Monday, December 5, 2011

100 Books 71 - Peter Watts' BLINDSIGHT

Anyone who likes a good dose of neuroscientific anecdote -- or spaceship mechanics -- in their science fiction owes it to him- or herself to lay mitts on a copy of this fantastic, Alastair Reynolds-ish First Contact novel as soon as possible. Being such a one myself, I enjoyed the hell out of Blindsight.

Among other things, it comes through with the best excuse for an omniscient narrator -- a conceit of which I'm not a huge fan -- that I've yet seen. For a start, our narrator is a special kind of savant (who describes himself as a human Chinese Box, meaning yet another little plum to this novel, if you're a fan, as I am, of theorizing about Artificial Intelligence) who can only read the surfaces of people -- body language, microexpressions, etc. -- but doesn't ever really understand a damn thing anyone says. And on top of that, everyone on board the good ship Theseus is linked via a kind of machine telepathy. So yes, we know what everyone is thinking and why, but there is a reason we know what everyone is thinking and why that does not involve authorial adherence to a dumb, lazy crutch of a convention. YAY!!!

But that isn't even what is going to grab most people, because another thing this book has going on is VAMPIRES IN SPACE. Pretty much the coolest boffo concept since Brand Gamblin cooked up BEAR POLO. They're not, though, I'm glad to say, ordinary vampires yanked out of horror or fantasy or goth wank fiction and dropped into a first contact story; they are science fiction vampires, and they're just plausible enough to belong there, once the initial shock of "WTF are these vampires doing in my incomprehensible alien artifact story" wears off.

And that's enough typing for me today. Go git this'un, folks. It's good stuff.

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