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Echopraxia Paperback – June 16, 2015
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“A paranoid tale that would make Philip K. Dick proud, told in a literary style that should seduce readers who don't typically enjoy science fiction.” ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
PETER WATTS is the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of Blindsight and has been called "a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive" by The Globe and Mail and whose work the New York Times called "seriously paranoid."
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The greatest fault, I feel, with 'Echopraxia' is that there is no real sense of the progression of time while all geospatial awareness is emphatically tossed out the window. More succinctly put, you have no idea where the hell they are, where the hell they're going, all while never having any real plot point to plant a stake in. Making matters worse, Mr. Watts speaks so frequently in metaphors and overwrought similes that you start to lose track of what's literal and what's figurative and there are times you don't realize it until a significant time later when the event it self is referenced in a more specific, grounded way (the clarity of which should have been reflected in the narrative as it happened). I finished the book last night and just spent thirty minutes on Reddit trying to figure out what I had just read. Peter Watts himself tackled a Reddit thread and even then many of his answers were either a) fraught with ambiguity or b)assumed that the reader should have read every word of the book multiple times through (there's even a point where, his response dripping with condescension, he openly blames the ignorance of the reader for their lack of understanding as he stated quite clearly in the end notes- the END NOTES- that such a inference simply couldn't be the case). Whatever the case, this book would take several reads to decipher. Unfortunately, nor the characters nor the story- full of anti-climactic letdowns- merit the time investment.
In the end, I'm convinced that Peter Watts was more worried about sounding brilliant than constructing an engaging story when he wrote 'Echopraxia'. Though he states that "The professional book reviewers (Kirkus, Library Journal, all those guys) have turned in pretty consistent raves" I find it hard to understand why and the sentiment itself makes me question the legitimacy and integrity of their reviews. 'Echopraxia', unfortunately, is boring and slow and it's plot convoluted and ultimately smothered beneath chains of elaborate metaphors and unnecessarily arcane verbage (by the way, fun drinking game: take a drink every time he uses the word "arcane"). I wanted to love 'Echopraxia' but it ultimately disappointed. Unless you consider the mistakes cited above as being forgivable, I wouldn't recommend that you read 'Echopraxia'.
If you've read Mr. Watts other books, and I have, you won't be surprised by the pace or the complexity of the characters who join together to fight a common foe (or are they each other's common foe?). He is a gifted writer/tormented soul/who turns out very unique and insightful stories.
Complaints: The plot is linear (sort of) but there are aspects of the situation that Brüks finds himself in that could have been explained better to the reader (note that notwithstanding I gave the book five stars). It's a complicated delve into one possible dystopian near-future that combines a number of elements. The spaceship, Crown of Thorns, is chased and attacked by an unknown enemy from Earth. That's never completely resolved or maybe I missed something.
The plot is slow moving and takes some time to get off the ground but the slow reveals that connect to the other novel Peter Watts wrote "Blindsight" are jarring as they are horrifying. The main character is a man who find himself in front of a monastery of enhanced humans that think as a collective mind. They decide they have a mission for him and from there the book takes a long dark walk through what the aftermath of first contact with an alien intelligence might just do to the human race.
Characters from Blindsight are referenced and the short story "The Colonel" works as a bridge between the two novels. I would recommend reading "The Colonel" at some point either before or after reading Echopraxia (the order actually doesn't matter) to get some more depth to the story.
The overall story is almost nightmarish in how it approaches just how far technology might completely change what it is to be human what in doing so that might do to our encounter with an intelligence from outside our planet. Unlike Blindsight much of the novel is set on Earth so we get a glimpse of the world after the Firefall incident. Unlike the first novel the characters here are not on a mission so much as interested parties thrown together by forces outside of themselves. The pace is certainly slow but the reveals are worth the trip. If you enjoyed the kind of science fiction that Blindsight brought where you're likely to google a term or two every fifty pages, then you'll love this novel as well
Most recent customer reviews
Keep a dictionary handy. This guy is SMART. Even so, the characters are real and believable, dialogue crisp, settings...Read more