'The Echo Wife' Layers Sci-Fi And Murder Mystery For A Twisty Treat (2024)

Tor Books

'The Echo Wife' Layers Sci-Fi And Murder Mystery For A Twisty Treat (2)

Tor Books

Sarah Gailey knows how to build the heck out of a world. In two of their recent books — 2019's Magic for Liars and 2000's Upright Women Wanted — the author created a school of wizardry and a dystopian Wild West, respectively, that enticed lovers of these fantasy/science-fiction tropes while yanking them both on their ear. I was enchanted by both, and I went into Gailey's new novel, The Echo Wife, with a big expectation for yet another immersive, wonderfully detailed, fictional setting. I was not catered to. There isn't any real world-building in The Echo Wife because, well, there's no world to build. It already exists. It's our own. The book takes place, more or less, in the here and now, and even the rich concept behind its science-fictional premise — namely cloning — keeps a fuzzy distance. Once I got over my initial bout of pouting, though, I gave myself over to Gailey's latest exercise in character-driven speculation. And I was happy I did.

Gailey is an ace at constructing clean, clear plots, and The Echo Wife is no exception. The concept behind it is bracingly simple: Evelyn Caldwell is a famed genetic researcher, and she shares a tense, complicated relationship with her husband Nathan. As it turns out, Nathan has used Evelyn's scientific breakthrough — the Caldwell Method — to clone Evelyn herself. Martine is this replica's name, and she does more than resemble Evelyn physically; she's actually become Nathan's lover. When Nathan announces that he's going to leave Evelyn in favor of the pliant, submissive Martine, the cracks in their marriage blow open. But that's nothing compared to the next shocker: Nathan winds up murdered, which leads Evelyn and Martine — sisters in their own way — to uncover the secrets in their lives. They then must decide how they're going to move forward as individuals. Or something more than individuals. Or something less.

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Of course, Gailey is far from the first author of speculative fiction to start out crafting strange, far-flung worlds before deciding to narrow their scope and explore the nuances of our current reality. Ursula K. Le Guin made that lateral move, and so did Kurt Vonnegut. That's not to say Gailey resembles either of those legends; their voice has a clarity and resonance — and pace — all its own. The Echo Wife is a thriller at heart, but it takes its time, building suspense gradually and allowing the cumulative mass of deceptions and consequences begin to weigh on Evelyn and Martine — and even the departed Nathan, who might as well be an omnipresent specter who continues to pressure his two survivors from beyond the grave.

Normally I try to steer clear of comparing books to TV shows — apples and oranges and all that — but with The Echo Wife, it's unavoidable. And that's a good thing. In the book's treatment of cloning, gender dynamics, moral ambiguity, and the lofty idea of the existential nature of identity, it has a passing resemblance to some great contemporary television, including Killing Eve, Orphan Black, Black Mirror, and Westworld (specifically, the current small-screen incarnation of Westworld rather than the classic movie — or even the Michael Crichton novel it was based on). And in fact, Gailey once said in an interview, "This might sound silly, but my writing is heavily influenced by television. I pay close attention to the way TV writers structure narrative beats, plot development, and character arcs." In The Echo Wife, it shows. From the snap of its dialogue to the torque of its twists, the story positively glows.

Cooked right, science fiction and murder mysteries taste great together, and Gailey layers those ingredients together with a chef's kiss. The technology behind cloning isn't deeply detailed because, honestly, the book doesn't need it. At the same time, the sharp left hooks of the plot are only possible because of the sci-fi power behind them. From a dark place within both Evelyn and Martine, some eerie questions pop up: If lies are sometimes justifiable, where does one draw the line? Do we possess true individuality, or are we just clumps of quirks that we've absorbed from the people around us?

"If you are loved, then you cannot be replaced," Evelyn muses at one point, thinking back across the trail of horror, deceit, and hypocritical platitudes that Nathan, in all his manipulative smugness, winds up leaving in his wake. Their almost-future love triangle becomes an alternative universe; in it, the possibilities for heartbreak are endless. There are no magic wands or post-apocalyptic cults in The Echo Wife, but Gailey nonetheless builds one of their most daring worlds yet — the massive, internal world that forms between two people linked by secrets, lies, hatred, and love. Not to mention that shared, unsettling epiphany of seeing their rawest selves reflected in each other.

Jason Heller is a Hugo Award-winning editor and author of the new book Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded. He's on Twitter: @jason_m_heller

'The Echo Wife' Layers Sci-Fi And Murder Mystery For A Twisty Treat (2024)


What is the theme of the Echo Wife? ›

The story uses a science fiction element to highlight trauma and the cyclical nature of abuse. It speculates on how it happens, and by using the first-person narrative, it shows the chain of thought that could get someone there.

What is the plot of the echo wife? ›

It follows Doctor Evelyn Caldwell, an accomplished scientist researching cloning, has discovered that her husband, Nathan, has used her research to create Martine, a clone of Evelyn who is his ideal wife. When Martine kills Nathan in self-defense, Evelyn must assist in covering up the murder.

What is Echo about summary? ›

In “Echo,” a harmonica travels across years and over continents and seas to touch the lives of three embattled, music-obsessed children — and, quite possibly, save a life.

What happens at the end of Echo the book? ›

In a final chapter, the reader learns that the boy Otto grew up to become a famous harmonica maker and that he painted the red letter M on the magical harmonica and sent it out into the world, which allowed Friedrich, then Mike, then Ivy, then Kenny, to receive it.

What is the main conflict in Echo? ›

The main conflict is different for every character, Friedrich must face bullying and saving his father; Mike, he has to face keeping his brother with him at all times, no matter the price; and Ivy must face discrimination, holding a family together, and finding a friend.

What is the plot of the echo after echo? ›

In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole — and cast lantern light on two young women, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Is echo based on a book? ›

Echo is a middle grade historical fiction novel written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova, and published by Scholastic Press in 2015.

What is the main theme of Echo? ›

Echo is a young-adult novel about the power of music to unite individuals across time, and even save lives: the wide-reaching novel follows an enchanted harmonica to 1933 in Germany, 1934 in Pennsylvania, and 1942 in California, before uniting the characters we meet along the way at Carnegie Hall in 1951.

What is the message of the book Echo? ›

Told within the bookends of a fairy tale about three sisters lost in time, Echo explores the power of music to unite us and how our differences are cause for celebration rather than exclusion.

What are the themes of Echo Maker by Richard Powers? ›

Against this riveting backdrop, The Echo Maker explores deeper themes around human relationships, individual struggle, and the intricate workings of the mind. The novel delves into how memories shape our identities, and alternately, how the loss of memory can lead us to question our sense of self.

What is the summary of an Echo in the darkness? ›

Synopsis. The book begins where A Voice in the Wind left off, in the arena where Hadassah is thrown to the lions because her owner was jealous of her purity. A young physician, Alexander, must choose one of the mauled bodies in the arena, so that he can examine it and further his knowledge as a physician.


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