My life in outer space

Blindsight – Peter Watts (2006)

Blindsight

‘Two months since the stars fell.
Two months since sixty-five thousand alien objects clenched around Earth like a luminous fist, screaming to the heavens as the atmosphere burned them to ash. Two months since that moment of brief, bright surveillance by agents unknown.
two months of silence while a world holds its breath.
Now some half-derelict space probe hears a whisper from the edge of the solar system: a faint signal sweeping the cosmos like a lighthouse beam. Whatever’s out there isn’t talking to us. It’s talking to some distant star, perhaps. Or perhaps to something closer.’

Blurb from the 2006 Tor paperback edition

Siri Keston is a Synthesist. He is able to analyse events via his subconscious by observing the world around him. Siri can only do this however because he is something of a sociopath, or he is a sociopath because he can do these things. Siri reads body language and translates normal human conversation into its meta-language subtext, i.e. he can see the real meaning behind anything anyone says.
Siri has few close relationships. His mother is dead but lives as an uploaded personality in a digital ‘heaven’. His father has a rather secretive government past and is not often around which leaves his only friend whom he has known since childhood.
Toward the end of the 21st Century there is an event in which thousands of artefacts appear around the Earth and make records of the surface before burning up in the earth’s atmosphere. Later, something extra-terrestrial is discovered on the edge of the Solar System. Siri is chosen to join the team to investigate the object and determine its level of threat.
In Watts’ quite fascinating future, it is discovered that vampires were a subspecies of humanity during the Pleistocene Era, who preyed on humans, were able to estivate for years to preserve human stocks and who had a brain malfunction which gave them seizures when they saw right angles or regular shapes (i.e. crosses). Thus vampires died out when civilisation began to employ rigidly straight lines.
Vampires, it seems, also had a far different consciousness from Man. They are able to hold parallel concepts in their consciousness simultaneously.
Through the wonders of genetic engineering, vampires have been recreated and are able to live among humans through Euclidean injections which prevent them from seizuring in the presence of right angles.
Being sociopathic predators and with their odd mental capabilities they make brilliant strategists. The vampire Jukka Sarasti has been put in charge of the Theseus, the ship that is to go and investigate the alien ship.
The novel, as we discover the very alien nature of the visitors, gives us an almost forensic view of the human personality through Siri’s notes on his crew-mates and his retrospective review of his own life. It is fascinating, if occasionally uneasy reading since it forces one to question one’s motives in dealings with friends and intimate relationships.

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