Book Review: Blindsight by Peter Watts


blindsight-coverIt’s been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since – until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who to send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a biologist so spliced to machinery he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior, and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters 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 knew what was waiting for them.



This is one of those books that just didn’t work for me but there are things that I can still appreciate about it.

Let’s start off with the positives. This book explores some fascinating ideas about a possible future of humanity. The pictured painted here is fairly bleak. People become more and more integrated with technology, slowly losing their humanity in the process. There’s even a place called ‘heaven’ which seems to be a computer server–people can choose to leave their bodies behind and ascend, uploading their consciousness into the server. Everything about this book is about humans and their relationship with technology and how far we could take things until we’re indistinguishable from the machines–technological enhancements, virtual everything, AI that is almost human-like and humans that are AI-like. I love stories that explore these things! Also, vampires!

Unfortunately for me, I just…didn’t enjoy the process of reading this one. It may have worked slightly better in print for me as I found the audiobook extremely hard to follow due to both the structure of the book and the narrator. The structure seems to bounce back and forth between something in the past and the present time. Or are they memories? Or is it some other place with a different character? Uh, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. The narrator for this just didn’t work for me at all–everything felt too monotonous and I had a hard time distinguishing which character was speaking dialogue at times.

Another issue I had is that a lot of the story just didn’t interest me. Although I think the concepts were intriguing, the way the story was told didn’t allow me to connect to any of the material in a way I found engaging. This is just a me thing, I think. I was bored through a lot of the book. I did think things really started coming together near the end of the book though. The tension ramps up a lot as the crew continues exploring this mysterious ship thing they’ve encountered and they’re forced to face some hard truths. For me, the end was the best part and maybe would have hit home a little more if I hadn’t been so confused about what was going on earlier in the book.

Overall, I’m disappointed not have enjoyed this more. Maybe I’ll go back and reread it in print at some point and see if that makes a difference. 3/5 stars.

31 thoughts on “Book Review: Blindsight by Peter Watts

  1. Sarah says:

    Well that’s a bummer! This has been on my list for awhile but it sounds like it covers a lot of topics I’ve read too much of lately and being bored is never a good sign. Great review!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks! It may just be personal taste because it is quite popular it seems…but some books are just not for me, apparently. I do like the concept and the things it explored, I was just incredibly bored and also confused while reading it.

  2. Bob says:

    That’s interesting because I had the exact same experience with the paperback years ago. I tried to get into it several times, but just couldn’t settle into any kind of flow. It kept kicking me out and making me wonder what I was missing. Such a cool concept, and I wanted to like it, but I’ve yet to try again.

  3. Tammy says:

    I’ve heard Peter Watts is tough to read, but I’ve never tried his books so I’m just basing that on reviews like yours. Hope your next book is better!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I went into this one pretty blind (no pun intended, oh who am I kidding it’s totally intended) and unfortunately bounced off it fairly hard. It’s a shame because I really think the things it’s exploring are intriguing but something about the writing just didn’t work for me as a reader. Thanks! Fortunately I’ve read some great things since, although I’ll be glad when I’m done with this bingo card haha. πŸ™‚

      • waytoofantasy says:

        I don’t think it was the truths that got to me, I thought most of what it was saying was pretty interesting, I think the writing style just didn’t work for me, personally. But it’s a popular one so obviously works for a lot of others! πŸ™‚

      • bormgans says:

        Yes agreed, his prose and style is pretty upfront, but it’s also in character. Maybe you should try The Freeze Frame Revolution, his most recent novella. It doesn’t have that problem. The story is great: it’s about a revolution against the AI of a spaceship that only thaws a few cyro crewmembers once in a few millennia. The time frame and how it is handled is amazing.

      • bormgans says:

        I think Alastair Reynolds is a totally different writer. I loved the RS trilogy, and House Of Suns, but I think he turned into a writer that delivers marketable formulaic product after that, and I stopped paying attention. It’s the writer who I fell out of love with the hardest, so to say. I have quite a few reviews of his books on my blog, but I haven’t read the collection you mention.

      • Ola G says:

        Ok, that is pretty helpful. Galactic North collects RS stories from his whole writing career, and indeed some are noticeably better than others. But they are quite pessimistic so just wanted to see how it compares to Blindsight πŸ™‚

  4. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’ve not read this author and this book wasn’t on my radar to be honest, but it’s a shame that you didn’t like it more. It’s always disappointing when a book just doesn’t work for you.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

  5. imyril says:

    Ah, Blindsight. On first read I called it out as my worst read of the year, but I was curious enough that I went back a couple of years ago and tried again. I’m now thoroughly conflicted πŸ™‚ I admire that Watts isn’t afraid to tackle Really Big Themes (and I’m fascinated by his thesis that consciousness / emotion just get in the way, evolutionarily speaking) – but woah it’s super hard SF in a way that’s hard to get to grips with, and yikes he hates people and has a bleak view of the future. I’m not sure I’ve got a third attempt in me, on reflection, partly because the companion novel (Echopraxia) was a mess. Of course, that’s what I said about Blindsight the first time I read it, so… we’ll see πŸ˜‰

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Lol. Yeah, I was conflicted because on the one hand I really thought a lot of the things he was saying here were interesting but….it was just written in such a way that both made it hard to follow and kind of made me bored. And yes, the bleakness! So it’s just…not for me as a whole. I don’t think I would try the companion book knowing that lol. πŸ™‚

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