ECHOPRAXIA by Peter Watts


Psychiatry   – meaningless repetition or imitation of the movements of others as a symptom of psychiatric disorder.
So would that be like zombie-ism?  Or like members of a certain political party which shall remain nameless as well as brainless?
This is the sequel to Blindsight,  which I babbled on about here.   Echopraxia is almost a stand alone because there are enough clarifying references to Blindsight to keep you up to speed.  This volume features a well known biologist, who is mainly living in a tent in the Oregon Desert, studying the mutant effects on the fauna there, after a rather serious oops event in his earlier career.  Somewhat nearby is a monastery,  the Bicamerals, ‘monks’ who have evolved their brain power so much that they are beyond speech.  They believe that God is information data.  I think that is what they believe.   Anyway, they have managed to harness nature in the guise of a tornado.  One night, when it would seem that they are being attacked by the authorities, they pull the trigger on the tornado, and a terrible storm ensues.  Our biologist manages to get to the monastery for shelter, is hauled inside where he meets a woman who has been augmented and can communicate with the monks, and a military general, who turns out to be the father of Siri, from the first book.
But the monks haven’t been spending all their time praying and fasting.  They have been building a starship in the basement.  Yeah, I did that too, but it didn’t work out very well, probably because I know nothing about physics,  or the mechanics of flight, and am afraid of the welding machine.  So chazam, off they go into the wild blue, catching up the General, the girl and our biologist.  Hey, a free trip to the back of the back of beyond.  What’s not to like?
Howsomeverly, it turns out that on board is a lady vampire, Veronica, and a bunch of her minions.  Now you will recall that humans are prey for vampires, so everyone is pretty nervous around her.   They arrive at an energy way station called … oh fudge, I forget…. which they find totally deserted.   But they do see an anomoly, a something, which turns out to be …. well, I don’t know exactly what it was… thinking metal?  Kind of like slime mold with blueprints?  Anyhow, the darn thing is infectious, and can imitate walls, etc.  There is a lot of scary stuff going on, with people and creatures dying and stuff, and finally the biologist, the captain and the General get away and fly back home, with the vampire somehow out on the struts of the ship, having gone into hypersleep or whatever vampires do to survive.
The General has minutely examined all the data transcripts from the ship his son was on, and is convinced the kid is still alive and transmitting from somewhere, that original ship having been blown to smithereenettes.  Reading those transcripts and rereading, he slowly goes mad.
The vampire survives the journey back to earth, and ends up in the Oregon desert with the biologist, where they establish a sort of friendship, and then he…..
Honest to Pete, even better than the first in the series.   The plot is space opera, the vision amazingly creative, and the intelligence of it all makes me ashamed for reading so much Agatha Christie in my misplaced youth.
Again, this is a freebie, as in FREE, (Creative Commons) in various places throughout the interwebz, so if you say bah humbug to the whole thing because you don’t read sci fi, I urge you to at least download it and read the Notes and References section, which contains if not a truckfull, at least a minivan-full of fascinating information upon which the story is based.  Stuff like psy-ops and the consciousness glitch, a bit about how vampires could actually exist, zombies and the reality, cognitive slime mold, Cooper’s iCHELLs 35, inorganic metal cells capable of reactions you could call metabolic, adaptive delusional systems, and the bicameral condition, Julian Jaynes and his bi-cameral consciousness theory which I discussed here.   and God and the digital universe.  I have always said the internet was like God – everywhere and nowhere.

3 comments on “ECHOPRAXIA by Peter Watts

  1. Mary Smith says:

    I so enjoyed reading this review 🙂 Don’t think I’ll go for the book but loved the review.

  2. Phoghat says:

    “They believe that God is information data” Isn’t everything, more or less?

  3. […] Watts is the author of Blindsight, which I talked about here,  and Echopraxia, which I discussed here.    He has won the Hugo, and several Locust awards.  I think he might just possibly be the best […]

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