In Peter Watts's Echopraxia, the crew of The Crown of Thorns uses a ruse to whoever is following them. But I'm unclear on how it worked or what the plan entailed.

I gather that an escape pod was used to leave the ship behind, but it then seems like the ship either exploded or the escape pod assumed a purely unpowered trajectory (or both). However, it then appears that the escape pod returned to The Crown of Thorns (or some part of it?).

What is the gambit used by the crew of The Crown of Thorns to escape whoever is following them? What configuration of the ship remains as its journey continues.

  • Please limit answers to the events following the (apparent) success of the gambit.
    – orome
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


The plan was indeed to blow the Crown of Thorns up:

“THEY’D COME UP with this really great plan to keep their mysterious pursuers from blowing up the Crown: they were going to blow it up themselves first.”

However instead of using an escape pod, the bicameral’s separated the drive section from the habitable parts of the ship.

Looking at the plans of the ship from the authors website, the sections marked ‘habitable areas’ were powered down and detached, while the drive section kept firing and blew up.

“Another lurch. A sense of slow momentum, building. Somewhere behind them, the ligaments that held the Crown together were burning through. Up ahead, the view listed to port.

They know what they’re doing.

The bow of the ship began to topple, slow and majestic as a falling redwood. Sunlight and shadow played across its facets, hiding and highlighting myriad angles as the stars arced past. The universe turned around them. The sun rose, reached zenith, fell.”

“Brüks squinted, tried to squeeze signal from noise through the cotton growing in his head: the Crown’s drive section was already kilometers to port and kilometers ahead, its lead increasing with each second per second. Tactical had laid a vast attenuate cone of light across the space before it, spreading from the abandoned drive like a searchlight. Ramscoop, Brüks realized after a second. A magnetic field to gather up ionized particles, a brake against the solar wind. A proxy for mass gone suddenly missing: no telltale change in acceleration, no suspicious easing back on the throttle. One measure among many, shoehorned in between the masking of heatprints and whatever stealthed this ship to radar. Moore had told him as much as he could understand, Brüks supposed. There would be more.”

Once the powered down habitable section had drifted far enough away from the pursuers search, the bircarmal’s built a (much smaller) replacement engine in the hold.

Essentially the configuration of the ship after the gambit is just the habitable parts from the diagram.

  • That's how it seemed. But I was confused that it also seemed that they'd entered the "soccer ball", drifted in that away from the Crown Of Thorns, and witnessed the the explosion of the (original) drive section from within that.
    – orome
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 16:52
  • 1
    I’ve added another quote that hopefully makes it clear the habitable section in the bow of the Crown was broken off.
    – jaketmp
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 16:57
  • So did they ever actually enter the "soccer ball"? When did they change their mind? (Or do we find out later: spoiler?)
    – orome
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 17:58
  • 1
    They did enter the soccer ball (or thermos), but it stayed inside the hub the entire time - it provided extra thermal insulation so they would not be detected by the body heat of the crew after severing the drive section:
    – jaketmp
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 18:33

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