Fiction Reviews


Echo

(2022) Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, trdpbk, 403pp, ISBN 978-1-529-33178-3

 

Horror. Itís One Thing to Lose Your Life. Itís Another to Lose Your Soul. When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident, he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned. Nickís partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nickís youth, vitality and beauty, and must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse.

Right at the start of Echo before the narrative begins Heuvelt explains that ďthe chapter titles in this book refer to classic gothic novels and stories. Each one is a masterpiece, and I recommend them all without exception.Ē Thus we have chapter titles of works by Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Clive Barker, H. P. Lovecraft, Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley, among others. Iíll leave it to you to fill in the blanks as to which of their works he references, but rather like these works of old, Heuvelt tells his story in different ways using a combination of notes, messages, digital diary entries, manuscript extracts, and documents, and some of the major themes of Echo hark back to the work of the authors mentioned above, such as madness, suicide, disfigurement, isolation, body horror, folk horror, ghosts. In some ways, Heuvelt could be criticised for trying to straddle too many sub-genres, and while the opening is really creepy, the novel that follows does take a while to pick up momentum, but then it gathers speed like a rock fall or an avalanche.

Echo concerns American, Sam Avery, and his partner, Dutchman, Nick Grevers who is a travel journalist and mountaineer. Sam isnít into climbing and doesnít really like Nick doing it, worried that something awful is going to happen to him, and this time it does. Nick and his climbing partner, Augustin, have been involved in a climbing accident in the Swiss Alps, climbing the Maudit, which they didnít intend to climb but noticed its peak on their descent of another mountain, and just had to tick this one off too. Although on the way Nick notices how different the valley leading to the mountain is, how quiet, and he canít shake off the feeling of being watched, followed. Surviving the accident, Nick is a mess, his body and his face broken, wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, or remember anything, while there is no sign of Augustin who is missing, presumed dead. Nick might have lost his looks, and his memory, for a little while, so he says, but he has gained something, something terrible while on the Maudit and it is getting stronger. Thus, Heuvelt treats us to his twisted version of a love story, full of horror and dread as we learn what happened on the mountain while trying to deal with its consequences as Sam and Nick travel to Switzerland to visit a little alpine village in the shadow of the Maudit which is full of myths and legends, and secrets.

Echo is Heuveltís sixth novel, but sadly only the second one released in English following his last novel Hex. I think Iím going to have to learn a foreign language and get into those previous books, or hunt down his short stories that have been released by TOR.com, or appeared in magazines like Lightspeed because this is another humdinger of a novel and the most fun youíll have being scared in ages. Recommended.

Ian Hunter

 


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