Published August, 2014 by Tor Books
Horror and science fiction have a long history beside each other – one that stretches back as far Mary Shelley defining the modern science fiction novel with her Frankenstein. Often, though, when the two genres mix the horror is formed from taking the science fiction a step too far – we make contact with aliens, but they’re parasites that burst through your chest, or we perfect cloning technology, and create dinosaurs that kill us all. In Echopraxia Peter Watts manages to merge these two worlds in a very different manner, instead taking his usual penchant for hard, fact based science fiction and trying to understand concepts such as vampires, zombies, and alien blobs through that lens.
Taken as this type of thought experiment, Echopraxia is fascinating, although at times overwhelming – the different types of monsters that inhabit Watt’s world are all fascinating enough in their own ways that each could be explored in their own work. By combining all three of them, however, he isn’t able to devote enough time to any of them, and the explanations for them become a little unsatisfying.
As interesting as Echopraxia is as a thought experiment, however, as a narrative it’s less satisfying. There are interesting events taking place in the world of the novel, but they are rarely more than alluded to while the main plot is less thrilling and more straightforward. We aren’t given a strong sense of the urgency or importance of Bruks et al’s journey, and while it’s a bit interesting on an academic level, it never feels like a compelling journey.
In a lot of ways, Echopraxia feels like a very classic sci-fi novel, favouring intellectualism and thought experiments over character and plot. While this style will no doubt have its fans, overall it leaves it as an unsatisfying reading experience.