Young Geoffrey (ed_rex) wrote,
Young Geoffrey

"I shared my flesh with thinking cancer"

In the long and storied SF tradition that sees such devices as Ursula K. le Guin's ansible become, in effect, an open-source idea, free to be modified, played with, argued about or even just used as a word to indicate "faster-than-light communication", rather than locked-down and copyrighted as le Guin's personal play-thing, "The Things" is Peter Watts' re-telling of John W. Campbell Jr.'s classic story, "Who Goes There?" and of John Carpenter's 1982 movie adaptation, The Thing.

Using the same plot and even the same character names, Watts, the author of the excellent novel, Blindsight (among others, all of which are available on his site under a Creative Commons license) re-tells the story from the monster's point of view. Or rather, from the (very alien) alien's point of view.

A biologist by training, in 7,000 words Watts has created what I suspect will be long regarded as a classic hard SF tale. There would be no story here (or at least, it would not be the same story) if this narrative was not about the shape-shifting alien's gradual discovery of the very strange way that life on Earth is organized.

Those who know neither the original story nor the movie adaptation might find "The Things" a little confusing, but anyone who knows the source material as something more than just a horror story will find it fascinating — and one of those rare, successful attempts in science fiction to depict an alien as genuinely, really, alien, not just in what in can do and what it physically is, but in terms of how those differences affect how it perceives the world.

A very good story from a very good writer. And happily, it is online at

Cross-posted from Edifice Rex Online.
Tags: peter watts, review, science fiction

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