Book: “Echo” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Publishing Info: Tor Nightfire, February 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Travel journalist and mountaineer Nick Grevers awakes from a coma to find that his climbing buddy, Augustin, is missing and presumed dead. Nick’s own injuries are as extensive as they are horrifying. His face wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, Nick claims amnesia—but he remembers everything.
He remembers how he and Augustin were mysteriously drawn to the Maudit, a remote and scarcely documented peak in the Swiss Alps. He remembers how the slopes of Maudit were eerily quiet, and how, when they entered its valley, they got the ominous sense that they were not alone. He remembers: something was waiting for them…
But it isn’t just the memory of the accident that haunts Nick. Something has awakened inside of him, something that endangers the lives of everyone around him… It’s one thing to lose your life. It’s another to lose your soul.
FROM THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING SENSATION THOMAS OLDE HEUVELT comes a thrilling descent into madness and obsession as one man confronts nature—and something even more ancient and evil answers back.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!
It’s been awhile, a long while, and I’ve been long anticipating a new book by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I loved his last book “Hex”, the story of a small town cursed by the ghost of a witch that wanders the community and makes everything scary and awful for the townspeople. Like, it scared the hell out of me, truly scared me to my bones, which I always love to encounter in my books. So when I saw that he finally had a new book coming out in the U.S., called “Echo”, I was AMPED!!! Because if there is going to be an author who genuinely, GENUINELY scares the living daylights out of me, it’s going to be Thomas Olde Heuvelt.
And let me tell you, “Echo” has many moments that absolutely filled me with dread. The first chapter alone was enough for me to say ‘okay that’s enough for one night’ and close my Kindle. Heuvelt combines elements of survival horror, possession horror, body horror, folk horror, and a good old fashioned ghost story to tell his newest scary tale, one that is perfect for a cold winter’s night (we’ve had a couple of those this winter!). Heuvelt really knows how to slowly build up the slow creeping dread. As our protagonists Nick and Sam have to contend with what is happening to Nick post mountaineering disaster that left him disfigured, and his friend Augustin dead, we slowly see how things are so very wrong, and how both men are caught up in the supernatural danger in their own ways. With Nick, his body has been potentially inhabited by a malevolent force he can’t control. With Sam, his initial repulsion at his lover’s disfigurement turns into an unwavering obsession with keeping Nick close, keeping him safe, and trying to fix whatever it is that is wrong… even if it isn’t fixable. We get both of their perspectives through various means, be it personal journals, notes, or flashbacks, and as the truth as to what happened slowly comes to light, we also get introspection into their relationship as well as their core wants and fears. They are well conceived characters that I ended up caring about.
And as mentioned. The SCARES. OH THE SCARES. That first chapter scared the piss out of me, and Heuvelt sprinkles in a lot of horror moments that range from the somewhat unsettling to absolute nightmare fuel. By taking elements of a traditional possession story but making the origin of the possession more nature based than religious based, Heuvelt has breathed new life into the subgenre that I really appreciated. Anyone can be possessed by a demon, but who can say that they’ve been possessed by a piece of the natural world (I’m trying to be vague here, though other reviews have kind of unpacked it a bit more)? It’s very unique in its creepiness, and I liked that quite a bit. And his descriptions are still so vivid and visceral, knowing how to take basal, primal fears and translate them to the page. Goddamn this book is scary.
I will say that “Echo” does have some stumbles here and there. The first is something that I kind of mentioned above: there is a LOT going on. There are a lot of subgenres at work here, and while combining a couple could work wonders, when you throw a lot into the mix it becomes too much. I think that this is mostly because to do due diligence to all of these subgenres or tropes, it means that you have to spend a fair amount of time on each of them. And that makes for a long read, one that goes on a little too long. Especially since some of the elements invariably do feel under-explored. There was one offshoot during the last fourth of the novel in particular that I thought felt a bit tacked on, as while it absolutely did tie back to other parts of the book (and had a VERY upsetting moment that set me on edge), it felt like we had let this moment stay off to the sidelines for a bit too long before we do reconnect to it. Ultimately I think that it just felt overstuffed. Not enough to turn me off, mind you! It just could have used some trimming.
Ultimately, “Echo” delivered the scares. Thomas Olde Heuvelt once again messed me up and created a story that has disturbing elements that got under my skin.
Rating 8: Deeply disturbing and another solid winter horror story, “Echo” runs a little long and is overstuffed but has many scares along the way.