Blindsight (novel)

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Watts, Peter. Blindsight. New York City: Tor, 2006. For translations, variant titles, reprints, and other bibliographic information, see Internet Speculative Fiction Database, as of April 2023, available here.[1] Reviewed by Carol Franko, SFRA Review #278 (Oct.-Dec. 2006): 15-17, along with Wikipedia article[2] our source for our annotations.

As a child, Siri Keeton, the protagonist-narrator, had life-saving radical surgery removing the left hemisphere of his brain and with it his capacity for empathy and Franko suggests, "probably also his capacity for happiness" (and, we will suggest, perhaps also what some call "theory of mind" [Franko p. 15]). Siri compensates, "interpreting people's surfaces" (pp. 15-16). Relevant here, "Technological implants (occupying the space where his left hemisphere used to be) enhance his information-theory topology-reading skills" (p. 16).

Set in a world where "Machines run most things" and there is the false promise of "the supposed cyber immortality of 'Heaven' — a mental freedom marred [...] by the need for consciousness to be hooked to meat." It's a promise that might be fulfilled by "a project that could bring the dream of complete personality upload [...] the end of corporality and 'the usher[ing] in [of] a Singularity that had been waiting ... fifty years' (p. 42)" (p. 16, Franko's inserts and ellipsis mark). So cf. and contrast the automation/labor question in Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano; cyberspace vs. "meat" in cyberpunk from Neuromancer on; and the uploaded dead in "gigabyte space" in Frederik Pohl's Heechee series; also note The Müller-Fokker Effect and the works cross-listed there, and the TV series Upload et al.

A major setting is the AI-commanded spacecraft Theseus, for which cf. and contrast, among others, the more organically run ships of Anne McCaffery's Helva stories, and the spacecraft in K. O'Donnell's Mayflies.

Franko notes that the Theseus

is intelligent; it also is nominally commanded by a Vampire — a reconstituted member of an extinct, sentient, predator species [...]. The crew, except for Siri, is "bleeding edge" — scientists and one soldier. The linguist has surgically[-]created multiple personalities to increase the possibility of communication; the biologist has a destroyed and recreated-augmented sensory apparatus which enables immersion in his objects of study; the soldier is complexly hooked into her remote-grunts (and occasionally has them perform weird, I, Robot-type ballet).(Franko p. 16)

Franko notes the book's "rigorous materialist world view, combined with its apparent insistence of some sort of importance, if not core realness, for things like morality" (p. 16).

RDE, finishing, 29Ap23