Blindsight: Reviews & Blurbs

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Pro

Con

Intellectually challenging hard science fiction ... Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story. Combines riveting action and a fascinating alien environment with a stimulating exploration of the nature of consciousness.

Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
 

Entirely unique … [a] mind-bending novel. Watts packs in enough tantalizing ideas for a score of novels while spinning new twists on every cutting-edge genre motif from virtual reality to extraterrestrial biology. Watts' fifth, finest, most-fascinating book."

Booklist
 

"Blindsight is a tour de force, redefining the First Contact story for good. Peter Watts' aliens are neither humans in funny make-up nor incomprehensible monoliths beyond human comprehension— they're something new and infinitely more disturbing, forcing us to confront unpalatable possibilities about the nature of consciousness. It'll make your skin crawl when you stop to think about it. Strongly recommended: this may be the best hard SF read of 2006."

—Charles Stross
 

"Blindsight throws down a challenge to every banal first-contact tale that features quirky but ultimately lovable life forms, novels where humanity meets up with bipedal, oxygen-breathing aliens whose primary differences from ordinary people can be resolved with some empathy and fast talking. Edgy, humorous and heartbreaking by turns … impossible to put down. Blindsight is a real tour de force."

—A.M. Dellamonica, Science Fiction Weekly

At times it is difficult to keep up with the tightly packed ideas that pour from its every page.


"Watts continues to challenge readers with his imaginative plots and superb storytelling."

Library Journal

 

"Insanely good … the perfect example of what science fiction, and ONLY science fiction can do. A phenomenal exploration of Consciousness, Biological theory, empathy and emotion... ambitious in scope, successful in execution, and audacious in implementation. If there is any justice in the Universe, it will be on every awards ballot next year."

—Jeremy Lassen, Night Shade Books

 

"Far better than anything in the warmed over sci-fi of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Too bad the literary types who drooled over that one won’t give Watts a try."

—Peter Simpson, The Ottawa Citizen

 

"It seems clear that every second Peter Watts is not actually writing must be spent reading, out at the cutting edge of all the sciences and all the arts at once. Only that can't be so, because he obviously spends fully as much time thinking about everything he's read, before he sits down to turn it into story. His latest starts by proving that there are circumstances in which half a brain is better than one, or even a dozen— and then builds steadily in strangeness and wonder with every page. If Samuel R. Delany, Greg Egan and Vernor Vinge had collaborated to update Algis Budryss classic ROGUE MOON for the new millenium, they might have produced a novel as powerful and as uniquely beautiful as BLINDSIGHT. Its narrator is one of the most unforgettable characters I have ever encountered in fiction."

—Spider Robinson

 

"A terrific piece of new hard SF. It's full of deep theory that winds through the plot like a cancer gone wild, and the result is that best of all possible worlds, a hard SF novel that won't let you go, and a bombardment of ideas that you won't be able to let go of once they've wormed their viral way into your meaty little brain. [Watts's] best yet."

—SFRevu

 

"Peter Watts has taken the core myths of the First Contact story and shaken them to pieces. The result is a shocking and mesmerizing performance, a tour-de-force of provocative and often alarming ideas. It is a rare novel that has the potential to set science fiction on an entirely new course. Blindsight is such a book."

—Karl Schroeder

 


"Peter Watts amps up the sensawunda throughout the book. This is a very ambitious story, very successfully done. As a novel, it’s gripping enough that my last-weekend glance to fill in details became a complete rereading. Rare, that, but this is a rare book."

—Jim Hopper, San Diego Union-Tribune
 

"BLINDSIGHT is fearless: a magnificent, darkly gleaming jewel of a book that hurdles the contradictions inherent in biochemistry, consciousness, and human hearts without breaking stride."

—Elizabeth Bear

 

Blindsight is excellent. It's state-of-the-art science fiction: smart, dark and it grabs you by the throat from page one. Like a C J Cherryh book it makes you feel the danger of the hostile environment (or lack of one) out there. And it plays with some fascinating possibilities in human development, and some disconcerting ideas about human consciousness. What else can I say? Thanks for giving me the privilege of reading this.”

—Neal Asher
 

"A searching, disconcerting, challenging, sometimes piercing inquisition."

—Kirkus

Watts carries several complications too many...

—Kirkus

This is a smart book, worth reading for the ideas it contains alone: hard SF at its hardest. Watts surfs the cutting edge of technological exploration, weaving his future humans from the dark edges of today’s research and development.

—Cat Sparks, Talking Squid

 

Blindsight scores over Watts's earlier books — and, indeed, most sf around these days — in its narrative drive, the sustained urgency of its telling. It's a dense but astonishingly readable book ... [Watts is] one of the two or three best hard sf writers around, and this is his finest book to date.

—Graham Sleight, Interzone

 

Terrific. …dense with philosophy, with invention, and Watt’s shiv-sharp writing ... (The “Crucifix glitch” … is a conceit worth the price of the book all on its own.) The novel, gripping and creepy in equal measures, builds a multivalent argument that consciousness is a looser concept than we’re accustomed to believing, opening the door to some chillingly persuasive devil’s advocacy about free will and the bounds of the individual.

—John Burns, The Georgia Straight

 

Blindsight does, among other things, what hard SF should aspire to but in fact so rarely achieves: demonstrate the literary value of a scientific worldview. What impresses most about the book is the extent to which Watts follows through on the implications of [his] stance. Watts meets the challenge head-on: … the visceral relentlessness of Blindsight's story is a large part of its beauty. It is … a roller-coaster, and not just because it's the result of precision engineering. … by the end of Blindsight we're left feeling that Siri Keeton might be able to show us the truth of the world, just once, and make us understand, just for a moment -- if only we could trust him as we trust his creator. If only we could trust ourselves.

—Niall Harrison, Bookslut

 

Intriguing.

—Tom Easton, Analog

 

Watts has certainly done his homework and has come up with a ton of cool SF-nal ideas … Watts has created some truly unique aliens. .. the whole book can be seen as an introduction to a whole host of scientific concepts. Blindsight really shines in this area. A worthwhile entry in the hard SF/first contact genres…

…marred by its talk-heavy narrative and dark setting … all that science and research means a lot of talking and infodumps. … All the talk is a drag on the book.

SFSignal.com

One of the best sci-fi books I've ever read. … not so much about a meeting of races as it is about a meeting of different models of mind. … A smart book that forces you to think.

—Peter Darbyshire, The Vancouver Province

 

Many critics currently point out that perhaps the best SF is that which is firmly based in science, but challenges using cutting-edge concepts. If that is the case, then this is a book which does this admirably. … what makes this such a dazzling book, is the sheer force of Watts’ style. The book also deals with weighty issues - ethics, morality, intelligence and self-awareness… the book’s climax is both revelatory and satisfying … [Blindsight] challenges the reader with its scientific ideas, even more than many of the writers currently heralded as the new wave of SF. This is the work of a writer not frightened of using real science to ground his unique take on an old SF standard. For those up to the challenge, highly, highly recommended. I can see this one walking away with prizes in the next year.

Watts’s prose is so supersaturated with science that sometimes for me it was just a case of hanging on and hoping it will all make sense. Filled with scientific jargon … often baffling.


This sounds really awesome, and it is. Watts takes his science really, really seriously. … The rewards are worth the investment, and Watts’ dedication to hard SF is something to be rewarded, …if you’ve got the patience and the willpower to wade into some heavy science and truly character-driven plotting, BLINDSIGHT is the only book you should be reading right now.

Less patient readers won’t think it’s awesome that 80 percent of BLINDSIGHT is setup ... those unaccustomed to the author’s other novels might be tempted to call things off halfway through.

—Ryun Patterson, Bookgasm

"Watts combines linguistics and science with fascinating characters in a novel that is challenging, clever and thought-provoking."

—Rebecca Oppenheimer, Arbutus Times

 


"The genius of Blindsight is that its author has been clever enough to build a story that demonstrates [his] case ... Much of the narrative pleasure of Blindsight comes from a conjoined experience of doubled discovery: as we gradually get to understand the nature of the crew ... we find ourselves simultaneously beginning to get some sense of the alien species orbiting Ben in something ... that Watts describes in terms that evoked, for me, some great, granulated, anfractous ratking of shrikes multiplied a thousandfold from the simple single shrike out of Dan Simmond's Hyperion which so goosed my midbrain. ...it is a sign of the pervasive toughness of Blindsight that its human readers can take pleasure in [the] message, because what the scramblers say to us in the end is, "Shut up".

...undigested geek static, a deincentiviging fug of unverb, as depressive as old cigarette smoke: another iteration of the old NO GRILS ALOUD treehouse argot of hard sf ... The problem with all this sclerosis is that it comes close to shutting Peter Watts off from most of his potential readership



—John Clute, New York Review of Science Fiction

"An intriguing story with prose that dances across the page in complex yet precise rhythms. It's intricate and beautiful, heartwarming and dark. Many times your head will spin in joyous incredultiy, or you'll freeze in jaw-dropped wonder. Blindsight is a brilliant piece of work, one that will delight fans of hard science fiction, but will also demonstrate to literary fans that contemporary science fiction is dynamic and fascinating literature that demands to be read."

—Wayne Arthurson, The Edmonton Journal

 




"There is delightful whimsy in the author's scientific basis for vampires ... However, their re-animation in the 21st century is as dark as anything else in this bitter novel. Watts maintains a vicious narrative tension ... Blindsight is the best book I read in 2006. Peter Watts' evocation of contact is sharp, swirling, dark and intense. The conception of his aliens is original, vivid and horrendous. Both narrator and reader are trapped by our own expectations, by the limits of our understanding of the nature of the universe, or the nature of SF. By the time the proof is laid out before us, he is under our defences and rewiring our brains."

—Duncan Lawie, The Zone

 




"Blindsight is an astonishingly dense and philosophical novel; unflinchingly dark, unashamedly literary, and unapologetically couched in scientific language and thought. ... It is rare to discover a work of science fiction that relegates the human race to such irrelevancy in the universal scheme of things. ... the naked suggestion that we are a mere smudge on the radar screen of evolution lends a rare dark cynicism to Blindsight – a draught that is strangely refreshing, despite its bitter aftertaste. Blindsight is a triumph that raises the bar for serious science fiction literature as a genre."

"Both the philosophical pessimism of the novel, and its unabashed adoption of the hardest of science for the skeleton of its ideology, ensure that Watts is not going to enamour the vast majority of readers. Blindsight demonstrates (and revels in) the impenetrability and jargon that is often blamed for the perceived marginalisation of hard sf."




"Welcome to the new work by Watts. Blindsight doesn't take the reader through the twisted, hi-tech human sewers of his Rifters novels, but the characters here are no less uniquely twisted. They're composed of the same literary putty that sticks to you. The author's view of space travel is just as compelling as the pressure-haunted diseased landscape he painted earlier. Once again, the darkness is waiting: either as a hiding place, or as a threat"

Starlog

 




"An utterly remarkable book ... A novel of rare intelligence and subtlety ... nothing less than a triumph. Watts is a skilled writer who not only does a fantastic job managing the book's Big Ideas; he is also able to handle complex characterisation and the pacing of the plot. ... What elevates Blindsight above other pieces of SF and into the realm of great literature is that, for all its scientific soundness, it is a book that expresses its ideas in a number of different ways, including symbolically through the characters. Blindsight manages to combine both the scientific literalism of traditional Hard SF and the more figurative modes of expression common to intentionally transgressive works of literary SF. This locates Watts not as the modern heir of Arthur C. Clarke but rather Stanislaw Lem and his work Solaris. This book is so thick with ideas and subtext ... I warmly recommend it to anyone that wants to read not just some bleeding edge SF but a solid work of literature. "

 




"Surreal, dislocating, scary, bizarre, filled with wondrous sights and Big Thinks easily comprehended, this is why many of us read science fiction. But for all the science fiction reasons to read 'Blindsight', the primary reason to do so is to see a great writer at work."

—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

 




"Watts's dark, suspenseful, nightmarish vision of intelligent life in a hostile universe is remorseless in its outlook and unflinching in its conclusions."

—Greg L. Johnson, SF Site: 10 Best of 2006

 




"Watts is completely at ease using his richly developed characters to spin possibilities and theories on the cutting edge of science. His dense idea storms may slow some readers, but most will sail through the tech-heavy patches purely for the thrill of seeing what happens next."

—Gwenda Bond, The Washington Post

 




"Challenging... fascinating and rewarding. Watts' all-but-declared literary ambition is to be a first-class hard science fiction writer on the sophisticated literary level of Gregory Benford or Arthur C. Clarke. And with Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth, and now Blindsight, he demonstrates that he can achieve it."

 




"Definitely not a novel for escapists or the occasional reader, Blindsight is extremely thought-provoking, taking its premise to the ultimate conclusion, showing that the alien without might be closely related to the alien within."

—Jetse de Vries, Interzone

 




"Blindsight is a brilliant book, and it was inevitable that it would end up on the Hugo ballot. ... For hard-SF fans, it's just what the doctor ordered. I suspect it'll go far."

— Alma A. Hromic, SF Site

"...tough to warm to; the "human" creatures are just as alien, if not more so, than the aliens they are sent out to hunt and find and understand, and it's hard to care about what happens to them."




I have a great deal of admiration for Watts. He has the courage of his convictions, and he doesn’t back down. His voice is always consistent, always taking the presuppositions that the rest of us pay lip service to, and taking them to their logical conclusions. If science fiction sometimes succumbs to happy myths to make things easier for the reader, Watts has no patience for that crap.

— James Schellenberg, Challenging Destiny

A finely judged literary performance, but still one that repels as much as it attracts ... I’m not sure if I could handle it if every writer was like Watts.




[C]ombines the the extensive scientific grounding we expect of the best Hard SF writers while also presenting complex and believable characters. ... This is an impressive book, with elements that should appeal to any serious SF reader as well as to fans of the myriad subgenres the book invokes and subverts.

— Dominick Grace, SFRA Review

 




Powered by puzzles, angry wit, and a first-person narrator ... a gripping novel. Blindsight is classic science fiction.

— Carol Franko, SFRA Review

 




What Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" did for computer technology, "Blindsight" does for neuroscience and exobiology.

— Kathy Ward, The Juneau Empire

 




The contact is thoroughly developed and richly detailed, the mystery intelligently constructed, and the train of developments that follows will appeal to those who found a novel like Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama short on visceral thrills. Watts's characters, moreover, are more than cardboard figures existing just to discuss the big New Development; their personalities, extending to the details of their altered bodies and mind are not just part of the background, but affect the drama.

— Nader Elhefnawy, Strange Horizons