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Echopraxia: The Sequel to the Most Recommended Book Ever

Peter Watts' Blindsight should be no stranger to anyone on PrintSF. On our Reddit incarnation, it was recommended in just about every thread asking for recommendations. It was sometimes even a suitable recommendation.

Echopraxia is its much-less-well-known sequel, and it's the Art Garfunkel to Blindsight's Paul Simon. It's definitely not as well thought out or comprehensible, but it still does its own thing pretty well, and is a great complement to the other. Though, it might not quite stand on its own so well.

Watts has changed the setting from near space to, well, nevermind, we're back in space. There are some bits early on that are on Earth, and I thought those were quite promising. There's some great world building - and it really is a fascinating near-future Earth that he's thought up - but, well, a chapter in and we're thrust back into space aboard another spaceship with a whacky crew of post-human misfits.

Which is fine. Blindsight proved he's quite adept at writing that sort of thing. Only, this time around, no one is quite as, uhh, anti-charismatic as the protagonist of that. The main character is as unlikable as Siri Keeton in his own way, but he's not the fascinating character study. He's just a guy past his prime trying to not get killed in a world he doesn't understand very well anymore.

And not getting killed isn't a minor accomplishment in this book. Without getting too spoilery, don't get attached to anyone too much. Not that that's much of an accomplishment, either. The marine who practices combat maneuvers in his sleep, and the vendetta obsessed pilot aren't exactly begging you to be on their side. Neither are the mute hive mind scientists or their interpreter. The latter of whom might actually be the only sympathetic character in the entire book. Hey, I might have felt a twinge of sympathy for the resurrected vampire.

Bashing aside, I enjoyed this book a lot. Much like in Blindsight, Watts loves to throw mind-melting ideas about melting-minds at the pages and seeing what sticks. Quite a few of them did this time around, though not as often as in that one. Some of the mind-melting ideas about melting-minds came across as half-baked or just not particularly well described. For example, the titular Echopraxia only shows up in the last twenty pages or so, and I don't think we're ever told exactly how it came about. Though it's entirely possible I missed it.

On missing things, I must admit, I either missed or plain did not understand a lot of the plot points of this one. Daniel Bruks (the MC I mentioned) finds himself in ludicrous situation after ludicrous situation which are far too coincidental to be coincidental. There are many allusions to things not being quite as they seem, but very few actual revelations of reality. The end of the book in particular seemed very vague to me, though I suspect a lot of what's happening could be inferred by tying it together with Blindsight to make some sort of meta-narrative on the nature of consciousness and its necessity or lack thereof. And yeah, I've lost myself now.

Watts' books typically demand a re-read or two.

Which I'm sure I'll get around to right after I read something mindless and action driven. I need a break.

4/5 holes punched in my consciousness