Peter Watts

Tor Books



Trade Paperback

384 Pages



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The Hugo Award–nominated novel by "a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive."—The Globe and Mail

Two months have past 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 should we 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 with machinery that 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.


Praise for Blindsight

"The genius of Blindsight is that its author has been clever enough to build a story that demonstrates [his] case . . . Much of the narrative pleasure of Blindsight comes from a conjoined experience of doubled discovery: as we gradually get to understand the nature of the crew . . . we find ourselves simultaneously beginning to get some sense of the alien species orbiting Ben in something . . . that Watts describes in terms that evoked, for me, some great, granulated, anfractuous rat king of shrikes multiplied a thousandfold from the simple single shrike out of Dan Simmons’s Hyperion, which so goosed my midbrain . . . It is a sign of the pervasive toughness of Blindsight that its human readers can take pleasure in [the] message, because what the scramblers say to us in the end is, ‘Shut up.’"—The New York Review of Science Fiction

"Trained as a marine biologist, Watts is completely at ease using his richly developed characters to spin possibilities and theories on the cutting edge of science. His dense idea storms may slow some readers, but most will sail through the tech-heavy patches purely for the thrill of seeing what happens next."—Gwenda Bond, The Washington Post

"This is a a very ambitious story, very successfully done. As a novel, it’s gripping enough that my last-weekend glance to fill in details became a complete rereading. Rare that, but this is a rare book."—The San Diego Union-Tribune

"A brilliant piece of work, one that will delight fans of hard science fiction, but will also demonstrate to literary fans that contemporary science fiction is dynamic and fascinating literature that demands to be read."—The Edmonton Journal

"Challenging . . . fascinating and rewarding. Watts’ all-but-declared literary ambition is to be a first-class hard science fiction writer on the sophisticated literary level of Gregory Benford or Arthur C. Clarke. And with Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth, and now Blindsight, he demonstrates that he can achieve it."—Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine

"Watt’s dark, suspenseful, nightmarish vision of intelligent life in a hostile universe is remorseless in its outlook and unflinching in its conclusions."—SF Site

"Extremely thought-provoking, taking its premise to the ultimate conclusion, showing that the alien without might by closely related to the alien within."—Interzone

"A first-contact novel notable for the utter remorselessness of it commitment to its central premise."—Vector

"A fascinating first-contact tale. This is a provocative exploration of the nature of human consciousness and what it means to be human."—Romantic Times BOOKreviews

"A swarm of Fireflies lighted alien objects in the sky now orbits Earth, speaking among themselves and ignoring human attempts at communication. In desperation, a group consisting of a linguist with multiple personality disorder, a biologist more machine than man, a paleogenetic vampire, and a pacifist is sent to confront this unfathomable alien presence. Watts (aehemoth) continues to challenge readers with his imaginative plots and superb storytelling. A good choice for most sf collections."—Library Journal

"Alien-contact tale in which humans are at least as weird as the aliens. Eighty years from now, denizens of Earth become aware of an alien presence when the sky fills with bursts of light from dying Fireflies, tiny machines that signal to a supergiant planet far beyond the edge of the solar system. With orders to investigate, the vessel Theseus carries an artificial intelligence as its captain, along with expedition leader Jukka Sarasti, a brooding, sociopathic and downright scary vampire; Isaac Szpindel, a biologist so mechanized he can barely feel his own skin; the Gang of Four, a schizophrenic linguist; curiously passive warrior Major Amanda Bates; and observer-narrator Siri Keeton, a synthesist with half a brain (the remainder destroyed by a virus) enhanced by add-ons and advanced algorithms. They meet a huge alien vessel that calls itself Rorschach and talks eagerly but says nothing of consequence. Indeed, the Gang of Four suspects that the alien voice isn't truly sentient at all. As Keeton begins to hallucinate, Sarasti orders a team to break into the alien vessel despite its lethal radiation levels. Still unable to decide whether the aliens are hostile, Sarasti devises a plan to capture one of the creatures that apparently thrive within Rorschach's peculiar environment. They succeed in grabbing two specimens. These scramblers, dubbed Stretch and Clench, resemble huge, bony, multi-limbed starfish. They have no brains but show evidence of massive information-processing capability, which brings Theseus' crew to the crucial question: Can intelligence exist without self-awareness? Watts carries several complications too many, but presents nonetheless asearching, disconcerting, challenging, sometimes piercing inquisition."—Kirkus Reviews

"Canadian author Watts explores the nature of consciousness in this stimulating hard SF novel, which combines riveting action with a fascinating alien environment. In the late 21st century, when something alien is discovered beyond the edge of the solar system, the spaceship Theseus sets out to make contact. Led by an enigmatic AI and a genetically engineered vampire, the crew includes a biologist who's more machine than human, a linguist with surgically induced multiple personality disorder, a professional soldier who's a pacifist, and Siri Keeton, a man with only half a brain. Keeton is virtually incapable of empathy, but he has a savant's ability to model and predict the actions of others without understanding them. Once the Theseus arrives at the gigantic and hideously dangerous alien artifact (which has tellingly self-named itself Rorschach), the crew must deal with beings who speak English fluently but who may, paradoxically, not even be sentient, at least as we understand the term. Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Blood makes noise.
 —Suzanne Vega
Imagine you are Siri Keeton.
You wake in an agony of resurrection, gasping after a record-shattering bout of sleep apnea spanning one hundred forty days. You can feel your blood, syrupy with dobutamine and leuenkephalin, forcing its way through arteries shriveled by months on standby. The body inflates in painful increments: blood vessels dilate, flesh peels apart from flesh, ribs crack in your ears with sudden unaccustomed flexion. Your joints have seized up through disuse. You’re a stick man, frozen
Read the full excerpt