Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Genre: Adult science fiction romance
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: February 3 2015
Source: ARC from publisher
The nitty-gritty: A fascinating story about parallel worlds and doppelgangers, some exciting action, and of course, romance!
I’ve had the pleasure of reading all three of Sharon’s books, and each time she manages to give us readers something different. Sharon writes an interesting mash-up of science fiction and romance, which I rarely see done these days, and her latest stand-along Echo 8 is no exception. While I have to admit this isn’t my favorite of her books (The Ophelia Prophecy gets that honor!), I did have fun reading Echo 8, which is a mind-bending story about alternate realities and parallel worlds.
Tess is a parapsychologist at the Seattle Psi Training Institute who studies “Echoes,” people who seem to have appeared suddenly from an alternate Earth. These nearly transparent beings usually die soon after they appear, but Tess has discovered that they are able to survive and grow stronger if they can steal energy from a human being. Unfortunately, humans have died during this process, and so Echoes are considered dangerous and are locked up for study. Tess is currently studying Echo 8, a man named Jake who claims to have committed suicide in his world, an event that may have triggered his transfer to our Earth. Tess willingly engages in a transfer with Jake, giving him her energy while touching him, because she is determined to save him.
But the process nearly incapacitates her, and so she is assigned a body-guard of sorts, an FBI agent named Ross who fiercely tries to keep her away from Jake. When Tess discovers a government plot to use Echoes as assassins, she knows that she can’t let Jake be subjected to such a fate, and so she breaks him out of the Institute. What follows is an exciting chase through both worlds, as Tess, Jake and Ross try to make sense of the strange parallel Earths and how they relate to each other.
For those of us who have trouble understanding the concepts of alternate realities, Sharon gives some scientific argument about why they might be possible, although I have to say some of those explanations went way over my head, LOL! In cases like this, where the science is beyond me (hey, I am mostly a right-brain person!), I don’t find it too difficult to trust the author and simply enjoy the story. Although I found the beginning a bit slow, while the author catches us up on who the Echoes are and the relationships between the three main characters, the action takes off when Tess discovers that she can jump over to the other Earth.
I loved the idea of “Echoes” and thought of them as vampires, in a way, draining energy from a person instead of blood. Things get really complicated, however, when the characters begin to meet their doppelgangers from the alternate Earth, which is basically what Echoes are. But just because a person has a double from another reality, doesn’t mean that Echo is anything like him or her! Take Ross’s Echo, for example. Ross is a sometimes gruff yet caring person, but his Echo (named Mac) was a cruel man whose only goal is to use the energy from humans to survive.
One of my favorite parts of the story was the Seattle setting, in particular an old abandoned ferry called the Kalakala, where several very creepy and atmospheric scenes took place. I just had to Google it, and discovered to my delight that the Kalakala actually exists:
In Echo 8, the Kalakala is a dark and dank place where Tess and Jake make some terrifying discoveries.
I did have a couple of issues with the book, mostly with the romantic aspects of the story. Now don’t get me wrong—I love a good love triangle now and then, and Sharon gives us a whopper of one in this book. Tess and Ross are attracted to each other, even though they don’t seem to like each other much. And when Jake comes along, Tess seems torn between the two men, although I couldn’t understand her attraction to Jake. The author does give us a couple of hot sex scenes between Ross and Tess, but the two got together so quickly that it felt a bit jarring. (Although one of the funniest scenes takes place during sex—but you’ll just have to read the book to find out what that is!)
I also wasn’t crazy about Tess’s character. I do love the fact that she’s the type of person who has strong beliefs and will do almost anything to further her knowledge of the Echoes. But she also tends to jump headlong into danger without thinking first. Her fierce determination to save Jake pisses off Ross to no end, and because Ross is hired to protect her, he is always berating her for being so headstrong. Ross had a couple of disturbingly sexist moments (at one point he says to Tess, “You need handlers, Tess. Deal with it.”) which gave the romance an almost “old fashioned” feel.
But I liked Ross for the most part. He and Tess have interacted before, although I was a little sketchy about those details. I’ll admit I pictured Ross in my head as Agent Booth (David Boreanaz!) from Bones.
Romance aside, what you will get from Echo 8 is a twisty plot, some very scary moments, and a lot to think about. Are parallel worlds real? How would you react if you ran into your own double? And how far would you go to follow through on your beliefs? Entertaining and full of tension, Echo 8 was a blast!
Big thanks to Tor Books for the review copy!
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