If you haven’t yet read Blindsight, you should. A speculative fiction novel set in the latter half of the 21st Century, it examines the nature of consciousness and free will. It does this in so many interesting ways, that some master degree philosophy classes have used it.
Additionally, the backdrop includes a first contact story that at least one reviewer said has changed the entire paradigm of first contact stories; aliens that are truly alien and yet still somehow very much biologically possible.
As if this weren’t enough to pique interest, vampires have been brought back via genetic splicing and harnessed for their superior problem solving skills and the crew of the ship sent to investigate is itself comprised of transhumans, alien enough to most of us readers who were born last century.
Or, if you have the time, go back first and read the so-called Rifters trilogy. So-called because three novels wound up being four in print; the last one was split in half. Three ebooks, four tree books.
I mention all of this because the sequel, or sidequel, to Blindsight, Echopraxia, has just come out. As if tackling the nature of consciousness weren’t ambitious enough, Watts has taken on science v religion–or perhaps more accurately, science and religion–and the nature of autonomy at the same time.
Around two-thirds of the way through, I was thinking about a potential third book. Having finished Echopraxia, now I’m not so sure. Despite at least one reviewer claiming loose ends, I actually found it to have a tone of finality. While the fate of some people and resolution of plotlines aren’t entirely spelled out, I can at least see what is implied. The genius here is it could be left that way, or we can be once again told, “Nope, wasn’t quite the way you thought it was,” and be concluded in a third.
So, I’ve a mixed mind about that. On the one hand it seems like we need a third to complete it. Seeing without knowing you saw, acting without knowing why, seems like it needs one more.
In any case, Echopraxia is a mindblower, like Blindsight, and not to be missed if you like hard, gritty, often poetic in its description, science fiction.
The themes and details in all of these books are perhaps surprisingly pertinent today, whether you’re talking about Ferguson or the future of the judicial and political systems. This is escapism to a degree, but also thought experiment.
Now, let me try to perhaps add just one insight. This is quasi-spoiler territory, so stop reading if you don’t like any clues whatsoever. I’m not going to explain what I’m referring to in the book, I think it’ll be obvious to anyone who’s read it.
At the same time, it’s going to seem a little confusing because I am of course going to simultaneously say something else entirely, aimed at a different audience altogether. Note I posted this here instead of the writing blog.
Even if someone is aware, accepts and knows that they are being used, they still will likely feel as though they have no choice. Boredom and pain versus possible escape from both, or even meeting one’s demise “on the job,” with purpose, would likely continue to propel one to most of the same choices.
What changes is, feeling as though one is a slave, even when the cause may be one the manipulated individual may agree with on some level, makes them hate their master. In fact, they may have to continually remind themselves of whatever positive things said masters have done on their behalf in order to prevent that becoming the center driving force.
This is also true because there are always other slavedrivers looking to hijack control, to sway that edge over into payback. Indeed, it becomes difficult to distinguish the parties from each other when they use the same–protected my ass!–methods.
And there’s a damned-if-do/don’t. A pariah attempting to reintegrate himself socially who, in order to do so, must state that, yeah, the opposition has been pushing hard for…that which I cannot bear to put down in writing at this time.
I mean invoked cognitive dissonance has been a favorite all along. Early on, desperate to find ‘Janus,’ but unsure how to do so because it might have made him a target doing so, before realizing he was just another covertard.
Now, try saying, “Oh, yeah, they’re constantly trying to turn me terrorist or murderer, those f—ing assholes in government and their private partners. Wanna do a sleepover?”
Kind of plays havoc with your social life. In any case, back to the point: they don’t leave you attractive choices. Knowing it’s not all your idea only gets you so far and in some ways just makes the experience less pleasant.
PS: If you’re having trouble reaching Rifters.com today, try later. I’m sure it’s just excessive traffic due to the book’s release.
What else would it be? 😉