Review: Echo City by Tim Lebbon


Echo City. by Tim Lebbon mutants fantasy horror desert monsters
Echo City. by Tim Lebbon by Tim Lebbon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get through this, and I posted plenty of messages on my Goodreads page wondering/whinging out loud why this was. The further I waded through it, though the clearer it was that something was missing. The story hinges around a huge city which is isolated in the middle of a lethal desert, and has been there for centuries building layers on top of itself. When a stranger appears out of the un-crossable desert a lot of factions want to get hold of him, and we follow a great number of these people who travel all over the city, up and down the ‘Echoes’ to get answers. Now I’ve finished what’s actually not a bad story, I’ve concluded that the pacing of events is the main problem I had trying to get through Echo City.

However, I want to start with things I really liked about it. Because that’s the sort of positive person I am. Sometimes. When the coffee kicks in. There honestly were great ideas in here. Right at the very start, as a strange and unnatural creature walks across the lethal desert, shedding outer layers like a Russian doll, I was completely intrigued and invested. When the climax comes and the threat starts to emerge, there’s imagery straight out of Bosch and a sudden rush of energy and real peril.

However, I feel that a good chunk of the endless walking could be whittled down. The descriptions of the city and the characters both needed more passion, as I felt quite detached from both. and only gradually pieced the visuals together. That said, the twisting of terminology was great. I loved the concept of the Baker and the body ‘chopping’. I feel that the writer liked this best as well and there might have been too much emphasis on the monsters because of this. There were lots of sections I liked, and exploring the legends in the deeper levels of the city, the ‘Echoes’, was interesting. Perhaps this novelwould have worked better carved up into smaller novels with more mini climaxes, and perhaps setting the destruction of the city much earlier (or again, keeping it shorter).

I also feel there were too many paragraphs overstuffed with ‘what each character thought of every other character and why they thought that and how it affected them’. Gasp. Not many of the characters had thoughts interesting enough to bear repeating. These insights lagged through lots of telling, rather than inferring or showing. I also feel the story hopped around between viewpoints too frequently, and I didn’t feel especially close to any of the characters because the mental focus kept shifting. However I really liked the chap with the diseased face, who had a vendetta, as he had compassion and had been royally screwed over. I just didn’t feel much for the characters involved in a rather passionless love triangle. I felt that we’d sort of entered the story at the wrong point. The Baker was also a fascinating character but everyone seemed too scared to get to know her.  There is a bit of a cliffhangar ending, so it’ll be interesting to read any followups to this story.

Despite my grumbles, this was quite an effective start and I’ll pick up something else by the author. I just feel the whole tome needed significant streamlining, and a bit more of an ‘oomph’ (to use the technical writerly term) when it comes to description, action and pacing. I was glad to visit Echo City, but the trip got a bit laborious after the first two hundred pages, but finally picked up in the last hundred or so.

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