2006 National Book Award Winner, Fiction

Richard Powers

The Echo Maker

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Photo credit:Lorenzo Ciniglio

About the Book

Set in Nebraska during the Platte River’s massive spring migrations, this novel explores the power and limits of human intelligence.

About the Author

Richard Powers is the author of eight previous novels, including Operation Wandering Soul, which was a nominated for a National Book Award in 1993. He has received numerous honors including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction. He lives in Illinois.

Suggested Links



Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, Harpercollins

Prisoner's Dilemma, McGraw Hill

The Gold Bug Variations, Harpercollins

Operation Wandering Soul, Harpercollins

Galatea 2.2, Farrar Straus & Giroux

Gain, Farrar Straus & Giroux

Plowing the Dark, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Time of Our Singing, Farrar, Straus and Giroux



from The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.

Copyright © 2006 by Richard Powers.
Published in October 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved.

Part One

Cranes keep landing as night falls. Ribbons of them roll down, slack against the sky. They float in from all compass points, in kettles of a dozen, dropping with the dusk. Scores of Grus canadensis settle on the thawing river. They gather on the island flats, grazing, beating their wings, trumpeting: the advance wave of a mass evacuation. More birds land by the minute, the air red with calls.

A neck stretches long; legs drape behind. Wings curl forward, the length of a man. Spread like fingers, primaries tip the bird into the wind’s plane. The blood-red head bows and the wings sweep together, a cloaked priest giving benediction. Tail cups and belly buckles, surprised by the upsurge of ground. Legs kick out, their backward knees flapping like broken landing gear. Another bird plummets and stumbles forward, fighting for a spot in the packed staging ground along those few miles of water still clear and wide enough to pass as safe.

Twilight comes early, as it will for a few more weeks. The sky, ice blue through the encroaching willows and cottonwoods, flares up, a brief rose, before collapsing to indigo. Late February on the Platte, and the night’s chill haze hangs over this river, frosting the stubble from last fall that still fills the bordering fields. The nervous birds, tall as children, crowd together wing by wing on this stretch of river, one that they’ve learned to find by memory.

They converge on the river at winter’s end as they have for eons, carpeting the wetlands. In this light, something saurian still clings to them: the oldest flying things on earth, one stutter-step away from pterodactyls. As darkness falls for real, it’s a beginner’s world again, the same evening as that day sixty million years ago when this migration began.

Copyright © 2006 by Richard Powers.
Published in October 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved.