Echopraxia – Peter Watts

About the Book

Prepare for a different kind of singularity in this follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight

It’s the eve of the twenty-second century: a world where the dearly departed send postcards back from Heaven and evangelicals make scientific breakthroughs by speaking in tongues; where genetically engineered vampires solve problems intractable to baseline humans and soldiers come with zombie switches that shut off self-awareness during combat. And it’s all under surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to show itself.

Daniel Bruks is a living fossil: a field biologist in a world where biology has turned computational, a cat’s-paw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he’s turned his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that will turn all of history inside-out.

Now he’s trapped on a ship bound for the center of the solar system. To his left is a grief-stricken soldier, obsessed by whispered messages from a dead son. To his right is a pilot who hasn’t yet found the man she’s sworn to kill on sight. A vampire and its entourage of zombie bodyguards lurk in the shadows behind. And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call “The Angels of the Asteroids.”

Their pilgrimage brings Dan Bruks, the fossil man, face-to-face with the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought itself.

384 pages (hardcover)
Published on August 26, 2014
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I’m learning Peter Watts is one of those authors that just does it for me (“It” in this case means “everything”). Blindsight blew my mind. I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I put it down thinking, “This is what science fiction should be.”

Echopraxia was a replay of all those emotions.

Echopraxia is the sequel to Blindisght, but it can be read independently of Blindsight just fine. However, many of the things that are referenced are nicely explained in Echopraxia, but you’ll probably understand and appreciate them more if you read Blindsight first.

Echopraxia follows Dan, a scientist out in the Oregon desert doing his best to avoid humanity – a sentiment I can relate to. Dan is a scientist, and he observes the events that are unfolding as a scientist would. While he is much more emotional than the protagonist in Blindsight was, there is a commonality between the two of them. They both observe without getting their observations too muddled up with thoughtless reaction. They are both pretty good windows for readers to see what is happening without getting overly entangled in the emotional backlash each character is feeling.

That’s not to say that this book isn’t emotional. Dan finds himself flying through space with people he doesn’t know (or like), without any say as to whether he gets to do it or not. Furthermore, one of the characters on the ship absolutely terrifies him. So yes, he can be quite emotional, but it’s kind of refreshing to see those emotions step back so the plot can unfold and readers can really make up their own mind about what is happening. That’s something that Watts seems to really excel at in his writing.

Echopraxia is another fascinating novel that blends some ideas in a way that Watts is only capable of. In so many novels we see religion and science butting heads, but in Echopraxia, Watts takes another approach seeing how religion and science can lean against each other to become something more. In his world, the two don’t always have to fight, but they can merge and mix and become something else entirely. In Echopraxia, the monks of the Bicemeral order enter a state of transcendence through meditation and make groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs in ways that no one but them really understand.

That might sound kind of simple, but it really isn’t. Watts has a way with making an impact with his ideas. Echopraxia deals a lot with the human mind, and like Blindsight, it really makes readers analyze the future – how science, technology, and religion can really effect and impact each other. Furthermore, having a protagonist who is a biologist makes evolution and science a pretty fundamental concept to the novel right there. In this world technology is so integrated into human life, the human condition, even our physical bodies that it is hard to see just where one ends and another begins. Add the interesting religious stew to the mix, and their journey to, well, what they’re going toward, and you have something truly unique and absolutely thought provoking.

This isn’t a novel for those who don’t find themselves interested in hard (very hard) science fiction. This novel is jam packed full of scientific ideas and concepts, as well as plenty of technical jargon and a huge list of notes and further reading in the back of the book. The fact that this is so scientific might be very off-putting to some readers – this book really isn’t for everyone. It does require some effort to read, and it will demand your full attention.

However, if you’re into hard science fiction and if you’re up for a challenge, give this one a try. Watts has a way with taking the human condition and really, really forcing readers to look at, well, pretty much everything so differently. He’s illuminating, confusing, and his books require plenty of work, but the payoff is glorious. Peter Watts is the Will McIntosh of hard science fiction. His books, like McIntosh’s, refuse to be defined, summarized, or adequately reviewed.

They are too big and too amazing for any of that nonsense.


5/5 stars

3 Responses

  • A lot of people bounce off of Watts…but I am not. And clearly, Sarah, you aren’t, either.

    Where in the time frame of Blindsight does this occur, can you say?

    • Paul, I want to say it’s 14 years after the ship flies off in BLINDSIGHT.

      And I’m glad you enjoy Watts, too! Now I know who to say OH-MY-GOD-THIS-BOOK-IS-SO-COOL to.

  • Yes, I think it is 14 years after Theseus took off, also. Go Peter Watts!! I’m with you guys.

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