The ill-fated Ishiguro mission set space exploration back decades. Years later, the Hyvonen twins (students of Guy Singer, the only ‘real’ scientist aboard Ishiguro) achieve the funding and the mandate to retrace the failed mission’s footsteps in order to discover the nature of the Anomaly that Singer wanted to study – and which appears to be moving closer to Earth.
If The Explorer was framed as a disaster novel from the start, The Echo is framed as research. Mira Hyvonen, our narrator, is highly critical of the previous mission and proud of the scientific rigour and efficiency he and his brother have brought to the new project. They will Do Science and change our understanding of the universe.
I couldn’t help but read this as hubris; while I wasn’t sure whether this too was a disaster novel, I found myself looking for the (flashing neon) signs. The clue is in the title: the book inevitably retreads some of the same ground as The Explorer.
Just as The Explorer was a study of Cormac Easton, The Echo is a study of Mirakel Hyvonen and his fractured relationship with his shadow self Tomas. Tomas runs ground control as Mira and the crew head deep into space. He can spy on everything on board and override any system (Smythe waves an undefined Magic Engineering wand that neatly ignores communication relays).
Perched on the edge of the Anomaly, the Ishiguro drifting in front of them, are they right to trust Tomas and his motives when he is sat safe at home? Is Mira an echo of Tomas or a clearly-defined strong man in his own right?
I enjoyed this more than The Explorer, although it shares some of the same flaws (and still evokes Moon, with added shades of Source Code). It has a larger cast, including two strong women in the crew of six, and this helps lend momentum and weight beyond the single survivor scenario Cornac is found in.
The larger implications of what the Anomaly would mean if it reached Earth are properly daunting, as are the ethical dilemmas faced by the Hyvonens. There can be no closure here – there will be two more Anomaly books – just a further look into what the Anomaly does, and a flirtation with what that may mean.
However, I can’t help but feel the third novel will need to break some (significant) new ground to keep this going.