3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Echo Maker (Hardcover)Another impressive and entertaining novel from Richard Powers. He does well at taking a big theme and using it as an extended metaphor throughout the narrative. In this instance, the phenomenon of brain disorders, specifically Capgras Syndrome, is well deployed to drive both plot and character. For anyone with a very basic knowledge of consciousness this book will be informative. It presents the facts in a very accessible way, although the inclusion of certain case studies did sometimes feel contrived.
Powers excels at portraying the debilitating and disturbing effects of brain damage on both the victim, Mark Schluter, and his sister Karin. The notion of identity, and how much of what we are is defined by the acknowledgement of those we love, is well explored. Power's is good at showing how Karin's inherent insecurities and lack of confidence are compounded by her brother's refusal to recognize her. Mark's paranoia, changes of personality and sort of improvement are also convincingly described.
Power's handling of the eco-theme is less assured. The descriptions of the cranes show his characteristic linguistic strengths - there is a wonderful, aching lyricism to the writing. But the larger issues of over-development and threat to nature felt rather predictable and bland. Certainly, these are important subjects, but Power's failed to bring them alive with his usual intensity.
There is also a bit of a `who done it?' twist to the novel. This makes for interesting guessing along the way and the outcome was unexpected for me.
What I missed most in the book was the emotional intensity of his last one, The Time of Our Singing. There the language and insight regularly soared to exquisite heights. It would indeed have been quite a feat to manage that again. So perhaps we cannot blame Power's for not quite managing it.
The Echo-Maker is, nonetheless, a good and satisfying read.