Monday, July 28, 2014

Rachel Reviews - Echopraxia

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

* Read via NetGalley for review.

4 out of 5 gnomes

The book Echopraxia by Peter Watts is narrated by the main character, Daniel Brüks, and takes place in the future. Climate Changes have resulted in deserts in Oregon where we find Brüks, on an encouraged sabbatical to do field work in biology after his previous work killed thousands of people. His work mainly involves tagging and cataloging different mutations in desert reptiles found outside of the Bicameral Hive monastery, guarded by a pet tornado. One night his perimeter alarms start going off and after careful observation, he finds out that zombies are in the area. He runs to the monastery and gets let in just before the pet tornado is let loose on the undead. Then things start to get interesting.

This book takes you a wild ride from beginning to end. It was a bit confusing at first, but that could be because I haven’t read Blindsight, the precursor to Echopraxia. I give Watts full credit for still being able to include enough exposition to explain the cataclysmic events that led to this future while keeping us in the second book and keep the reader interested. It’s never easy to start with the second book of a series, but Watts’ writing is up to the task.

The vast majority of this book’s content, it seems to me, is philosophical in nature. Arguments between Brüks and Lillian over matters of faith vs. science, whom to put your faith into, etc. make up a lot of the dialog. There are also internal monologues for Brüks that go into matters of what makes a person a person and what is the cost of giving up your personality to become part of the Bicameral Hive Mind. I know that, as a Philosophy major I probably find this more interesting than most, but don’t discount the setting and the story. Watts has a tough task of keeping the science and the philosophy within the realm of possibility (he has quite the bibliography backing him up) while keeping the reader entertained and he does it. Brüks is on a ship with an old soldier, who lost his son on the ship that they are looking for; a translator for the Bicamerals, who follows them on blind faith; a pilot, who considers Brüks a roach; and a super-smart, super-strong vampire. There is plenty else going on for the reader.

There are a few things, though, that didn’t seem to work for me. I don’t know if Rakshi, the pilot, just doesn’t know how to use grammar or talks so fast that grammar is not needed, but she was constantly talking in run-on sentences with no punctuation. It was only her, though, so it’s probably part of her character. Then there’s the religious iconography at the end of the story that just didn’t seem to fit the book so well for me. It was more off-putting than resolution-finding. Then again, maybe the purpose of the ending was to leave me with questions.

Echopraxia certainly provided me with a lot of food for thought while in an interesting setting that, while confusing at times, ultimately made sense and was entertaining. Overall, I give this book 4 Gnomes. And while I encourage you to read Echopraxia, I recommend you start with Blindsight so you won’t have the same confusion problems I did in the beginning of reading.

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