different characters. Otherwise, had this simply been part of the narrative, it would have been info dumping in industrial quantity, which in turn would have turned Blindsight into a sluggish and uneven read.

Kudos to the author for maintaining the omnipresent "don't know what will happen next" feeling throughout the novel. Flashback scenes similar to the ones found in Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora help flesh out events and characters. Again, that prevents the "real time" narrative from being filled with too much info.

All in all, if you are looking for a fascinating and thought-provoking book, Blindsight is definitely for you! And with a second printing on the way, you should have no problem getting your hands on a copy. Some say that Blindsight should capture the Hugo Award next year. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if it does. . .

[...]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, but very worth it, 13 Dec 2010
This review is from: BLINDSIGHT (Paperback)
It's a really demanding read. It takes no shortcuts and expects the reader to be versed in at least the mainstream trends in cognitive sciences, psychology and linguistics. Being well-read in at minimum the popular science version of physics and biology also seems necessary to be able to follow the plot. If you don't know off-hand what ATP, Chinese Room and Sapir-Whorf hypothesis are, you will have a hard time not getting lost even before the book gets to the real hard questions. It's quite possibly the hardest hard SF I've read in the past couple of years, and definitely not a leisure read.

However, if you're willing to invest the time and mental effort, it will reward you by positing some truly fundamental questions with no easy answers that will get you thinking. It takes some of our most basic beliefs we commonly hold about ourselves, life, sentience and intelligence, and mercilessly crashes them at a high speed with the results of countless scientific studies until nothing but shattered illusions and lies remain. I don't think I agree with what it's saying; I'm still not sure sure I actually understood what it's saying, and I have a strong suspicion we don't even have a language to discuss properly what the book is touching, but it damn well got me thinking about these things, and that's way more than 99% of SF out there can claim.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding read, and thought provoking, 4 April 2009
By 
Dr. J. Harris "Jim Harris" (Ampthill, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: BLINDSIGHT (Paperback)
Vampires and the meaning of life, what more could you want? Reflection punctuated by intense action, set in a scientifically accurate universe, and the concept that sentience gets in the way of "unconscious competance" - except in life threatening moments. Some innovative threads, I particularly like the resurrected vampire - more of this in future novels please!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great story from an author with lots of promise, 16 July 2008
By 
Mr. W. Hardy "GH" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: BLINDSIGHT (Paperback)
This is a contact novel full of ideas. It's also a great story that completely drew me in within the first 50 pages or so. At that point I began to realise that this was a contact novel on more than the superficial level.

The first level is earth sending out a ship to investigate and contact the big alien (possibly) intelligence, which proves to be problematic as there's no real common frame of reference between mankind and 'alien'. Peter Watts draws upon his array of marine biology to create something that is believably different and difficult to comprehend. This might be a step beyond for those who expect their aliens to be essentially humans with some extra make-up or an odd shaped nose.

The other level is also about contact and is potentially the more interesting. It explores how mankind is evolving and would evolve aided by technology to the point at which we all become essentially autonomous, rejecting the notion of an intimate community. Influences of this are already evident as we incorporate the internet into our everyday lives to extend our boundaries beyond the immediate. This is something else Peter Watts does very well in demonstrating that we are unsure of the motives and motivations of our own race, and reduces our chance of understanding something truly alien to a series of observations and best-guess scenarios.

My only criticism is that the ending was a little rushed, which is why I didn't rate this at the full 5 stars.
If you enjoyed this then I'd also highly recommend Solaris by Stanislaw Lem for another excellent approach to the contact novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE ALIEN, 3 April 2010
By 
Panagiotis Karatasios (Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: BLINDSIGHT (Paperback)
****1/2
Once every ten years (or more) comes a book that brings something really new in the science fiction genre. P.Watt's Blindsight is exactly such a book. It takes the First contact theme and reshapes it in a trully innovative way. No here you will not find godlike aliens either benevolent or malevolent. No here you will not find humanoids, arachnoids or reptilian aliens. No you will not find aliens with superior morality or aliens who want to destroy humanity. What you will find is a being that is ALIEN. Trully, definitely ALIEN. No way to understand it , few possibilities (if any) to compehend it. And as in any trully inovative book the autor uses this ALIEN to pose intriguing questions: is self awareness a constitutive trait of inteliggence? and so is our kind of inteligence the only possible one? what happens when humans encounter such a radically different inteligence? and many others. Ofcourse the book's characters are as strange as this kind of book demands so don't look here for characters to sympathize with. The characters are as intriguing and as strange as, almost, the Alien is.
So if you want a book that it will make you think in new ways read this. If not better read something else.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best first contact/singularity story I've ever read, 16 Dec 2008
By 
Tomasz Wegrzanowski (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blindsight (Hardcover)
Blindsight is the best and most refreshing scifi I remember reading since 1970s' stuff. Not only you're going to get a new take on the first contact, completely devoid of the usual Roddenberry cliches, the way future society in post-scarcity economy is portrayed is absolutely brilliant. I love how current social and scientific trends have been taken and extrapolated to reach a very alien but coherent world without any particular element being implausible or cliched. Science has not been abused any more than necessary to create an interesting universe, and there's no applied phlebotinum to cover gaps in the plot.

It's not a light reading. Characters are hard to emphasize with - and that's the point as the main character completely lacks empathy. Plot takes some effort to follow as it's the first contact with something completely alien and the characters aren't quite sure themselves what to make of it either. The final chapter is chaotic, let's just say for plot reasons too not to spoil too much. All of it is part of what makes the book so great.

The book might be hard to read if you don't know some basics about evolution, sociobiology, how mind works etc. Nothing too advanced, but the author assumes readers to be scientifically clueful, and if you're not you might get exposed to too many concepts at once, so you might want to read some introductory text like Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker first.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, meaty, gripping, 8 Nov 2010
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: BLINDSIGHT (Paperback)
I read this because I stumbled across a recommendation on Charles Stross's blog that it was the right way to do a vampire book. I agree. Moreover it's "vampire(s) in space" which is something I'd never had imagined.

But it wouldn't do to overplay the vampire angle - while Watts gives a biologically and evolutionary plausible background for their origin and fate (I think - disclaimer - I'm no biologist), there is much more to his book than that. Much more. In many ways I think it's a rework of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Signs of alien life are seen - not just signs, but challenging ones. An expedition is sent deep into space to investigate, using the best technology Earth has. Out There, things get strange. There are more parallels than this but I won't risk too many spoilers by being more specific.

Where the books differ, I think, is that 2001 is written in hope. Humanity has is plagued by political divisions, and may not live up to the ideals of the monolith builders, but they are essentially benign. In "Blindsight" the aliens are much less cuddly - because more alien. They are not hostile so much as... different. And on this difference, Watts manages to hang a riveting discussion of intelligence, sentience/ consciousness and human evolution, basically posing the question "Is our species a dead end?" He explores this through the narration of Siri Keeton, a misfit on the ship (though bear in mind that the rest of the ship's company are even stranger - "bleeding edge" humans, modified to have all sorts of strange abilities. And the ship itself is commanded by a vampire). Keeton is a lonely figure, the subject (victim?) of radical brain surgery as a child which has changed his nature and removed his ability to empathise. Perhaps the only jarring notes (for me) were the digressions back to his failed relationship with his girlfriend, which didn't seem to have much to do with the plot, but turns out, I think too be crucial, as one of the several dimensions along which Watts explores the consciousness question.

If that makes "Blindsight" sound like a textbook or a dry read, be assured, it isn't either - simply an excellent read, bursting with ideas.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and depressing and thought-provoking hard SF, 27 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: BLINDSIGHT (Paperback)
A few very interesting ideas in this book: vampires (if they really existed, how they could have evolved, what would they be like, what would be the explanation for them being afraid of crosses etc.), consciousness (do aliens likely have it, is it even necessary for us to have it, is it possible for unconscious but highly intelligent aliens to easily outwit us, is it possible for such aliens to even exist, etc.), aliens (how they would behave, how very different and how very hard to understand they can be, etc.), space travel (he also has a few ideas on how the spaceship that travels to a distance of half a lightyear could work - although gotta admit, it's not so very different or original, this book isn't too physics-oriented), and a society where virtual reality, genetic engineering, artificially enhanced human intelligence, and AI are all commonplace.

The argument might not have convinced me (but at least it made me open - and Watts himself is not so sure, or actually he hopes he's wrong), but I could still find a lot of interesting ideas in it.

Now the usual weakness of SF is not here, at least to me the characters were convincing, I found it easy to imagine these artificially enhanced humans (or creatures...) to behave and think the way they do, and no, you won't like any of them... which makes it all the more depressing (if finding unconscious but highly intelligent aliens, who may or may not want to destroy us, but in any event could do so with ease, is not depressing enough, and all this half a lightyear or several years of space travel from the nearest human beings...)

So I liked both the story and the ideas in the book, making it one of my favorites in SF.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sci-fi concept novel, 22 Jan 2010
By 
B. Adams (Belfast, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Blindsight (Hardcover)
"Blindsight" is one of the finest concept novels I've read in a very long time. Without giving away too much, the book makes you question your assumptions about consciousness and its function in the grand scheme of things. Watts' interpretation of vampire mythology is very original and captivating and adds an extra layer of depth and intrigue to an already excellent novel. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Blindsight
Blindsight by Peter Watts
1.81
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews