Tuesday Reads: Blindsight by Peter Watts

I’m participating in Goodreads‘ reading challenge for the second year in a row. In 2011, I surpassed my 50-book goal, so I decided to shoot for 100 books this year. It’s December 18th, and I’m at 67.

Which means I have 14 days (including to day) to read 33 books.

That’s 2.35 books a day.

We’ll see how this goes. If you’d like to check out my progress on the 2012 challenge as well as the 2013 when it begins in January, check out the sidebar.

BlindsightIn the meantime, this is Tuesday Reads, and we’re going to talk about one of the two books I read yesterday and that is Blindsight by Peter Watts which, let me tell you, is amazing. It also broke my brain, which might be why the second book I read yesterday was a collection of silly and odd short stories.

I took a class on science fiction and sustainability this semester, and it made me realize just how little scifi I’ve really read. Until recently, when someone asked me my favorite scifi book all I could think to say was, “Well, I finally read Ender’s Game.” (I’m probably not giving myself enough credit, but that’s totally what it felt like.) So, my boyfriend came to my rescue and gave me a huge stack of scifi books to read, putting a barely noticeable dent in his massive scifi collection. One of them was Blindsight.

Blindsight is a first-contact novel that packs in about a million scifi elements that, quite frankly, I didn’t think could all be put together successfully. If you have too much going on, eventually the reader (and you) get tired. But, no, Blindsight pulled off the combination of interstellar travel, interstellar combat, body modification, mind altering via surgery and pills, virtual reality, the introduction of a new alien species, and scifi vampires kind of awesomely.

For some of you, the term “scifi vampires” probably had you running for the hills or had you really interested. Trust me when I say that it’s better than it sounds – yes, even for the people who were already interested, it’s better than it sounds. Basically, they’re a species that branched off from humanity at some point and can only survive on human blood. But the human/vampire population was pretty steady at the peak of vampire power, and it would have been easy for them to kill their entire source of food off. So, the vampires were able to hibernate/essentially die for decades at a time and then come back. This allowed 1) their food source to replenish itself and 2) their food source to forget that they existed and think of them only as myths. That worked for them for awhile, but they had this really tricky genetic glitch that caused them to go into grand mal seizures whenever they saw intersecting right angles. Like, you know, a cross? It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t appear much in nature, and then it started being all over the place, and soon the vampires were wiped out entirely.  Until, you know, some scientists in the distant future decided to clone them back into existence and use them for their greatly superior intellect. The smartest humans don’t get within 100 IQ points of a vampire. The vampire character in Blindsight is the one leading the interstellar journey to find aliens.

I don’t know if it’s because I don’t read a lot of science fiction or because science is just hard, but sometimes the really hard scifi definitely starts to hurt my brain and while I can mostly understand the scientific terms from context or Googling, I admit that when the jargon and scientific philosophy gets heavy, I’m prone to skimming. That was probably the only problem I had with Blindsight, and I’m pretty sure that’s a fault with me, not the book.

I’m also pretty sure Blindsight would hurt the brain of even science junkies because it has a lot of heavy ideas in it about humanity and reality that kind of left me doubting my own existence and the validity of everything I touched for awhile. It makes you think about how everything you do and see and touch and feel and taste is only the way it is because your brain is telling you that’s the way it is, and the brain is a powerful thing. It can convince you of just about anything and you’ll have no reason to doubt it. It can tell you that you’re dead when you aren’t, that you can see when you’re blind, or that you don’t exist even though you’re talking to people.

Kind of creepy, huh?

Favorite Quote: “If you do not exist, Amanda, what is talking to us now?”

Medium: Paperback

Stars: 4.5/5

One thought on “Tuesday Reads: Blindsight by Peter Watts

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Reads: Top 10 « Adventures in Storyland

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