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The Echo
by James Smythe
Harper Voyager, $14.99, 302pp
Published: January 2014

Book two of The Anomaly Quartet. 

Disturbing and morbid, this book was a tough one for me to review.  I did not read the first book, The Explorer, but The Echo fills us in with a brief history of the disaster that brings us the current chapter:  Twenty-three years ago, the space ship Ishiguro disappeared on a mission to explore an anomaly in space.   Now, brilliant scientists, twin brothers Mira and Tomas Hyvonen, have devoted their lives (together and competitively) to becoming the experts who will convince the world to go back, explore, and research that anomaly. 

The story is narrated by Mira aboard the space ship Lara.  His brother Tomas remained on Earth as control from the ground.  The pressure on the brothers is intense; if the mission fails, they would be at fault.  But they cannot fail.  The brothers believe they have considered every contingency; that their mission will succeed.  They have meticulously planned the entirety of trip. The ship is their design.  The crew was chosen by them.  There is no room for error, and no error will occur.  They have full faith in the rationality of science. 

However, Mira is not suited to be a leader; he is driven by his own motivations, fear of failure, and feelings of inferiority toward his brother.   And to make things worse, he spends a lot of his time convincing himself that he is not inferior nor jealous of his brother.  Together, they are a dysfunctional and psychologically unsound team.  And when the mission goes wrong in spite of all their planning, Mira is left to puzzle over how this could have happened.

The pace of this book is slow.  Mira spends a lot of time observing and thinking.  There is really nothing to research – it is an anomaly:  so different from anything known that there is nothing to compare.  It took me a long time to read this book; though it is short page-wise, it was long thought-wise.  ~~ Marie Davis

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