Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

The Echo (Hardback)


Author: James Smythe
Publisher: HarperVoyager
RRP: £16.99, US $27.95
ISBN: 978 0 00 745679 6
Publication Date: 16 January 2014

For anyone who has read a review I have written, it is no great secret that I have a personal preference for science fiction over science fantasy, nor is it a coincidence that James Smythe has quickly become one of my most anticipated authors.

In his previous book in The Anomaly Quartet, The Explorer, we followed the first ship sent out to examine what appears to be a hole in space, which may or may not be heading towards Earth. Told from the perspective of Cormac Easton, we readers witnessed the tragic fate of the ship.

In his new novel, The Echo (302 pages) James Smythe launches the inevitable rescue mission. This is another tale of human tragedy and folly in the face of the great unknown. Twenty years have passed and man still knows little of the anomaly, but his hubris in the face of the universe has not changed.

The book is not a great rush to the anomaly and Smythe takes his time to fill in the details of both the crew and the world they live in, especially Mira, who with his brother Thomas were the driving force behind the project. Mira is the one who wins the game which allows him to go into space while we only meet Thomas through his disembodied voice and Mira’s thoughts and feelings for his twin.

The story builds slowly and it takes some time for the book to get to the anomaly, as it should. This is a fine example of hard science fiction, so no warp drives or pointy eared aliens. This is a mission which is not a million miles in tone from that of the Discovery. The book does not contain the madness of an insane computer, but something more dangerous, the fallibility of human beings.

It’s a great read, but with two caveats. Firstly you would do well to read the first book in the series, it is not that the book does not work well as a stand-alone story, it does, but there is a certain depth of story which you may miss starting the quartet here. Secondly, as the second of four books the story leaves more unanswered, in fact by the end of the book we discover some of the properties of the anomaly, but no real answers. To my mind this is as it should be, but some readers might find this aspect a little frustrating.

There is another reason to read the first book. Both Thomas and Mira are so cocksure of their own intellectual superiority, both compared to those around them and the crew of the previous flight, that readers of the first book know that the ship is going to a place where the crew are only going to discover just how unprepared they really are.

The series continues to go from strength to strength and I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens next.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Kindle edition
iTunes GB
Digital Download