Monday, 20 February 2012

Blindsight by Peter Watts

An alien race send thousands of short lived probes to take a peek at earth. Now something is approaching the outer edges of our solar system so mankind sends a mission out to meet them.

In his Starfish sequence Watts postulated that living in the extreme environment of the ocean floor would require a very unusual mix of people and he continues that theme here. The ship is crewed by a bunch of genetically engineered oddities. None more so than the Vampire Captain, a member of the once extinct race that preyed on humans now resurrected through genetic technology.

This isn't necessarily an easy read. The action is often interrupted by meandering thoughts on the meaning and value of human consciousness. It is high quality hard sci fi but don't expect to come away cheered up.

Side note: the main protagonist suffered serious brain malfunction in his youth which has left him without empathy but with a remarkable algorithmic ability to explain things to people even when he doesn't actually understand them himself. His name is Siri. I think someone on Apple might have read this book.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Ventus by Karl Schroeder

A terraforming experiment gone wrong has left the world "Ventus" controlled by powerful nanotechnology AI who tolerate humans only as long as they avoid technology and other activities which affect the natural balance. After almost a thousand years the inhabitants of the planet have regressed to a medieval existence and regard the winds as godlike magical creatures.  Events in the wider universe have brought Ventus back into the spotlight of outside forces however.

This is superior Sci Fantasy from an author who is new to me. I downloaded this book because it is free under the creative commons license but there is nothing amateurish about it. I will be looking for more from Mr. Schroeder.