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Echo (Alex Benedict) Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Fans of antiquities dealer Alex Benedict will find their expectations fully met by his fifth outing (after 2008's The Devil's Eye). Benedict innocently arranges the purchase of a curious but not obviously significant stone tablet with an unreadable inscription. When the slab proves inexplicably difficult to collect, Benedict and his partner, Chase Kolpath, investigate its connections to explorer Sunset Tuttle's abrupt abandonment of his quest to find another intelligent race. Death hounds Benedict and Chase as they inch closer to an old shame someone will kill to protect. McDevitt's characters may live 9,600 years in the future, but their values are entirely 21st century, which will endear them to some SF fans and turn off others. There are hints of the existential malaise that permeates McDevitt's Priscilla Hutchins novels, but despite the book's terrible events, the series retains its essential optimism about redemption and progress. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Fans of antiquities dealer Alex Benedict will find their expectations fully met by his fifth outing." ---Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Echo gets a bit formulaic – find an artifact, find out who it belongs to, there’s more to it than Chase thinks, unusual death threats, surprise ending.
Echo is the first McDevitt novel that really had me gripping my Kindle and flipping my finger on the screen to find out what happens next.
A stone tablet with odd writing is found and the person who buys it, a former lover of Sam Tuttle, a man who has been looking for alien life so long that people think he’s nuts – messes with Alex and Chase.
This gal really messes with them! I mean, take the tablet with the odd writing and pretend to throw it away. Then say she destroyed it. Then do everything possible to dissuade Alex and Chase from further discovery.
And the tour company she used to fly interstellars for. Some pretty crazy stuff there too.
Are aliens found? What is the secret that drives this woman to homicide and becoming suicidal? Are there really aliens that are so far advanced of us that they’ll kill us? (Unlikely, Alex thinks).
There are times the story tends to drag, but overall not a bad story. We do find out about a planet, about the nearly destroyed civilization that dwells there, and a direct connection to this woman, to Tuttle and even to the tablet (sort of).
All of these tales (including Echo) are a kind of historical mystery. They're not tracking down artifacts from our history, but rather from our distant future. They frequently start with some object or event that stands out as an enigma. Often it's a relic of some kind, but there's something odd about it. Maybe it's a tea cup or a jacket, but there's something about it that just can't be explained. Before long, Alex and Chase are digging deep into events from 20 to 9000 years before, struggling to find the root of this little mystery, and like most mysteries, there's usually someone who doesn't want you to solve it.
In Echo, it starts with an old stone tablet at the house of a man who had spent his life unsuccessfully searching for aliens. He retired decades ago and died shortly thereafter. But what does the tablet's inscription mean? Does anyone even recognize the letters or language? And what was this old kook doing with it?
I liked Echo, and I tore through it faster than usual. I confess there was a slow patch in the middle, but that was more because bad things were happening, and I just didn't want to see the bad things happening. I think that was more indicative of how much the story was getting to me rather than any hint of poor writing. While the previous book had played out on a vast scale, this one was much more personally visceral. I saw it in the way it affected the characters' lives as well as in how it affected my emotions. While I have always cared about how the story played out, I think this time more than anything I cared about what was happening to characters I had grown attached to.
So, I highly recommend it, but do read all the previous ones first. It's not that the books aren't stand-alone tales. It's just that you'll appreciate the characters and the world that much more, seeing the background.
Echo is a good mystery story in the tradition of the Benedict series, but it suffers from a couple of defects. First, it sets up what seems a token effort at Chase-Alex conflict, which brings a welcome uncertainty into the book, but which McDevitt never really commits to. Second, the book has Chase and especially Alex pursuing an investigation at a very high cost - so high that not only is it not really credible, but it succeeds at the difficult task of making our heroes a lot less likeable. The book doesn't really recover from that.It means that while I have the next book in the series, Firebird (An Alex Benedict Novel), on my shelf, I'm less excited to read it.
Finally, the final reveal and denouement don't really fulfill the promise of the early chapters. They could have been successful with a different lead in, but here, it's a bit of a disappointment.
If you're a serious fan of the Benedict series, by all means, buy this - you'll enjoy it, even if it's not your favorite in the series. If you're new to the series, go back to A Talent For War or Polaris (Alex Benedict) and start there. If you've sort of enjoyed the series, but not loved it, skip this and go one to one of McDevitt's other excellent books - try Eternity Road or The Engines of God.