Two months since the stars fell...
Two months since sixty-five thousand alien objects clenched around the Earth like a luminous fist, screaming to the heavens as the atmosphere burned them to ash. Two months since that moment of brief, bright surveillance by agents unknown.
Two months of silence, while a world holds its breath.
Now some half-derelict space probe, sparking fitfully past Neptune's orbit, hears a whisper from the edge of the solar system: a faint signal sweeping the cosmos like a lighthouse beam. Whatever's out there isn't talking to us. It's talking to some distant star, perhaps. Or perhaps to something closer, something en route.
So who do you send to force introductions on an intelligence with motives unknown, maybe unknowable? Who do you send to meet the alien when the alien doesn't want to meet?
You send a linguist with multiple personalities, her brain surgically partitioned into separate, sentient processing cores. You send a biologist so radically interfaced with machinery that he sees x-rays and tastes ultrasound, so compromised by grafts and splices he no longer feels his own flesh. You send a pacifist warrior in the faint hope she won't be needed, and the fainter one she'll do any good if she is. You send a monster to command them all, an extinct hominid predator once called vampire, recalled from the grave with the voodoo of recombinant genetics and the blood of sociopaths. And you send a synthesist—an informational topologist with half his mind gone—as an interface between here and there, a conduit through which the Dead Center might hope to understand the Bleeding Edge.
You send them all to the edge of interstellar space, praying you can trust such freaks and retrofits with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they've been sent to find.
But you'd give anything for that to be true, if you only knew what was waiting for them...
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It's certainly a gutsy choice to have a person with no empathy as your main character, but it's pretty hard to get readers to care about someone who has only a vaguely intellectual interest in other people. Especially if the story is told in the first person by this character.
So as a result, we know that one guy is a vampire, and another guy has some kind of prosthetic senses, and there's a military woman and another woman with a multiple personality. We don't really get to know much else about them, or at least not by page 183.
The other problem I had with this book was that it was hard to picture exactly where everyone was and what they were doing in whatever scene. Most of the action takes place in a spaceship, and you never get a clear idea of how it's set up, plus there are all these sort of virtual-reality things going on at the same time, and the vampire guy tends to hide out in his room and you don't really know where that is, and I think there are supposed to be some kind of tents that the people live in? On a spaceship? I don't know.
Anyway, it's not that a book has to be easy to read; I like books that are complicated, but I think it's the mark of a good writer that you shouldn't have to be wondering where the aft thruster maintenance room is instead of just being engrossed in the story.more
Our primary filter for information is Siri Keeton, a man with literally only half a brain. Due to a childhood trauma he was essentially lobotomized and given computer processors to make up for what was removed. Siri obviously lost a lot during the process, but "gained" the ability to be the ultimate "Chinese Room" for humanity...for all that was worth. His whole life he has been trying to understand even 'baseline' humans and his facility with doing so, with looking at the human enigma on the surface and from the outside, and parsing it correctly has led him to become a professional conduit between these baseline humans and the posthuman entities they have created and made to work for them. He is a uniquely appropriate narrator for this tale as his very mode of existence showcases Watts' entire argument in microcosm; and interestingly his entire development as a character is the reverse of the development of the story and even of the universe itself. Siri's story starts and ends as a very lonely one, but for very different reasons.
Another fascinating element of the tale is the fairly unique use of vampires as an off-shoot sub-species of humanity originally destroyed due to humanity's self-awareness and then brought back by high science to be our servants. These are probably the most frightening vampires I've yet come across in fiction, not only because of the pseudo-scientific "plausibility", but primarily because of what we eventually discover about them in the story's conclusion.
I will say very little about "Rorschach", the alien entity with whom humanity attempts to communicate in this tale of first contact, except to say that the Lovecraftian enigma of its seeming indifference to human existence is truly chilling in its implications. Far more than any dreaming Cthulhu, Rorschach is an entity whose strangeness is truly to be feared.
All in all this was a rewarding, though deeply uncomfortable, read.more
If this book doesn't win at least half the awards in existence, I'll be very disappointed. In the awards committees.more
2. I'm not sure, but this is authors reply to vampire pulp fiction overflow. And this is the work about vampires I like the best. Actually the only one I like. Because I find that subject very uninteresting.
3. I guess you already know that Blindsight is available for free on authors webpage.
4. Do not try to add this book to abandoned/unfinished list, as it has very cool ending!more