Review: Blindsight

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BlindsightBlindsight by Peter Watts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is SPOILERY

This novel will repeatedly challenge your point of view. Armed with mind links, prostheses and mechanical extensions, multiple personalities, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-regenerating spaceships and gene-resurrected vampires, the humans in the book often feel more alien and inscrutable than the mysterious structure they are sent to investigate – in particular because the main character and narrator is, himself, incapable of true empathy. On the other side is Rorschach, the mysterious living ship swimming in magnetic fields, whose drones are more powerful and intelligent than any human while, at the same time, completely lacking any sense of self.
Reminding at the beginning of the man versus alien struggle of Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, one slowly realizes that the real battle in Blindsight is between sentience and intelligence, the conscious and the unconscious, until -in a peculiar, unexpected twist- you understand that the real threat to the human race does not come from outside…

This book presents a very powerful thesis -and several smaller- wrapped up as one of the most interesting sci-fi novels of the decade. It requires the reader to know its basic science and sci-fi tropes and, in particular, to pay attention to everything, because details are fundamental and skipping something will result in wrong conclusions – a theme that echoes the path of the main character, Siri Keeton, professional observer and ‘chinese box’.
That is not to say that I agree, completely or in part, with the underlying message of the novel: that is beyond the point. Sci-fi is at its finest when it provides new ideas and paradigms as well as good writing, and Blindsight is certainly a high example of that.

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