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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Catalogue number 250480... And all that it entails! 4.5 stars from me.
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...
Published 1 month ago by Lola

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Echo of the first book.
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...
Published 27 days ago by SlosshyDolphin


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Catalogue number 250480... And all that it entails! 4.5 stars from me., 17 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Echo (Kindle Edition)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smythe rarely pulls the same tricks twice..., 9 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
... And when he does, he reveals more intricate layers than you could have ever expected the first time round.

This book is so similar to the last in the series, the Explorer, yet at the same time, so utterly different. After the events of the last book, I would think it difficult for an author to write a sequel with a similar tone and yet have the same impact. Smythe has achieved this and much more.
Like with the first, you really understand the setting of the ship and the crew that inhabits it. He also introduces concepts and rules of this world that make you think very hard about every situation in the book.
Two books in, I now have complete faith in this author to build upon his world without repeating too much, but repeating just enough to keep the appeal of prior books. I really loved it.
Finally, having read this and The Machine, I have to say that his approach to plot twists is rather incredible. In both, I found myself guessing large plot points chapters in advance, but he'd still manage to make an impact and defy my expectations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric sequel to The Explorer, 27 Feb 2014
By 
Zip Domingo (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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I've become a confirmed fan of James Smythe and all of his books never disappoint.This is a worthy sequel to 'The Explorer' and as tight and eerie an experience as that first book. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, dark, utterly compelling, 19 Feb 2014
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Book Critic (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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Written with James Smythe's usual sparse, spare style, The Echo shares the unrelenting bleakness of The Machine - the only other of his books I have read. The Echo is not a book to uplift the spirits and raise a smile, but it is a compelling and extraordinary read that had me gripped from the start.
Strange and terrifying, The Anomaly - a patch of dark space nothing seems able to penetrate - is growing, threatening to swallow Earth. The Hyvönen twins have worked together, long and hard, to build a spaceship and a crew like no other, to investigate the anomaly, find out what it is and how much of a threat, and grab the glory of having succeeded where a previous ship, the Ishiguro, failed, disappearing without trace. The first-person narrative is told by Mira - short for Mirakel, the second, unexpected twin of a hippie mother; the brother who won the 'accolade' of being the one to travel into space, but... Did he really win anything? Or was his 'prize' just another of Tomas's manipulations?
Seen through Mira's eyes, brother Tomas seems utterly ruthless, moving through life with a bleak, steely scientific attitude; utterly dedicated to his work - but is he really so cold? Both men have an icy, Machiavellian attitude that distances them from the rest of humanity, that makes all that is to come all the more shocking. And is Mira a reliable voice? Tomas is safe, controlling the mission from Earth. Tomas has a wife, he has his whisky and cigars, he sleeps at home each night. All we really know of his brother is what Mira tells us. It is Mira who seems most distant from the world, most alone, most dysfunctional, most likely to be insane.
More psychological horror than SF, this is the second of 4 books about the Anomaly - I must read the first, The Explorer, and look forward to the third when, hopefully, we will learn more of what was happening on the ground, and what Tomas is really up to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Echo takes the reader on a poignant journey into deep space, 12 Feb 2014
By 
Sussman "Sussman" (London CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `When it is time, we'll all go into that darkness out there', 17 Dec 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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"Space and stars, and... loss and loneliness"

After The Machine,James Smythe has become a must-read author for me: his writing is bold, highly-crafted yet effortlessly readable, and invested with a probing, restless originality and intelligence.

This is sci-fi, a genre that I would normally avoid, but sci-fi at its most existential as a ship travels into deep space to investigate the `anomaly'. It follows The Explorer but can be happily read alone. In terms of references, think Solaris rather than space opera.

Smythe does an excellent job of exploiting the latent creepiness of twins but makes it part of a symbolic structure of doubling in the book (the echo). There's so much that is subtly unsettling about this text that we're constantly on edge as we read it - and the last 50 or so pages are a tour de force that make this literally unputdownable.

So an intriguing, disturbing, brooding book which is meditative and deeply introspective: our main character travels further than any man before but finds the greatest mysteries in himself.

Highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An anomalous expedition, 2 Feb 2014
By 
Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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A science fiction novel. This is part of a series of four, entitled 'The Anomaly Quartet.' First in the series was The Explorer.

This volume does stand somewhat on it's own, in that it involves new characters dealing with some of the events from the first book. So you might be able to get into this if you haven't read that one. But as a whole they do feel like parts of a bigger story, so you would probably be better off starting with the first book.

This one runs for three hundred and eleven pages. It is divided into three parts. And further into seventeen chapters.

Just like the first book, it does contain a bit of strong language and some adult moments, and thus is really strictly one for mature readers.

The main character, who narrates the whole thing in first person present tense, is Mira. Which is short for Mirakel. He is one of twins. He and his brother Tomas are brilliant scientists. They have put together a space expedition to an anomaly near the solar system. An earlier ship that went on a deep space voyage near there was lost with all hands [for that story, see the first book]. And if you liked the explorer, this is well worth a look.

Mira is on the crew. Tomas is in mission control. The narrative tells of the expedition, and also details of the two brothers life before and their relationship. From which you get the impression of Tomas being the dominant personality of their paring.

When the ship reaches it's destination, they, and none of the crew, are prepared for what happens next.

This is described as 'literary sci-fi', in that it's a character drama tackling themes of the kind you would find in many mainstream novels. But one that also takes place in a science fictional setting. Doing things with the narrative that you couldn't do otherwise.

The lead character of the explorer wasn't desperately likeable. But Tomas is. And his narration makes the book an easy read. Although the prose isn't overly descriptive - not that the style of the book would require it to be - so you can end up skimming things if you're not careful.

Once strange things start to happen it doesn't feel as if we're going over ground from the Explorer. And some of the concepts explored here are quite interesting and unsettling.

As is the ending, and what happens in part three.

The likeability of the main character stopped me from going up to five stars when rating the explorer. As mentioned, that is not a problem here. But the only, minor problem with this is that it doesn't feel quite standalone. It could work well enough as a standalone read. But knowing there are two more books to come means it does primarily feel like a chapter in something bigger.

Still, it's a good read and a good bit of science fiction. And I do want to know what the next chapters of the quarter will hold. So it does it's job.
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5.0 out of 5 stars and I thought The Explorer was good, 27 Mar 2014
By 
D. Graham (Wakefield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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I read James Smythe's The Explorer a while ago and loved it. Then I found it out was part of a quartet of books, of which The Echo is the second.

I thought the Explorer was great - clever, twisty sci-fi where you were never quite sure what to believe and what was happening. I was intrigued to see what James would do with a sequel - the unique format of the first book meant that another similar story wouldn't do, and with The Echo, he hasn't let us down. Events in The Explorer are now well in the past, and a new ship is heading out to the Anomaly. Strange things are afoot, and weird things start to happen.

There was a point towards the half-way mark where the pace slowed, and I was a little unsure, but it just added to the atmosphere and building sense of unease - stick with it, it all pays off in the end.

Bring on book 3 please!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Amusingly Eponymous, 20 Mar 2014
By 
Jack Chakotay "Ender Brazil" (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Echo (Hardcover)
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Echo of the first book., 20 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Echo (Kindle Edition)
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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