Discussion is now open on this Hugo-nominee.
Discussion is now open on this Hugo-nominee.
Blindsight is one of the books that defines SF and makes it the most interesting literature around for me. It is a heavy book though personally being quite interested in consciousness, sentience and the like, I've read quite a few science books on the subject (at an amateur level of course since my PhD is in math) and I was quite familiar with a lot of the stuff described there. I tend to have a somewhat different view of consciousness and sentience, but a lot of the conscious phenomena in Blindsight are real and well documented, so any grand theory of such gotta take them into account.
I also liked the characters and while I found the vampires and related stuff a bit over the top, it worked overall. The (unreliable) narrator and the various posthuman crew and even his ladylove sounded much more "realistic" for a late 21st century time frame than a lot of characters situated in SF around then, though I agree that their strangeness made them harder to relate to for some.
Blindsight is not a comfortable book, though it does not have the bleakness of the Rifters trilogy, but so what...
Truly amazing SF.
While I didn't love this book as much as Suciul, I did enjoy it and have to give Watts props for offering up a incredibly well-realized setting and narrative. On the suface, I loved the ideas of the colorful characters but, as was the case with Starfish, I found them altogether depthless (the sole exception being the main character). Surprisingly, what frustrated me about these characters was, yes, their lack of depth, but more than that - the opportunity missed because they were such fascinating constructs.
Hmmm... yes, I appreciated the concepts of this book, the ideas it puts forward, but found it a little too alien and clinical to fully appreciate or comprehend on certain levels. The motley crew was interesting, but as LordBalthazar pointed out, they lacked something... not sure depth is the right word, though. I think the biggest problem is that the author backs himself in a corner with Siri Keeton as a first person narrator (an unreliable one at that). We can't really see the characters past the surface because Siri can't, but that is part of the point of the story, so the author can't really backtrack on that point. It also seems to suffer from the author giving the crew certain characteristics just for the effect of promoting his argument. I found myself thinking about Haldeman's Forever War where we're given explanations for the special talents of the team members, and can understand those talents and why they were sent and inevitably we see how the human dynamics of that team plays out. Here, I still struggled to understand the reasoning behind this crew, these particular talents selected for that situation. They felt as alien as the aliens they ultimately encountered. I actually felt like I had Blindsight as a reader, which is maybe a compliment to the author and what he was trying to do here (not sure). Or, maybe it's just indicative of my own shortcomings trying to understand this novel.
On the plus side, I very much enjoyed the author's sense of humor... some of his one-liners, esp in the first half of the story. I enjoyed Siri's story, The Book of Oogenesis.
Last edited by Raule; June 1st, 2007 at 08:30 AM.
I was at a panel at BayCon last weekend that was talking over the Hugo nominees, and one panelist described the characters in this book as unredeemably Evil, including Siri. I couldn't agree with that assessment at all. He's not evil, he's Other. He literally does not have the same brain that we do. Yes he hurts his girlfriend, but not to be mean, it's because he honestly doesn't get it. The only one who might be Evil is the vampire, but could we ever view a species that preys exclusively on humans as anything but evil?
I'm not sure that I bought the vampire thing either. Technically it makes sense, but it felt a bit too pat. Still, I loved the idea of deliberately inflicted mental illnesses for practical purposes, I thought the extreme examples of EM fields changing conciousness were fascinating, and I could very much relate to Siri's struggles to model the world around him. I thought the characters were more sympathetic than the ones in Rifters, and I appreciated the alienness of the aliens.
My biggest problem would be the things left unexplained, (although maybe I just missed implications): what was the deal with the original alien flash-probe? Why did the expedition organizers feel the need to have Siri on board? That sort of thing.
I find it interesting that the only other Watts book I read (Starfish) focuses on "damaged" people, characters who are inaccessible both to the reader and to one another. On the one hand, I think he does a great job at creating these types of characters. On the other hand, I have to wonder if this is more a crutch than a forte he chooses to exploit suggesting an inability on the part of the author to create "real" characters.
Lennie Clarke, while damaged (or thinking herself so - check Maelstrom for more), is definitely not inaccessible, and Mr. Watts says on his site that she was inspired by a former girlfriend. Lubin and Achilles Desjardins are indeed stranger, but inaccessible, maybe Lubin to some extent, though definitely not Desjardins.
After reading Blindsight I got the Rifters trilogy and while I liked Starfish and Maelstrom quite a lot, I thought that Behemoth let things down a little bit, especially in the second part Seppuku, but still it was a pretty good though very, very bleak sf series. Not on the par with Blindsight of course, but very few sf books are in my opinion.
Considering that all these books are free online under cc at Mr. Watts site, it is worth checking them out, but if you thought Blindsight bleak, well...
I didn't find the characters in this book irredeemably evil. Siri, in particular, I could actually relate to, as I'm a bit socially inept myself and I felt all of the crew represented Other. I was also intrigued by Siri's relationship with his father. I wasn't sure what inferences I should have gained from that, but there was something there...I was at a panel at BayCon last weekend that was talking over the Hugo nominees, and one panelist described the characters in this book as unredeemably Evil, including Siri. I couldn't agree with that assessment at all. He's not evil, he's Other. He literally does not have the same brain that we do. Yes he hurts his girlfriend, but not to be mean, it's because he honestly doesn't get it. The only one who might be Evil is the vampire, but could we ever view a species that preys exclusively on humans as anything but evil?
Like you, I also felt like I missed the implications of certain events and decisions by some of the characters in this book, though I also felt that maybe the author wanted us to be in the dark. Maybe it was part of what he was implying about the nature of reality and consciousness. I wasn't really sure. I thought there were some genuinely creepy moments related to the biological implications of vision and consciousness.My biggest problem would be the things left unexplained, (although maybe I just missed implications):
This is the first book I've read by Watts. I'll probably take a look at his other novels eventually, and I would be interested in reading more by him should he write another novel. He certainly poses some interesting ideas, and I tend to like idea-driven fiction.
[QUOTE=suciul;393272]What is a "real" character especially in sf&f land?
Sorry. By "real" I didn't mean "realistic" but a character possessed of some personality. Watts's characters are seemingly devoid of anything but their surfaces - very intriguing surfaces admittedly but, at the end of the day, they amount to little more than clever ideas with little substance.
I found it challenging but rewarding. It's an ideas-driven novel. That and the 'unreliable' narrator made it hard to relate with the characters. I'm still not sure if the vampire thing was genius or too cheesy. In the end, what I got most out of it was reading the Notes & References.
I remember reading a review somewhere that this was a Hard-SF story using a strict definition and so, has a limited readership.
I really liked it and read it in one session. One problem I had with it was the fact that it felt that not that much really happens, they explore the artefact for a while, Siri gets attacked by Sarasti and spends the rest of the story hiding in his tent. I guess I have read too much space opera.
On the positive side, the book was full of interesting ideas, and I was constantly running to my computer to check up this and that. Also, the aliens were interesting and very "alien". I didn't care much about the characters except for Siri and Sarasti. Even thought Sarasti probably wanted to kill everybody I just like supersmart characters for some reason.
One poster above me said that the book was heavy, and I don't really agree, I found it hard to put down. (Maybe the poster means that it was full of advanced ideas? I enjoyed looking them all up and reading a bit about them.)
Last edited by Calamity; July 4th, 2007 at 01:28 PM.