book-reviews

Echopraxia

by Peter Watts

Rating: ★★★★

Echopraxia is the sequel to Watts' incredible Blindsight, covering a period of time which overlaps that of the previous novel, but on Earth and in the inner solar system rather than elsewhere. Echopraxia doesn't have the same kind of clear-cut critical insight that Blindsight presents, but it is nevertheless an excellent piece of science-fiction, stirring together vampires, game theory, brain-to-brain interfaces and much more.

Throughout the book we are placed in the perspective of a 'baseline' human, essentially unmodified, as he tries to cope with everything from zombies controlled by vampires to a super-powered hive mind to an incomprehensible alien power. We're prodded to consider what benefit he could possibly have against such opponents, and the answer is simply that he is field tested, wired and trained to survive in a way modified humans are not. The novel also sketches out a theme on the value of post-rational (even religious) thinking, of allowing your brain to pattern-match to the right answer rather than reasoning your way there.

Echopraxia is notably more action-packed than Blindsight, and also notably more inclined to hint at what's going on rather than take a strong position on it -- a theme the author has acknowledged is down to him not wanting to try being a posthuman in sketching out their plots.

A fine continuation of the plot of Blindsight, and possibly comprehensible to people who haven't read that, Echopraxia is good science fiction, if not quite the equal of its predecessor.