Review of Blindsight (2006)
Peter Watts (writer).
Read in 2016.
An impressive multi-disciplinary effort. Much of the plotting is obscure or perfunctory, reminding me of William Gibson’s weaker moments but with tired dystopian tropes. The political cynicism resembles Yukikaze (1984). The vampire idea should have been taken more seriously, disconnected from the shape of a cross—or right angles—and from agonized human faces as GUI, and from revolution, which would hardly serve the interests of the species if it is indeed unafflicted by ego. The central conceit, that consciousness is maladaptive, pretty blithely ignores the scientific explanations for it that do exist, despite Keeton’s failure to find them in his search. Appropriately, Watts doesn’t convince himself.
The most interesting idea in the novel is that of using autistic people and other extremes of humanity as our finest, on the cusp of upload. This realizes the promise implicit in “New Rose Hotel” (1984), but the execution is flawed. Keeton’s fable about gender, for example, is one whose effect he absolutely should have predicted from working in PR. His failure to do so is bad humour. The aliens' propensity for self-destruction is a cop-out.
References here: Nerd argues about distinction between fantasy and science fiction.