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Echo
Jack McDevitt
Narrated by Paul Boehmer, unabridged
Tantor Media, 13.5 hours

Echo
Jack McDevitt
Jack McDevitt won the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel, The Hercules Text, and the first UPC prize for his novella, "Ships in the Night." He has been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo. McDevitt has been a taxi driver, a naval officer, an English teacher, a customs officer, and a motivational trainer. Currently, he lives with his wife and three children in Brunswick, GA.

Jack McDevitt Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Outbound
SF Site Review: Polaris
SF Site Review: Chindi
SF Site Review: Moonfall
SF Site Review: Deepsix
SF Site Reading List: Jack McDevitt
SF Site Review: Infinity Beach
SF Site Review: Infinity Beach
SF Site Review: Moonfall
SF Site Review: Eternity Road

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven Brandt

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It all started innocently enough. A woman places a local ad to have a stone tablet removed from the house she recently purchased. The tablet made a nice centerpiece for her garden for a while, but now she is tired of it and is willing to offer it to anyone willing to come and haul it away.

Interstellar antiquities dealer Alex Benedict is instantly intrigued by the photo of the stone, which is inscribed with runes that do not appear to be in any language known to man. His curiosity is further piqued when he learns that the woman's house was formerly owned by Somerset Tuttle, simultaneously renowned and ridiculed throughout the world for dedicating his life to the discovery of alien civilizations. Alex and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, have no idea that they are about to embark on a path that could uncover a monumental tragedy that occurred thirty years ago -- if they live long enough to reach its conclusion.

When Alex and Chase show up to claim the stone, they find that someone else has already taken it, and the investigation begins. It soon becomes clear, however, that someone is willing to go to great lengths to make sure the stone's origin remains a secret. The person who claimed the tablet was Rachel Bannister, who turns out to be a former lover of Tuttle's. Through their investigation, Alex and Chase find out that Rachel was formerly a ship captain for a company that provided guided tours through previously uncharted star systems. They also find out that Rachel promptly and inexplicably resigned her position immediately after returning from one of the tours, and the company's records for that time period were all mysteriously purged.

Through their perseverance, Alex and Chase's search eventually takes them to an unknown star system, which they tentatively dub the Echo system. The name proves to be apt when they discover an alien civilization that is a mere echo of its former greatness. Imagine their shock when they finally uncover the link between this culture's demise and the secret that Rachel and her former employer's have worked so hard to keep hidden. But when a hired assassin shows up hot on their trail, they realize that they may not live long enough to tell anyone what they have found.

I have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to this audiobook. Much of the first half of Echo details Alex and Chase's investigations on their home planet, mainly by interviewing people who appear to be linked to the mystery. The "leg-work" as you might say, was only mildly interesting to me.

I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because once the main characters blasted off into uncharted space, it got real interesting, real fast. They explored a world with ancient ruins and monstrous beasts, and another world with entire empty cities that appeared to be only recently abandoned, before finally reaching their goal. The climax of the story was so exciting I just couldn't touch the stop button.

As to the narration, in my mind there is one quality that separates the good audiobook narrators from the great ones and that quality is passion. The great narrators read with a passion that the merely good ones simply do not possess. Paul Boehmer is a great narrator because he has that passion.

Echo was my first Paul Boehmer audiobook, and like the book itself, I wasn't at first sure that I was going to like him. It didn't take me long, however, to amend my opinion. Before I was halfway through the audiobook, his style had really grown on me. Boehmer's reading of the dialogue between the characters is especially stirring; he reads with an intensity that really helps you identify with what the characters are feeling.

Paul Boehmer, also known as J. Paul Boehmer, has a long list of acting credits in television, film, and theater, including roles in Frazier, Judging Amy, All My Children, and the Star Trek series, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise. He is most proud of his award-winning unabridged performance of Moby Dick.

Echo turned out to be a great audiobook and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. If you read it for yourself, and are not immediately grabbed by the story, give it some time because it is definitely worth a listen.

Copyright © 2011 Steven Brandt

Steven Brandt spends most of his waking hours listening to audiobooks and reviewing them for his blog, Audiobook Heaven. When not reading or reviewing, Steven is usually playing the saxophone for the entertainment and amusement of his family.


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