Author: Simon Clark
Publisher: Hale • 240 pages • £18.99
Simon Clark manages something quite rare in This Rage of Echoes, creating a new breed of monster that has the potential to become as iconic as vampires and werewolves. Unfortunately, while his identity-stealing Echoes – or “shampires”, as the characters mockingly call them – are a brilliantly creepy idea in themselves, their chances of joining the roll-call of classic creepies are slim. Why? Because the book is a bit of a disjointed mess.
Internet filmmaker Mason Konrad’s life changes when he discovers that he has a peculiar effect on people – they start turning into him (both emotionally and physically) and then want to kill him. Initially ganging up with a bunch of similarly-afflicted outcasts, he soon takes an ill-advised trip home. He and his family are caught and imprisoned by the increasingly organised and intelligent Echoes, who begin to experiment on Mason. His only real weapon against them is his childhood imaginary friend – a dusty old mummy called Natsaf-Ty who they seem to fear.
Clark sets all this up with a pacy, intriguing, and hard-hitting first few chapters. The problem is, he then overeggs the promising premise with a raft of underdeveloped ideas: secret government agencies, religious allegories and variant Echoes who don’t want to kill humans. The plot lurches from setpiece to setpiece, leaving too many questions in its wake. The nature of the Echoes is frustratingly vague and the action exists in an odd vacuum in which the Echoes never interact with the real world beyond the novel’s core characters. Then it all ends in the style of Stephen King’s It, moving from horror to SF, for a cosmic conclusion that’s hard to swallow. Keep it simple, Simon.