How do you say "We come in peace" when the very words are an act of war?Blindsight is a hard sci-fi novel by Canadian author and marine biologist Peter Watts. It's a dark and cerebral First Contact story that deals heavily with issues of sentience and what it means to be an "intelligent" species. Despite being nominated for a Hugo Award for "Best Novel", the novel is hard to find in stores (owing to troubles with the publisher). Watts, deciding he'd rather have the book be easily available for anyone to read, put the whole thing up on his website for free.In the near future, the world is stunned when a collection of 65,536 alien probes enter the Earth's atmosphere in a perfect grid, scanning the entire planet across the EM spectrum as they burn up. In the wake of the "Firefall", as this event quickly comes to be known, a deep-space probe detects a powerful radio signal, aimed somewhere outside the solar system. Earthbound scientists track this signal back to its source, and discover what appears to be an alien vessel in the far reaches of the solar system. In need of answers that simple unmanned probes can't provide, a ship is built, packed with as much cutting-edge technology as its creators can muster, for the purpose of carrying a manned expedition of exploration and first contact. The ship is dubbed Theseus.A crew full of odd and eccentric specialists are aboard: a linguist with surgically-induced multiple personalities, a biologist who has given up some of his neural pathways for senses and perception far beyond what a baseline human can experience, a top-brass soldier whose career-defining moment was an act of treason. The narrator, a top-class information analyst with half his brain removed, is sent to observe these transhumans and translate for the benefit of their earthly masters. They are all lead by a vampirenote , a sociopathic genius and cannibal who, nevertheless, is the only one coldly logical enough to run the mission.The book is known to be a depressing and pessimistic (yet enlightening) story on a variety of topics relating to consciousness, information theory, and neurology, and has received highly positive critical acclaim despite its semi-obscurity. Watts has a sequel in the works, Echopraxianote , that takes place during the same time period as Blindsight, but is set on Earth.
This book features the following tropes (Warning: spoilers below):