Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | August 18, 2009

Peter Watts — Blindsight

All I can really say is that Peter Watts is perhaps the best writer of hard science fiction alive today.

After the Rifters Trilogy it was hard to imagine how he could surpass himself. Then he resurrected vampires from the Pleistocene and sent one along with a ship of augmented humans to defend a rapidly approaching posthuman society from infinitely intelligent and completely self-ignorant alien starfish. I am at a loss for words.

I have not, since Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, read such innovative and creative science fiction.

The story focuses upon a young man who’s what’s called a “synthesist”: he can see into systems and interpret their outputs — a necessary go-between for parsing posthuman responses in a near-singularity world. He stands between mind-boggling intelligences and describes them to lesser ones. He’s also almost completely lacking in self-awareness: he doesn’t understand what he parses, he just translates. The story sends him with a team of augments and a lone vampire to intercept a completely alien civilization in the Oort cloud, in the hopes of avoiding an interstellar incident, and finds out how alien humanity is from the rest of the universe.

Like the Rifters trilogy, Blindsight shows a unique insight into the way people think, and the way in which evolution operates; and if that insight is accurate, it is no less unnerving.

Blidsight calls into question the function of consciousness and the very nature of human civilization. And it’s exciting while he does so.

You can download Blindsight here. It’s available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 2.5 License: if you use it, let everyone know who wrote it; give it freely to your friends; and for heaven’s sake, don’t try to make money off of it (otherwise you will be the reason we can’t have nice things.)

Keep reading, keep writing.

Thom.

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