I checked Blindsight out for the set-up more than the story: in the not-too-distant future, genetic science has resurrected a long gone Pleistocene predator, homo sapien vampiris, an off-shoot of prehistoric humanity that preyed on its cousins for a vital nutrient it couldn’t manufacture itself. And the future being the future, contemporary humanity’s found uses for such a vicious advanced predator, since it also boasts exceptional pattern-matching omnisavantism.[1]

Turns out vampires are really useful in space travel, too, since they developed the capacity — the need, given their exceptional metabolic requirements — for deep, death-like torpor between periods of activity. All that time with minimal life support needs makes getting around the extreme ends of the solar system much more feasible.

So the Powers That Be of Earth choose a vampire to lead the team flung out into the Oort cloud in response the whole of Earth being surveyed by probes of alien origin. Barely any of the rest of the team is any more human. They all share the vampire capacity for deep hibernation via gene therapy. One’s a communications specialist with four distinct personality’s in her heard. The narrator’s a synthesist, reading body language and outward topography of people to infer what’s going on in their minds.

Their ship Theseus takes the crew out into the Oort cloud, where they find something orbiting a Jovian-sized giant. And the something starts talking to them.

Blindsight was a very mixed read. I started off interested as the narrator painted the world of the future. In addition to resurrecting prehistoric hunters and making huge — to us — strides in space travel, science has done a lot in mind-computer linkages. Many people choose to live in a virtual paradise called Heaven while their bodies lay dormant.[2] Others, like the narrator and the mission communications specialist, have their brains sliced and diced to expand or alter the function of their consciousness.

Once the narrative settled into the first contact phase, it was a real slog. It was a lot of “Yes, is something happening? Oh, no. Never mind.” The characters did things and there were the usual interspersals with past scenes to weave multiple plot lines, but the ongoing action was stymied or fruitless — for reasons that became clear later on. It was tough pushing through that section, though.

Then things pick up more than a bit. The final third of the book moves so quickly, I think the reader is supposed to feel as confused and work as hard to catch up as the narrator. Who’s planning ahead of whom is a recurrent element in Blindsight, as well as levels of awareness, consciousness and thinking versus instinct.

That last third didn’t really make up for the slog of the middle for me, but that’s what way it goes. If one gave up on every book that seemed to stall out, nothing would ever get read start to finish.

[1] Exceptional talents are balanced by the crucifix glitch: crosswiring in the vampire’s visual cortex causes grand mal seizes when it perceives intersecting right angles.

[2] Or just their brains, depending on who you believe.


About Tyler

In the wilds of Vermont.
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One Response to Blindsight

  1. Redhead says:

    I read Blindsight a few years ago, and I remember it absolutely blowing my mind. I’d never read anything like it, and only one book since (Faith, by John Love) has come even close. I was so enthralled by the characters and all the strangeness that I didn’t even notice the Vampire guy till about half way through.

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