N.K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season © 2015; Peter Watts: “Blindsight” ©2006, 2010; & books-in-the-pipeline

 

Epic SF & Fantasy stories: vividly imagined; complex characters; multifaceted and intricate story-lines.

N.K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season ©2015.

On the vast continent of Stillness, cycles of cataclysmic geographic and climactic changes, the Fifth Season, occur every few centuries. The Fifth Seasons are often suspected to be triggered by Orogenes, people with the powers to draw energy from their surroundings, including living and nonliving things.  When they release that energy, the result is earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves. For the people of the Stillness, the consequences are catastrophic.

Orogenes are hated and feared, either killed in childhood or given to a Guardian, to be trained to control their powers. In the novel, the current Fifth Season is triggered by a powerful Orogene who cracks the continent in half.  The narrator is an Orogene who relates the story about her life, and the Stillness, from different time periods: 

  – As Damaya, a young girl with orogene powers, who receives training from a Guardian, in the control and use of her powers;

– as Syenite, a young woman, who learns more about orogene powers, and her own abilities from her mentor, Alabaster, a powerful Orogene;

– and as Essun, a young mother of two children, who are also orogenes.

“The Fifth Season” (2015) is Book 1 in the “Broken Earth series and is followed by “The Obelisk Gate” (2016) and “The Stone Sky” (2017).

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Peter Watts: “Blindsight”; originally published in 2006 and republished in 2010.

A fascinating and intriguing alien contact story; exploring the nature of consciousness, its connection to communication and intelligence.

When an alien interstellar artifact is discovered in a comet beyond the solar system, Earth sends the spaceship Theseus to make contact.There are six specialized crew members aboard the Theseus:

Siri Keaton is a Synthesizer: With the help of cybernetics, he can mindread others’ intentions, predict the actions of others, and sense  visual stimulus even though he may not be aware of it consciously.

Jukka Sarasti is a genetically engineered vampire and is the crew’s leader.

Amanda Bates is a combat specialist.

Isaac Szpindel is the spaceship’s biologist and physician.

Susan James is the ship’s linguist, to communicate with the aliens. She has undergone surgery to create four distinct personalities in her mind.

The Captain is the ship’s enigmatic AI.

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The Theseus crew discovers the artifact speaks English and has named itself Rorschach. But it is evident that although Rorschach can use patterns and rules of language to communicate, it does not really understand the language.  

Rorschach is a gigantic alien artifact made by an alien race with interstellar technology. Is it sentient?

The crew probes the artifact and discovers that Rorschach can fight and defend itself. Rorschach is extremely dangerous in other ways: it can cloak itself.

Siri senses “something” is aboard the Theseus. It seems to be just on the periphery of his vision. His subconscious mind creates an image of segmented limbs, but he thinks it’s not real. Rorschach has sent its own “spies” into the Theseus:  The ‘Scramblers’ are very intelligent and complex aliens.

“Blindsight” is followed by the sequel “Echopraxia” (2014).

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Planning to read:

“Embers of War” by Gareth L. Powell, 2018 (Mindships)

“Echopraxia” by Peter Watts, 2014

“Infomocracy” by Malka Older, 2016 (cyberpunk political thriller)

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