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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Echo
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 February 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are some rather good reviews of this novel, a novel dare I say that is a rather sophisticated piece of Science Fiction. While some reviewers have said you can read this as a stand-alone production, I have yet to read `The Explorer (2013)'. So I do feel a tad disadvantaged here. Here then are my best efforts. As others have commented there are some poignant links with this work and Solaris (and I do not mean the American re-make). For me the author James Smythe writing is daring in nature, as his reworks old concepts and reinvents them to his needs. This is a well-crafted and intelligent work, which draws in the reader, and in doing so he gets the reader to `gel' with the characters. The Echo takes the bibliophile on a poignant journey into deepness of space, as the narrative moves on the atmosphere makes for a rather claustrophobic feel to the whole venture. There is clear inter-weaving of the main protagonists' identical twin brothers, for they are the most brilliant minds in science. It is under their guidance and their supervision that the whole undertaking has got under way, and it is in their narrative the reader is channelled, while one of the brothers remains on Earth as ground control, the other leads the mission into deep space. For theirs is the second expedition to this far distant anomaly, as the first mission ended in the disappearance of the spaceship Ishiguro with all crew members. The twins and the new expedition members are determined not befall the same fate.
Unfortunately things seem to go awry with the mission and there is sense of foreboding, which then has a catalytic effect that gives rise to the creepiness of the whole event, the twins are tested by their respective rolls, as they are played out in the book.
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Wow; as a second novel in a quartet, this is stunning. I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Explorer, and looked forward immensely to this second book. The Echo takes place twenty years after the expedition on the Ishiguro; the anomaly which is viewable in space from Earth seems to be bigger, or is it getting closer to Earth? Either way, scientists need to understand what it is, so if it poses a threat to Earth they can at least try and deal with it.

Two brilliant scientists, brothers and twins, Mira and Tomas Hyvonen head a new mission for a new ship, the Lara which is planned and built to their specifications; Tomas will stay on Earth and man the Mission Control, while Mira captains the crew on the Lara to head into space to find the anomaly and investigate it. They have left nothing to chance; the crew is hand-picked and selected, trained comprehensively; the ship and the equipment is purpose-built and scientifically perfect for the mission. But have Mira and Tomas forgotten something?

This is absolutely brilliant stuff; the psychological and emotional turmoil in such a mission, and the way in which the whole series of events get inside Mira's head (whose first-person narrative we are reading) is mind-blowing. The intensity of the book is heightened by the fact that Mira certainly, and I think Tomas, are not particularly likeable. Mira finds it hard to relate to his crew as people or colleagues, and his relationship with his brother is tinged with past remembrances.

I cannot imagine the enormity of taking part in a mission like this, and the way in which the crew deals with the events that unfold on the Lara is brilliantly capture for the reader. You feel like you're there, floating in space with them as your air supply slowly runs out, such is the pace of the novel. This book gets right inside your head. I can't wait for the third one in this series. If you haven't read The Explorer, read that before you read this. If you're looking for another book by this author, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Machine which was brilliant.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Echo is a sequel to The Explorer - it occupies the same literal universe but you could easily read it as a standalone, everything is explained as if the reader has no foreknowledge, but I must say, The Echo really does echo The Explorer and it will add to the experience if you read them in order.

The Echo follows the crew of the Lara, 23 years after the Ishiguro disappeared. Captained by one half of an identical pair of twins, Mira, whilst his brother, Tomas mans everything from ground control. As the much improved ship approaches their destination, the anomaly; discovered during the Ishiguro mission, they realise that they are dealing with something that is completely new to science and begin to risk everything in their pursuit of scientific glory and curiosity. As history begins to repeat itself, Mira, understanding the foreshadowing does everything he can to avoid his ultimate fate. Is there anyway out of things this time around?

James Smythe writes fantastically well, his style is direct but descriptive, I felt I knew the ship very well by the end and had a good feel for the suits as well. As things become more and more surreal the tension is ratcheted up fantastically, even tying in with the first book in a pretty major way. I enjoyed the echoing of the first book with Mira crawling around in the wall-spaces much like Cormac. I can't really say much more other than this is an excellent Science Fiction novel, even if it bends the rules of physics quite a bit to drive the story. Nonetheless, an excellent sequel weighing in at 303 pages.

Highly recommended, but make sure you read The Explorer first to really get the feel of things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2014
Confusing, but well written, this is the continuation of the previous book, in which the first ship is lost in space with one possible survivor.
I found it difficult to work out what was possible in this surreal world that James Smythe has conjured up
So, although entertaining, the end of the book left me in a limbo of non understanding
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a sequel to The Explorer (second in four books in series) I was bemused that The Echo was doing nearly just that. Similar tension in plotline and buildup, another mission etc. This isn't a direct accusation (J'accuse Orson Scott Card Ender's Shadow, even Arthur C Clarke Rama) but it is certainly trodden path.

What it does do is take the elements off into a whole new direction. There are some thought provoking passages which make a larger impact because you thought you were familiar with both ideas/concepts/plots. Strangely enough, its the characters themselves who have been written to be almost unreal.

I think it is a good read. Read Explorer first.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2014
I read The Explorer a few months ago and, while I enjoyed it, I couldn't help but feel I was waiting for something to happen - the big reveal, the point where everything comes together and makes sense. That never happened, and the book finished without seeming to have an end, which was frustrating. When I saw that there was a sequel, it seemed to make sense. This new book, The Echo, would tie everything up and explain the events. But no. Although linked to the earlier book, it does nothing to explain what happened in that, and adds more unfinished and unexplained events to the mix.
I've just discovered that the books form part of a planned quartet, which goes some way to explaining the structure. It may have been better to publish the books as one volume, so at least you could find out what actually happens. I will probably read the next two books, but only because I want to know what happens, rather than through enjoyment of reading them.. I just hope the plot is finally resolved!
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on 17 March 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having already read 'The Machine' and 'The Explorer', I can report that this title follows on from the latter - and although it's my no means essential to have read it, it would enhance your enjoyment if you had done so.

Writing in a recognisably British voice, Smythe has produced a very good (but by no means 'classic') bit of hard SF that will be welcomed by readers into that scene.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2014
After looking the first book maybe my expectations were just too high. The whole twin thing became very very tedious very quickly. There were bits of an interesting story hidden in the narrative but not enough to make this a great read. Unlike the first the story was very predictable. If you loved the first one give it a try just don't expect as much and enjoy the read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 February 2014
I have only read one book by James Smythe (The Explorer) several weeks before the release of "The Echo", and was super excited to have a continuation of a great read to be available so soon. Both books are written in sci-fi genre, not something that I read often, but boy I was addicted to both of them (and I am contemplating reading everything by James Smythe that is available on the market!).

Not to spoil your reading pleasure, let me just say that the book is about exploring the space and the "Anomaly" (somewhat weird and creepy existence somewhere out there, unexplained and unexplainable, and therefore disturbing and alarming in its growth), there is the second space mission, 20+ years after the failure of the Ishiguro. And, if you read "The Explorer", you might find this next instalment of the Anomaly quartet somewhat repetitive, but it's the brilliant language of Smythe that keeps you going. The book is inspiringly written and is hard to put down as you have to find out what happens next and how the story will unfold. The narrative is always nothing less but captivating, mysterious and thought-provoking.

What is programmed as the fail-safe space mission (what can go wrong after everything went wrong with the Ishiguro?) turns out to be a completely unpredictable excursion. The crew of the second mission are not prepared for the real journey into the Anomaly, which is alluring and dangerous and quiet, and is literally prepared to swallow them whole. If you've read "The Explorer", then you will have a good idea of the shock and unprecedented events that await the team and the distress for those who witness the unexplainable happenings, again and again and again. "The Echo" rewards readers with some answers to the mystery of the Anomaly located far away in space, at the same time adding more threat as the Anomaly's powers seem to reveal themselves. Oh, that never-ending feeling of dread - it just does not let go!

And here's the BUT: "The Echo" has the same problem as the first novel in the series - it ends abruptly and in unsatisfying manner, and it is somewhat repetitive. The ending is a disappointment but, on the other hand, the finale leaves a lot of things hanging, preparing the space for the third book, which I cannot wait to read! I might have said too much about the first book of the quartet but I highly recommend reading The Explorer anyway, to add more dimension and colours to the "The Echo".
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 February 2014
The Echo is the second in James Smythes' Anomaly Quartet. It most certainly shouldn't be read without knowledge of its predecessor The Explorer. What happened on that mission has a direct influence on the events of The Echo and on the fate of its crew. As a result, clues to what happened in The Explorer are inevitable in the review that follows.

It's twenty years since the Ishiguro spacecraft disappeared into the Anomaly. Funerals with empty coffins have been held for Cormac Easton and his fellow astronauts. Only we, the readers of The Explorer, have any kind of idea about what befell the ship and its crew. Earth is determined to know and when the signs indicate that the Anomaly may in fact be on a path to Earth, the project is kick started that will see another vessel approach this mysterious, possibly hostile, emptiness in space. It is agreed, though, that there is no hope of finding the Ishiguro and the Anomaly itself will be kept at arm's length.

If only it had all gone according to plan. The problem, though, seems almost predestined when one considers the circumstances behind the launch of the Lära, the new spaceship, which bears the name of the commander's mother. The commander onboard is Mira but the commander on the ground is Mira's twin brother Tomas. Fiercely competitive, the choice of which brother would take the flight to glory is almost left to chance but when Mira is on the Lära he is never able to ignore the voice in his ear. The only advantage Mira has over this omniscient presence is the gap of seconds that increases between communications as the vessel leaves Earth further behind. Everything, though, is supposed to be an improvement on the publicity seeking path to adventure that the Ishiguro pursued twenty years before. The Lära is a mission of science. But there are humans aboard with their own issues and when they reach that apparently dead bit of space called the Anomaly there is little they can do to combat its affect on them.

What follows are sections of extraordinary power as half of the crew make the journey into the Anomaly. If you've read The Explorer, then you will have a good idea of the horror that awaits them and, in this case, the equal trauma for those who witness it. It is relentless. Some fates are indeed worse than death.

What an exciting writer James Smythe is. The Testimony, The Explorer and The Machine take life apart at a fundamental level, reducing its (I almost said `victims') protagonists to their basic instincts and emotions. As the outside becomes unknowable, the inside searches for truth. As a result everything is dwelled upon, whether it's religion, science, family, space or oneself. This fragility is stirred in The Echo by the Anomaly, aggravating crew members' guilt and torment for their families or loved ones, just as it had done during The Explorer for Cormac. Mira himself is a portrait in sleep deprivation. There is a line beyond which lies madness - several of the characters dance around this line.

The Echo is a compelling and mysterious science fiction adventure. As someone who can't get enough of such things, it certainly fulfilled its mission of keeping me glued to the pages and this was a fast read. The Echo is also, though, a penetrating and rather ruthless analysis of people being broken down to the core of their being. It is bleak, very bleak. This is science fiction looking inwards, not the type that looks out to wonders beyond the horizon. This is space filled with horror.

The Echo is the second novel in a series and it doesn't stand alone, nor does it end, for me, in a totally satisfying manner. I was troubled by it and it did mar my overall enjoyment of what is otherwise a superb novel. It does, though, leave a lot of room for the third book. I for one am ready for some answers and they can't come soon enough. I'm grateful for the review copy.
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