Book Review

The Echo by James Smythe

Twenty years following the spacecraft Ishiguro’s disappearance, humanity is setting its sights on the heavens once more.

Under the direction of two of the most brilliant minds science has ever seen – twin brothers Tomas and Mirakel Hyvönen – this space programme has been tasked with one of the most difficult missions in its history: to study what is being called the anomaly – a vast blackness of space thought to be responsible for the loss of the Ishiguro.

But as the anomaly tests Mira and the rest of the hand-picked crew’s sanity, Tomas will have to use all his ingenuity if he is to save his brother and their mission.


I adored The Explorer – the first novel in James Smythe’s Anomaly quartet – and was eager to read this second instalment.  It was so different to anything else I’d read, and the second instalment proved just as good as the first.

It’s set twenty-three years after the events of The Explorer, and sees twin brothers, Tomas and Mirakel (Mira) Hyvönen launching their own mission in order to investigate the anomaly.  It quickly becomes apparent that their approach is quite different to that of the Ishiguro’s mission.  Both Tomas and Mira are scientists and intend to do everything correctly, having seen the Ishiguro’s failures and why at least some of those issues occurred.  It’s a scientific exploration, rather than a commercial operation, and the crew are handpicked – experts in their respective fields and fully trained for the demands of a space mission.  Everything that they can reasonably plan for has been considered, but with the anomaly an unknown entity, will it be enough?

The sense of pressure on us is immense.

The novel is told from Mira’s perspective and I love the exploration of brotherhood and the relationship between twins shown from the perspective of the one who seems to consider himself to be in second place. I have the impression that they have been in (good-natured) competition throughout their lives, but that it is Tomas who, being perhaps the slightly more charismatic of the two, has become the face of the mission, even though the planning, work, and preparation has been undertaken jointly by the brothers throughout.  With a need for one to remain on earth while the other travels to the anomaly, it’s a little surprising that Tomas stays behind, although the choice was made as all of their choices are – by coin toss. 

As with The Explorer, I can’t go into the plot in any real detail.  The reader does learn a little more about the anomaly in this novel, although not so much – there are another two novels to come in this series, after all – but the team on the Lära at least know that there is something there, and that it may have been responsible for the Ishiguro’s disappearance twenty three years ago.  Mira and Tomas also know that it’s spreading, and may at some point reach earth, giving a little more impetus to their mission.

As with the first instalment, The Echo defies easy categorisation. It’s science fiction, but there are also elements of a thriller and the eerie atmosphere throughout adds a dash of horror to the series. As someone who doesn’t like too much science in their science fiction, I’ve found the series to be easily accessible, with enough background and context provided but not so much that it takes over the story or becomes overwhelming. I love this series and can’t recommend it enough, even for those who may not consider themselves to be science fiction fans. I can’t wait to see what happens in the third instalment, The Edge, which is currently scheduled for release in early 2021. 

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