Fantastic exploration of 'what if' centered on consciousness and alien life. Discussion of self-consciousness includes the often overlooked questions: What good is it? Is self-consciousness necessary for intelligence? And, on which side of the evolutionary intelligence curve does it truly fall? -- This, and more -- so many more discussion points have been planted in Blindsight, my head reeled.
Premise: After being probed, Earth identifies an alien threat and sends a contact team(s) to assess and deal with the alien presence. One team consists of a broad spectrum of consciousnesses: the ship itself has a spine and 'intelligence', the team leader is a vampire (not the twilight sort, trust me), a woman with multiple consciousnesses in one body, an empathic interrogator, a man integrated with machines, and the main character, who had 1/2 his brain removed as a child. With the full gambit, interaction with the alien(s) who are not some fuzzed up version of humanity, but are truly puzzling, well, the plot is fascinating, but secondary to the exploration of levels and uses of consciousness and multiple facets of humanity. The notes and discussion at the end of the novel reveal Peter Watts's scientific training, and are also well worth reading.