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The Island
September 5, 2010 5:07 PM   Subscribe

The Island by Peter Watts (previously), winner of this years Hugo Award for Best Novelette. An audio version is available over at StarShipSofa (previously), itself a Hugo recipient.
posted by Artw (31 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm a Watts fan and have never been to his site. I think he needs to hire a designer, but it is charming in a Web 1.0 sort of way. I'm excited to read this and I'm happy to get some of his books in PDF! I already have them in paper.

Way neat.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:18 PM on September 5, 2010


I read this in an anthology. Heady stuff. Let me know when you've read it so we can discuss without fear of spoilers.
posted by signal at 5:27 PM on September 5, 2010


And {Metafilter's own} Charlie Stross's Palimpsest won the Hugo for Best Novella.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:31 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh. I think MeFi has had an unbroken run of Hugo representation these last few years.
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on September 5, 2010


I was excited to listen to the story but couldn't make it five minutes into the podcast. How can anyone listen to something that is so terribly compressed. The aliasing and general high frequency noise was digging into my brain. Ouch.
posted by thylacine at 5:52 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder the difference between a Novella and a Novelette. I'm sure the Hugo site would tell me. Anyway, yay. I think I've had The Island waiting for me on Instapaper for a while.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2010




Projects.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:50 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was an interview posted last week with Peter Watts in which he talks about The Island.

(via Projects)
posted by keeo at 6:54 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


On non-preview, yup.
posted by keeo at 6:55 PM on September 5, 2010


That was great - there were some really interesting ideas. Also, very bleak.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:25 PM on September 5, 2010


Awesome interview there guys. I should pay more attention to Projects - if I'd have been aware of it I totally would have made it the spine of this post.

I like the bit where he says that actually he thinks his stuff is quite optimistic.
posted by Artw at 7:37 PM on September 5, 2010


Good story.
posted by limeonaire at 8:08 PM on September 5, 2010


So happy to see Seanan McGuire win the Campbell Award too!
posted by Talez at 8:23 PM on September 5, 2010


Hmmm... I was fixing to post a complaint about how vague the ending was, but then I went back and re-read it and it makes a little more sense. Am I right in thinking that the panicky signal they received was from another Island, since it was coming from in front of them? I.e., from the other end of the gate they were building? The rest of the story was ambiguous enough about how gate construction works that I'm a little shaky on this point. But it sounds like the first Island manipulated the crew into moving the gate so that it would kill a different Island. Why this would be doesn't make much sense, but it's a lot more understandable than what I first thought (the Island sends a panicked signal to stop, then after a break the characters vaguely imply that it committed some kind of atrocity).

Also, what's with Dix's constant omission of pronouns? I'm guilty of that myself sometimes (a linguistic habit I've often wondered about), but he takes it to the point of distraction. Maybe it's a side effect of the chimp's influence?

Lastly, Watts has some cool ideas, but he needs an editor. I caught a couple of grammar and punctuation errors, and I'm not usually one to search out stuff like that. Neat story, though.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:30 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rhaomi, that's the general idea that I got, that the Island in front of them for much of the story used them to take out a different Island that the characters couldn't see behind the first Island.

As for Dix and his pronouns/speaking patterns, I kind of attribute it to the protagonist's argument with the computer. It seems the computer was trying to raise more pliant, willing workers, but as the protagonist points out, the computer is not equipped to raise human beings. Not only was it unequipped to teach children to think for themselves, it wasn't a very good language teacher either.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:55 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it sounds like the first Island manipulated the crew into moving the gate so that it would kill a different Island. Why this would be doesn't make much sense, but it's a lot more understandable than what I first thought (the Island sends a panicked signal to stop, then after a break the characters vaguely imply that it committed some kind of atrocity).

The protagonist (Sunday?) views the Island as a kind of God, and takes comfort in the fact that something pure and good exists as an alternative to humanity, which seems despicable, cruel, and pointless. She also mentions that they've found no other intelligent alien life (that she knows of) so there aren't any other alternatives to humanity.

So she concentrates on saving the Island as a way to do something right in her meaningless life, and probably to atone for some of humanitys' sins. As bad as her life is, there is something Better out there that she was a brief part of.

Of course the Island is just as awful as humanity -- evolving in the stars didn't get rid of competition -- and one Island was manipulating her into killing another. Out of jealousy? Need for resources? Bloodlust? Impossible to say. Either way all the hopes the protagonist pinned on them are nil.

Maybe you got most of that, but if not it might help you make sense of the plot twist.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:40 PM on September 5, 2010


Really enjoyed that; thanks for the link, and the new author to read.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:53 PM on September 5, 2010


Congrats to starshipsofa too. Really happy about that one. First podcast to win a Hugo!
posted by seanyboy at 12:56 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I followed Tony from StarshipSofa's Hugo coverage on ustream, you can watch it here if you wanna see how a happy podcast editor reacts to winning a Hugo (at about min. 00:41).
posted by ts;dr at 5:47 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]




I followed Tony from StarshipSofa's Hugo coverage on ustream, you can watch it here if you wanna see how a happy podcast editor reacts to winning a Hugo (at about min. 00:41).

Caution: May destroy speakers.
posted by Artw at 7:54 AM on September 6, 2010


Mostly, I just love: Best Fan Writer: Frederik Pohl
posted by Amanojaku at 11:51 AM on September 6, 2010


I just read this a couple weeks back! Good story.

"As for Dix and his pronouns/speaking patterns, I kind of attribute it to the protagonist's argument with the computer. It seems the computer was trying to raise more pliant, willing workers, but as the protagonist points out, the computer is not equipped to raise human beings. Not only was it unequipped to teach children to think for themselves, it wasn't a very good language teacher either."

Yeah. It was trying to make Dix a "simplified" human, in the same way you might rewrite a computer program to do the same job but use less code. So Dix had streamlined language skills as well. Much more efficient that way, and for the Chimp efficient is better.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2010


Given that the man has been reduced to eating kittens (scroll down), this is great news.
posted by maudlin at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's upset that nobody thought to greet her and her crew when they were traveling past at 1/5 of lightspeed.

One fifth. Of the speed of light.

I can... see how that might cause some trouble for any kindly civilizations who want to say hello.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:03 PM on September 6, 2010


I have nothing to add, except that Blindsight is the best SF novel I've read in years, and you do yourself a disservice (if you're the sort of person who reads SF) if you don't read it.
posted by twirlip at 10:50 PM on September 6, 2010


For some reason I tend to mix him up with the far inferior Robert Sawyer, but I really, really like Watts' stuff. Thanks, this is most excellent.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:35 AM on September 7, 2010


the best SF of 2010?
posted by Artw at 10:48 PM on September 7, 2010


I followed Tony from StarshipSofa's Hugo coverage on ustream, you can watch it here if you wanna see how a happy podcast editor reacts to winning a Hugo (at about min. 00:41).

Caution: May destroy speakers.


Catching up on the podcast, and it's actually worst there. I'm reminded of the bit in Star Wars where everyone is happy that they've turned off the trash compactor and C3-P0 thinks it sounds like they've been crushed to death.
posted by Artw at 2:41 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


audio samples of the nominated novels
posted by Artw at 6:24 PM on September 12, 2010


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