Saturday, October 18, 2014


Peter Watts is a former marine biologist and the Hugo-winning author of numerous short stories and novels such as Starfish, Maelstrom and Behemoth. He has been called "a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive" by the Globe and Mail and whose work the New York Times called "seriously paranoid."

Watts applied the Page 69 Test to his novel Echopraxia, the follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight, and reported the following:
First off, let's dispense with the adolescent snickers and agree that we're probably not the first to notice the sexual connotations of this "69 Test"; let's spare a moment to wonder if this blog's editor actually chose "Page 69" for any other reason.

Now, let us never speak of it again.

If I had to choose a single page that capsulized Echopraxia's underlying themes, or highlighted an especially intriguing character, or even just infodumped some nifty-cool bit of science all over your shoes (this book has a lot of that), there are maybe 382 pages that I would choose over 69. Here's what happens on that page: our protagonist, Daniel Brüks, is awakened from a lucid dream in which he's been conversing with his Imaginary Wife. (His real wife has retreated into a virtual environment for superfluous humans called "Heaven"; we can assume from the adoring and ego-boosting nature of the current apparition that Brüks has probably— let's say, idealized — the dream wife over the real one.)

Anyway, the dream ends because sudden bodily discomfort is causing Brüks to wake up. The chapter ends when the dream does. We get a nice pithy epigram, courtesy of Samuel Butler, leading into the next chapter—

To himself everyone is immortal: he may know that he
is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.

—and then Brüks wakes up, his fingers all pins and needles, and goes for a piss.

Exciting, huh?

If you'd opened the book a few pages back, you'd see that Brüks is at a monastery inhabited by hive-minded monks who used their tame tornado to fend off an attack by military zombies. If you just flipped just one page further on you'd learn that he's all tingly because of a gengineered neurotoxin that's in the process of turning all those monks into tortured twisted body-art exhibits. A few pages past that and you'd see Brüks In Spaaaaaaaaac as the Big Quest got underway.

But noooooo. You get to see our protagonist caricature his ex-wife in his dreams, and then wake up with tingly hands and a full bladder.

Doesn't that just make you want to race out and buy the book?
Learn more about the book and author at Peter Watts's website.

Blindsight is one of Charlie Jane Anders's ten great science fiction novels, published since 2000, that raise huge, important questions.

My Book, The Movie: Peter Watts's Rifters trilogy.

--Marshal Zeringue