Eclipse Phase earns a place as a truly distinct RPG for those seeking the space between sci-fi, horror, cyberpunk, suspese, and conspiracy theory-crafting. It manifests as a deeply mature work of writing that seriously considers the implications of unimpeded technological discovery and evolution divorced from the perceived shackles of ethics, morals, and 'the common good' that plunges humanity into near extinction. The political, religious, philosophical, and technological themes are all-pervasive, and represent a game that frames threats as existential; challenging the player-characters to become immersed in a game that asks difficult questions without providing clear answers. In short, this is a game where personal truth (with a lower-case 't') is far more likely than any universal Truth - and even then it can morph, mutate, or be forcibly altered into something very different in the span of only a few game sessions.
Within this futuristic setting 95% of the human population have been destroyed, and the remainder have embraced (to varying degrees) transhumanity - that humanity is more than a fleshy form, and consciousness is a valuable asset that can be saved, restored from back-up, and even beamed across light-years to be re-sleeved into new forms. Experimentation on the natural world has 'uplifted' species to sapient levels; to the point these creatures are autonomous, self-determing life forms who need reassurance of their status and place in the expanding galaxy. Earth is a dangerous wasteland, its' near orbit littered with failed attempts to escape and the frozen remains of those doomed to never leave - the rest of humanity has spread across the solar system. Political strucutres are diverse, from the autocratic repressive regime of the Jovians (whose increasingly isolationalist totalitarianism outlook threatens internal obselecence) to the values-driven democratic socialist clades (and every possible permutation in between and beyond).
Society is constructed from uploaded and saved sapients, effectively immortal, and able to edit memories, and tailor their forms for every environment but bearing a great psychological and emotional cost. Humanity, though, is presented at its' self-destructive, cannibalistic best - even the threat of species-level extinction fails to act as a deterrant for perpetuating class divides, a death-grip on capitalist structures and intellectual property, and imposing scarcity economics.
It should be noted that the lion's share of this book is dedicated to setting. Whilst the mechanics (a percentile system) are well-detailed, described, and implemented, it is the incredible attention to a believable habitat for the human race that is most compelling.
The authors are obviously well-aware that the philosophical themes, sheer scope and diversity, and choice position it as a possibly confronting purchase. Mitigating this are the highly practical advice sections that delineate portions of the game, present the essentials, and then offer ways to purposefully grapple with the concepts at the table. The writers exercise excellent judgment in the topics covered, and this section is placed about halfway through the book - roughly about the time my head was full of racing, competing ideas that defied immediate attempts to fashion them into usable ideas. In that state of excited creativity, I was presented with sections that grounded my ideas, provided focus, and helped me to pare down the core elements of interest. Once completed, I was ready to dive into the rest of the book.
The writing style is mature, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, but at the same time accessible. The authors acknowledge the work of others as inspiration, and fans of Takeshi Kovacs, The Expanse, and even Ghost in the Shell will find enough touchstones to easily digest the content.
As mentioned, the content sequencing and structure is a highlight, and it is clear the developers tried to predict how readers would use the book, in what order ideas should be presented, and when the reader was likely to need a short rest to collate.
Artwork is uniformally evocative of the universe presented, and has a gritty, yet tasteful approach that complements the text.
Overall, I cannot praise this book more, and will add a physical copy to my shelves. Even if you do not intend to play this game, but it for the setting and you'll not be disappointed. I have no experience with the First Edition upon which to base comparative reviews, but as my entry point to Eclipse Phase this has given me a lot to think about, plenty of inspiration, and a desire to read more.