Blindsight (Watts novel)

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Author Peter Watts
Cover artist Thomas Pringle[1]
Country Canada
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date
3 October 2006
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 384 pp
ISBN 978-0-7653-1218-1
OCLC 64289149
Dewey Decimal 813/.622
LC Class PR9199.3.W386 B58 2006

Blindsight is a hard science fiction novel by Peter Watts, published by Tor Books in 2006. The following year, it was nominated for a Hugo Award,[2] as well as a Campbell award[3] and Locus Science Fiction award.[4] Watts has also released the novel online under the by-nc-sa Creative Commons license.[5] The novel's main plotline focuses on a crew of astronauts investigating an extraterrestrial entity dubbed "Rorschach" and explores the nature of identity and consciousness. The title refers to blindsight, a neurological condition with implications for philosophy of mind.


In the year 2082, everyone on Earth becomes aware of an alien presence when thousands of micro-satellites, dubbed "Fireflies", survey the Earth in a bright planet-wide flash. Through good luck, an incoming alien vessel is detected, and the ship Theseus, with its artificial intelligence called Captain and crew of five, are sent out to engage in first contact with the huge alien vessel called Rorschach.

As they explore the vessel in multiple excursions and attempt to analyse it and its inhabitants, the narrator, Siri, considers his life and strives to understand himself and ponders the nature of intelligence and consciousness, their utility, and what an alien mind might be like. Eventually the crew realises that they are greatly outmatched by the vessel and its non-conscious but extremely capable inhabitants.

When the level of this threat becomes clear, Theseus runs a kamikaze mission using its highly destructive antimatter payload, seemingly succeeding in eliminating the aliens. Siri returns to Earth, which he eventually realises is being overrun by an offshoot of humanity.


Crew of the Theseus[edit]

  • Siri Keeton is the narrator and main protagonist.
  • Amanda Bates features mainly as a combat specialist.
  • Isaac Szpindel is a physician.
  • Jukka Sarasti is a vampire and the crew's overbearing leader.
  • The Gang are four distinct personalities in the mind of one woman. At any given time, one of them has "surfaced" to take control of their body, which is visible as a change in tone and posture. They express extreme offence when referred to as "alters".
    • The "original" personality is Susan James (the only one with a surname), whom the others refer to as "Mom".
    • Michelle is a shy, quiet woman who is romantically interested in Szpindel.
    • Sascha is harsher, and more overtly hostile towards Siri.
    • Cruncher, a male, rarely surfaces, and seems to mainly serve as an advanced data-processing facility for James.
  • Robert Cunningham is another physician and Szpindel's backup.

People on Earth[edit]

  • Robert Paglino, Siri's only friend, who has known him since childhood.
  • Chelsea sought a personal relationship with Siri, which gradually fell apart.

Major themes[edit]

Blindsight focuses very heavily on the concepts of identity, cognition, and the problems of intelligence. The Chinese room scenario features prominently in the book.


Carl Hayes in his review for Booklist said "Watts packs in enough tantalizing ideas for a score of novels while spinning new twists on every cutting-edge motif from virtual reality to extraterrestrial biology."[6] Kirkus Reviews said in their review that "Watts carries several complications too many, but presents nonetheless a searching, disconcerting, challenging, sometimes piercing inquisition."[7] Jackie Cassida in her review for Library Journal said that "Watts continues to challenge readers with his imaginative plots and superb storytelling."[8] Publishers Weekly said that "Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blindsight: The Lost Covers". Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Hugo Nominees (press release)". Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  3. ^ "Campbell Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Locus SF Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hays, Carl (1 October 2006). "Blindsight". Booklist 103 (3): 45. ISSN 0006-7385. 
  7. ^ "BLINDSIGHT". Kirkus Reviews 74 (16): 816. 15 August 2006. ISSN 0042-6598. 
  8. ^ Cassada, Jackie (15 October 2006). "Blindsight". Library Journal 131 (17): 55. ISSN 0363-0277. 
  9. ^ Blindsight (28 August 2006). "Blindsight". Publishers Weekly 253 (34): 36. ISSN 0000-0019. 
  10. ^ "Many of the syndromes and maladies dropped into Blindsight I first encountered in Metzinger's book. Any uncited claims or statements in this subsection probably hail from that source."

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