Peter writes the angriest, darkest sf I’ve ever read, heart-rending stuff that makes you glad you’re alive if only because you’re better off than his characters.
Now perhaps that isn’t a glowing endorsement from some folks but it certainly intrigued me. That said, it soon slipped down the list as I received “homework assignments” from John1 and from Creighton2. Anyway, being that Watts’ scifi is a little “harder” than my usual fare, it may have remained low to middling on the list until it re-emerged on my radar in this article by Spinrad. Even then, it’s buried — mixed in with reviews of a couple of other novels. But I catch this line:
…I will try not to reveal too much here, except to say that it delves very deeply indeed into the differences among intelligence, sentience, and consciousness, which of them is evolutionarily necessary for the arising of what, and that Watts’ science fictional answers are so fascinatingly counter-intuitive that he seeks to justify them in “notes and references” as a scientist even though he does a fine job of it as a fiction writer in the body of the novel.
Wow. Okay… I was a bit thrown by this remark. Lucky for me, I had the PDF ready to roll…
I absolutely tore through this book. An utterly fascinating read; well-done in both its science and its style. Watts makes some clever choices in structuring his narrator (and consequently, the narrative) without it coming across as a gimmick or some other bit of contrivance. So we have this faithful guide working in our favor and a good entry point for the story.
And then he slowly unfurls idea after idea that link together into a shillelagh to bash your brain in. At one moment near the end, I glanced up from the page and said aloud: He’s saying that consciousness and self-awareness are metabolically expensive and that if we’re lucky, we’ll grow out of it. I had several jaw-dropping moments. Like I said, it’s a little bit “harder” of a flavor of scifi than I usually get into but this novel just held my attention totally rapt; I was utterly engrossed. And I highly recommend it.
currently playing: Junior Boys “So This Is Goodbye”
About Rob FrieselSoftware engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →
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