Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

echo 8 by sharon lynn fisherFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: February 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Three lives. Two worlds. One chance to save them all.

As a parapsychologist working for Seattle Psi, Tess has devoted her life to studying psychic phenomena. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world that’s been struck by an asteroid, nothing in her training will help her survive what’s to come.

After dislocating to Seattle Psi from the other Earth, Jake is confined by a special task force for study. But when he drains life energy from Tess, almost killing her, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds — and creates a bond neither of them expected.

Ross is an FBI agent ordered to protect Tess while she studies Jake. His assignment is not random — he and Tess have a history, and a connection the Bureau hopes to use to its own advantage. By the time Ross realizes his mission could be compromised, it’s already too late — he’ll have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect the people of his own Earth.

My Review:

Echo 8 takes place in multiple alternate versions of Seattle, some of them better off than our own, and some much, much worse. But all close analogs. If you have read anything about the parallel universes theory, even fictional versions thereof, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

The story takes place in a very near future: it’s only 2018 in this world. Which means that it is also an alternate to our own, because the Seattle Center Tower (AKA The Space Needle) has fallen in theirs, and here, it’s still up and very much a landmark of the city. (It’s on everything. I’ve even seen Chocolate Towers)

naam at nightBut the former Colman School is a former school in all the ‘verses. In ours, it’s now the Northwest African American Museum. In theirs, it’s the home of the Seattle Psi Institute. And the SPI (cool initialism) is studying a phenomenon called “Echoes”. Echoes are people from a parallel universe who wind up in ours by accident. Part of that accident is that their version of the Earth suffered a huge asteroid strike, and they died. Instead of going wherever it is the dead normally go, they come here. And then they die anyway, cut off from their home universe’s source of energy.

I’m not sure which is scarier – that when they arrive here they are energy vampires, or that no one has tried to talk to one of them to figure out what the hell is going on. But then, the various government security forces are treating these people, the Echoes (also called fades because well, they eventually do) as enemies and security threats. There is a lot of “shoot first and ask questions later” going on. With the added fun factor that sometimes the Echoes are too faded to shoot – the bullets go right through.

Also a bit of “torture first and let them die” going on. The security services are not treating the Echoes as displaced persons – they are just a threat. Admittedly the trail of sucked dry dead bodies they leave in their wake does urge caution.

Only the scientists want to find out the whys and wherefores of the Echoes. They see (sometimes they don’t exactly see) people. Admittedly, people they want to experiment on a bit, but still people.

Tess Caulfield is a psychologist and parapsychologist at the Seattle Psi Institute. And the FBI has brought her an Echo to talk to. The FBI calls him “Echo 8”, because he’s the eighth Echo they have captured. Tess finds out his name is Jake.

Tess and Jake find a way to communicate. He needs energy to survive in our world. She needs answers. And poor Jake, stuck between universes, finally finds someone he can love. But never touch. In her world, he sucks the energy from her every time they are in close proximity. In his world, the shoe is on the other foot and Tess can’t touch him.

But theirs is not the love story that weaves around this book. That is the relationship between Tess and the FBI agent who is assigned as her bodyguard (and minder). Ross McGinnis has talents of his own, talents that he has suppressed. Ross is disillusioned when he discovers that the FBI’s plan is to use him, Tess and the Echoes for missions that Congress would not approve of, missions that will tear the soul out of anyone who performs them.

Tess and Jake go on the run, with disastrous results. Ross sucks it up and does his job, until he
discovers that his career in the FBI is not worth his life, his sanity, or especially his love for Tess. And that the force he signed up with is not the one he is now working for. But before everything can be straightened out, he will have to take a trip to the dark side, of his job, of his soul, and to the other Earth that has been ripped in two.

Whether he can make it back from all that is a big risk – with a big reward if he can figure out his demons. And if Tess can let go of hers.

Escape Rating B+: There was a point about 2/3s of the way through where I almost stopped reading – the story got very dark and it looked like no one was going to get a happy ending out of this one. Or even an ending where someone doesn’t turn completely to the dark side of the Force. (Don’t worry, things do get brighter). I felt for the characters so much that I didn’t want to see anything terrible (or at least terribly permanent) happen to them.

Although Echo 8 is being talked about as a love triangle, it really isn’t. Jake may be what Tess would have chosen if her world hadn’t gone completely off the rails, but it did and he isn’t. And he does seem to be mistaking a bit of his gratitude for love, but Tess is the first person who has cared about him at all in a long time.

Ross is much more of a puzzle. Tess and Ross have a lot of chemistry that both of them are trying to ignore. He distrusts her work – because he’s always had a niggling feeling that his excellent hunches might be more than just hunches. And he doesn’t want to know, because it will change his view of the world.

Ross is very obvious about his skepticism, and Tess is definitely hostile with him. He denigrates her profession at every turn. No one would want to put up with that. She also resents having a bodyguard, and she is sure (correctly) that the FBI’s agenda is not hers, and she doesn’t like the idea of someone she can’t trust watching her every move.

The story surrounds Tess, Ross and Jake, and their collective attempt to find a way not just to communicate with the Echoes, but to work together for the collective good. Jake is initially just selfish, and Ross has very divided loyalties, but they all have to find a way to figure things out. There are a lot more Echoes around our world than anyone guesses, and the count of mysterious dead bodies is climbing everywhere. The security services have kept things under wraps until now, but that can’t last.

We all know of people who seem to suck our energy out of us, but how do you find common ground with someone who literally can – and will die if they don’t? It makes things more interesting (and darker) that one character is a soul sucker of one kind or another whichever world he’s on.

Echo 8 is mostly of the laboratory-type of SF. Tess is a researcher, and the story turns on the number of ways that her research can be subverted, and how badly.

As a former Seattleite, it was also fun to get the science-fictional tour of different versions of the city. I loved the twisted sense of deja vu.

 

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: A Key an Egg an Unfortunate Remark by Harry Connolly

key an egg an unfortunate remark by harry connollyFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: 294 pages
Publisher: Radar Avenue Press
Date Released:
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

After years of waging a secret war against the supernatural, Marley Jacobs put away her wooden stakes and silver bullets, then turned her back on violence. She declared Seattle, her city, a safe zone for everyone, living and undead. There would be no more preternatural murder under her watch.

But waging peace can make as many enemies as waging war, and when Marley’s nephew turns up dead in circumstances suspiciously like a vampire feeding, she must look into it. Is there a new arrival in town? Is someone trying to destroy her fragile truce? Or was her nephew murdered because he was, quite frankly, a complete tool?

As Marley investigates her nephew’s death, she discovers he had been secretly dabbling in the supernatural himself. What, exactly, had he been up to, and who had he been doing it with? More importantly, does it threaten the peace she has worked so hard to create? (Spoiler: yeah, it absolutely does.)

My Review:

I bought this book because I read an article from the author on io9. It turned out that the io9 article was an extract from a more complete essay published at Black Gate. It’s here, go read it. I’ll wait.

For those who didn’t go to the full article, it’s the author talking about the writing of this book – specifically that there are no female protagonists in urban fantasy of a certain age. Or any age over 35. He had me hooked at that point, because yes, I’m over 35. You may not be yet, but we all get there at some point, unless we don’t survive.

There are female wisdom figures in urban fantasy over that age. There are also plenty of cosy mysteries where the sleuth, amateur or professional, is of retirement age – remember Miss Marple?

But in urban fantasy every heroine (and pretty much every hero), kicks butt, takes names and sets things on fire, not necessarily in that order. What if your heroine is past the chasing suspects at top speed stage but can still bring the baddies in with a lot of brain and heart. Especially a lot of brain.

We may not be as fast at 60+ as we are at 30+, but we (hopefully) know more stuff. And magic, in particular, is a field where knowing more stuff can definitely win the day.

Marley Jacob is 62, and she has been keeping Seattle safe from the supernatural, and the supernatural safe in the city, for a long time. She’s a good witch, but there are definitely circumstances where she is a good witch in the same way that Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld is a good witch – because her goodness is so sharp that it cuts things – including, occasionally, herself.

Marley is certainly a chaos magnet of the highest order. A lot of things go wrong in her orbit, sometimes because of something she did, and often because of something someone wants to do to her – with extreme malice.

Although its not ever explained, I’m pretty sure based on context in the story that Marley Jacob’s name is no accident. If it rings a bell that you can’t quite close in on, reverse the order. Jacob Marley was Ebenezer Scrooge’s ghostly partner in A Christmas Carol. (I hope that in some later book we get more info, so I can find out if my guesses are anywhere near the mark.)

The title of the book, as long as it is, is also a description of the key elements of the story. All those things are involved, but it’s the last, that unfortunate remark, that sends everything careening on its way. Or at least that brings some of what is skulking in the dark out into the light.

It’s up to Marley, and her nephew and new right hand man Albert, to figure out how one unfortunate remark to her other nephew, the late and not in the least lamented Aloysius, could have kicked off so much chaos and mayhem in her city. Before it kills them all.

Escape Rating A+: For me, this book was absolutely un-putdown-able. (That needs to be a word)

Whatever the stereotype of older women may be in your head, Marley is guaranteed not to fit into it – and that’s a terrific thing. She’s very clear that once upon a time, she waged war. She used to be that kick ass magical gunslinger, and she has REGRETS. Waging peace in her one small corner of the world is just as hard, but she believes it is better in the long run for everyone – and backs up that belief with a lot of wisdom as well as the occasional spell.

But she doesn’t do violence. Her new assistant Albert was a soldier in Afghanistan, and one of their constant struggles is his desire to protect and defend Marley, with weaponry if necessary, only to discover that she has already figured a way out and that his attempts to grab a gun have only gotten in her way and made things worse.

At the same time, Marley is giving Albert a lesson about magic and its uses in the world, as well as an introduction to everything in Seattle that goes bump in the night. Albert also gets a surprising lesson into the old saying that goes, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.” Albert wants to meet a werewolf.

Marley’s version of waging peace involves keeping her city safe. At the very beginning of the story, she makes it clear to the late Aloysius that part of what she’s keeping the city (or at least its female population) safe from is him. When he asks her for a love potion, and she explains to him very carefully that what he is asking for is really a rape potion, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

She also makes Aloysius finally see himself as others see him – a smarmy and self-absorbed user. Also a complete slacker and bully who is disliked if not hated by everyone he puts the touch on. Seeing the light gets Aloysius’ lights turned off permanently. But even though he was an arsehole, he was still family. Marley moves heaven and earth (sometimes close to literally) to find out what the jerk was involved in that got him killed.

Finding out that there’s a dragon at the bottom of it all is a fantastic surprise.

If you love urban fantasy, or even like it, this is an awesome book. Please read it so we get more.

Reviewer’s note: I lived in Seattle until very recently, so a lot of the places in this book are VERY familiar. It’s not just that I’ve been stuck waiting for the Ballard Bridge more than a few times. There’s a scene where Marley and Albert go to the grocery store on W. Dravus in Magnolia, and walk towards Magnolia Hill over the railroad tracks. The store is a QFC, and I’ve been there and walked that same stretch. I still miss the Red Mill Burgers across the street. Very deja vu.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 1-20-13

No football metaphors this weekend. Not that you could tell that from the Seattle news–they’re still talking about the Seahawks dream season. It’s right up there with Boeing’s nightmare week.

Guess where Boeing’s headquarters are?

Let’s just say that the Seahawks were way more fun to watch than what’s going on with the 737 Dreamliner right now.

Although speaking of mad scrambles, there’s going to be a totally different kind of mad scramble going on in Seattle next week. The Librarians are Coming! The American Library Association Midwinter Conference will be here in Seattle next weekend, January 25-28.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 librarians, vendors, exhibitors and associated hangers-on will descend upon Convention Center and the environs. It’s agonizing on the feet. It’s a terrific learning and networking experience. And did I mention it’s in 5 days?!?!?!

Meanwhile, the Happy Endings Blog Hop started yesterday, it runs until January 26, right in the middle of my ALA adventure. You still have plenty of time to enter for your chance at a $10 Amazon Gift Card and lots of other fabulous bookish prizes. Think of me as I’m destroying my poor feet in the exhibit hall. (There are lots of lovely ARCs, but you have to walk miles of carpet over concrete to get them)

Enough about next week for the moment. What about last week?

B+ Review: Heels and Heroes by Tiffany Allee + Giveaway!
B Review: Sonata by Blair McDowell
Guest Post from Blair McDowell On Character Studies + Giveaway!
B- Review: Double Time by Olivia Cunning
B+ Review: King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab
A Review: The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham
Happy Endings Blog Hop

And we’re off to another exciting week at Reading Reality!

Three author visits this week! On Tuesday, Lacy Danes will be here for an interview, talking about the first book in her new paranormal/fantasy romance series. The book is Waterfall, and the series is Dragon’s Fate. So yes, we have dragons, and even better, they’re living in an alternate Regency. The first book was a terrific introduction. I’ll be reviewing Waterfall as part of Lacy’s tour.

Wednesday it will be my pleasure to host Stacy Gail as part of her tour for Nobody’s Angel, the first book in her Earth’s Angels series. Stacy’s going to have a guest post, and I have a review of the book. This Angel may not exactly be angelic, but that just makes him a lot more delicious.

And on Thursday, Stacey Kennedy is going to be at Reading Reality to introduce the first book in her new series (yes, this looks like first books week!) The Cat’s Meow is the first book in Stacey’s new Witch’s Brew series. I’d have reviewed anything with a “cat” title, but this witchy book has all of Stacey’s trademark humor mixed with romance.

Looking ahead to the last of January (that’s after ALA madness), on January 31 we’ll announce the winners of the SFR Galaxy Awards! Woohoo! What are the SFR Galaxy Awards? They are annual awards (this is the first year) for science fiction romance. Yours truly is one of the judges. We want to recognize some of the terrific work in SFR and raise awareness of this fantastic genre.

Love and spaceships. We think they go together like chocolate and ice cream!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 12-2-12

I probably should should be writing about where my nightstand is, instead of what’s on it!

My nightstand, and the rest of our worldly goods, are probably pulling into Boise, Idaho tonight. At least, that was the driver’s next stop. Us, we’re in Seattle. Until the furniture arrives–hopefully Wednesday, possibly Thursday, we’re in a hotel.

Effectively being dissed by the cats. My promises of a future mega-cat-tree are falling on pointedly deaf ears. Or deaf pointed ears.

In spite of the kitty dissing, and other moving events, the blog went on. So what happened?

First, we have a winner! The winner of the Fall in Love Blog Hop is Katie Amanda. She’ll have her chance to fall in love with my favorite Chicago wizard, Harry Dresden. The prize was the winner’s choice of any book in the Dresden Files series under $10.

B+ Review: The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron
B+ Review: Spectra by Joanne Elder
Echoing Walls
Comics Review: Kevin & Kell by Bill Holbrook
A+ Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher
Hot Holiday Hop
Stacking the Shelves (24)

So what about next week? Seriously, there’s a next week? Yes, there’s a next week. And a next post, and a next review.

Because of the holiday season, there are a lot of blog hops this month. Isn’t it marvelous? So many different places to get a chance to win books and gift cards. On Saturday, Reading Reality will be participating in the Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop, along with over 200 other bloggers and authors.

But the rest of the week is wide open. And wildly open. I’m looking at putting together my best of the year lists soon, and my most anticipated books for next year list. That made me realize I need to get out my most anticipated list for this year, and whoa, there are some books on there I forgot to read! Whoops!

So many books, so little time.

Speaking of time (don’t you just love segues?) I have a question for all of the bloggers out there who have day-jobs? How do you do it? Do you have any words of wisdom you’d care to impart as I start my new full-time job on Wednesday?

I’m going to have plenty of time to read on the bus on the way to and from work every day. Finding time to write is going to be a challenge. But so worth it!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-25-12

I feel a certain amount of nostalgia as I write this Sunday Post. This will be my last Sunday Post posted from Atlanta. Next Sunday I’ll be in Seattle. Our stuff will be somewhere in the middle, but I’ll be on the west coast again. I’m looking forward to it.

My cats, probably not so much. We’re flying them again. It’s about five hours on a plane vs. five days in a car. There just aren’t enough tranquilizers in the world for that trip, no matter who the tranqs get administered to.

But this past week has been anything but tranquil. It was Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. And speaking of thankfulness, there are a couple of thankful type-winners announcements!

Kelsey Summer won the Black Friday Blog Hop and Erin Fender won the copy of Ice Cold by Cherry Adair. Congratulations winners!

One specific Thanksgiving note. I spent Thanksgiving in Little Rock, Arkansas with Galen’s sister and her partner. Because we were in Little Rock, I was able to meet up with Jo Jones, the blogger behind the Mixed Book Bag. Jo was in Little Rock visiting her family. Us book bloggers sure do get around!

 

Reading Reality got around last week, too.  Here’s what happened:

A Labor of Love: Picking the Best Ebook Romances of 2012
B- Review: Promise Me by Tara Fox Hall
C+ Review: Broken Promise by Tara Fox Hall
Guest Post: Tara Fox Hall on the Love of Books
B+ Review: Whip Smart by Kit Brennan
Fall In Love Blog Hop
Black Friday Blog Hop
Stacking the Shelves (23)

 

 

 

 

The Fall in Love Blog Hop is still open! The giveaway here at Reading Reality is the winner’s choice of any one book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, under $10, print or ebook, to any country that Book Depository will ship. I love Harry Dresden, and I want everyone else to fall in love with the poor unlucky wizard too.

So what will be happening this week? I confess, I’m going to be spending a lot of this week moving. There will be pain, and anguish. And three cats locked in the spare bathroom.

On Tuesday, I’ll be reviewing Spectra by Joanne Elder. This book is very cool. It’s science fiction. Not science fiction romance, at least not so far, but science fiction. At the heart is an ethical dilemma. What if you discovered an alien race that were spirit only, no bodies? And what if exposure to them made you smarter, but killed them? And no one would know what you were doing, but you became really, really brilliant? But really evil. I’ve just gotten to the good bits.

And speaking of Harry Dresden…well, I was, just a few paragraphs ago. The latest book in the Dresden Files is coming out on Tuesday. Cold Days, just in time for winter. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. As a treat to myself, in the midst of all this drama, I will read it, probably immediately, and review. I can’t wait.

What’s exciting in your world this week?