Echoes (Time Hunter #6)
by Iain McLaughlin & Claire Bartlett
Having enjoyed the Time Hunter series up to that point, I felt that "The Severed Man" (#5) was Telos' first misstep: overwrought prose, clichéed and, at the end, when you at least thought that you would find out what had been going on, it turns out that you have to read the next book, "Echoes"!
Having now read "Echoes", I find out that actually that's not the case as "Echoes" does not really continue the story from "The Severed Man". The abrupt ending and unanswered questions of "The Severed Man" turn out to be that book's problem alone: it simply has an abrupt ending and unanswered questions! There are no answers in "Echoes", it leads on from the events of "The Severed Man", but is its own story.
If not a sequel to "The Severed Man", but a story in its own right, what does "Echoes" offer us. Sadly, not much. The prose has barely improved, still portentous yet also bland. Events unfold, but the story feels slight even for a novella (at least the narrative of "The Severed Man" got around a bit). "Echoes" is like some generic version of "Sapphire and Steel". The use of dialogue in the void scenes adds a certain eeriness and the characters of Tess and Mary had some spark, but mostly we have clichéed characters and clichéed events unfolding. Honoré is little more than a bystander in events.
When we finally do get to the finale, Emily makes an intuitive leap that leaves the reader behind. The events don't make any sense even within the story's internal logic. I still don't really understand what was meant to have happened, nor is it a particularly happy ending, not that any of the characters seem to even notice!
A mediocre story with a poor ending is one thing, but "Echoes" is worse than that for I felt its ending artlessly promotes a hardline Catholic morality! The book turns into anti-abortion rhetoric, along the way portraying suicide as some unforgivable sin—see in the spoiler section for details.
One key connection between "The Severed Man" and "Echoes", the horned symbol, turns out to be nothing more than a coincidence, which is deeply annoying. Linking the two books merely offers false hope to the reader when both are just poorly explained.
Much of the story involves a superpowerful being, the boy, showing things to our regular characters to explain his fate: apart from making little sense (why doesn't he just explain it to them), this also removes any autonomy from our heroes. Thus, the story unfolds as it does not because of the characters' choices but through authorial fiat.
I referred above to a failure in the story's internal logic, which is this: why can the boy take John's timeline when he can only take someone's timeline with their consent (see p. 114)? As for the unhappy ending that seems unnoticed by characters and authors: Patience and Mary are sent back to be brutally killed, while the mad cavewoman is sent back who-knows-where but now with her sanity destroyed.
To explain further my comments on the book's anti-abortion rhetoric,
I note that the story, partly through Emily, partly more directly, rules
that abortion (i.e. removing Tess's foetus from the timeline) must
be avoided even at the cost of killing someone else (i.e. removing
John from the timeline, someone who the story has already told us is basically
an OK guy who has brought jobs and kindness to many people).
Henry Potts, 10 Jul 2005
Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.
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