Review: Echo - Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Genre: horror Published: NL: Luitingh Sijthoff, 2019, USA: Tor Nightfire, 2022 My Rating: 1/5 stars
“There are holes in the ice. They look just like eyes.” There are holes in this plot too. They’re the size of craters… I’m starting to deeply regret my attempt of giving Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s backlist titles a second chance… After surprisingly loving his more recent works November and Orakel, I figured I might have changed by mind about his older works. First Hex, now Echo: I fully remember now why I detested this authors pre-2020-work. The Good: Echo sets up a decent premise following the fallout of a horrific mountaineering accident, that leaves one climber dead, and another with life-altering injuries. A series of strange and paranormal events follow, and alongside Nick (in the hospital recovering from his traumatic ordeal) and his boyfriend Sam we uncover the truth of what happened on the mountaintop that faithful day. The set-up is really interesting, the prologue hooks you in, and I truly appreciate Olde Heuvelt for centering his horror-novel around a loving gay couple, all the way back in the Wild-West-Times of the early 20-tens. Admittedly, Dutch fiction has always been far ahead of American when it comes to LGBTQ-representation in media, so this wasn’t the pioneering-feat some may think it was. Still, it’s nice to see two gay characters as horror-protagonists, rather than monster-fodder. The Bad: As with my review of Hex, we’ll need to take this by bullet-points for brevity sake. - the writing is atrocious. The author tries very hard to make his (young and cool) characters sound hip and relatable, and fails miserably. The constant “lingo” like “diddly squat”, “what givez” and words like “cuz” (not in text-message, but in a characters actual thoughts) is painful. - the pacing is possible even worse. This book is over 600 pages long, and has story-material for about 200. The utter redundancy and repetition on display here are astounding, and I don’t understand how neither a Dutch publisher, nor an international one pushed for some trimming down. - As mentioned: the collapses under its own plotsholes constantly. At times, the author tries to patch it up with an ex-machina coincidental revelation or event, but at others, questions simply aren’t answered. - Olde Heuvelt clearly has a format and tropes he loves to rely on, and I’m getting tired of them. Creepy-backwards-village hiding paranormal secrets from authorities and rest of the world, character-suicide-equals-scary. Oh, and boobs/pecs are cool… Seriously, this author has a strange obsession with boobs and pectoral muscles, and it possibly the scariest thing in this book… - Small MD-peeve, but neurosurgeons do not operate peoples faces… You mean ENT-specialists or plastic surgeons, but I guess that didn’t sound as cool… The Ugly: My true reason to detest this novel lies in its treatment and language surrounding disability and disfigurement. As a result of the mountain-events, Nick has suffered injuries and disfigurement to both his body and face. For the main part of the story, these disfigurements are the main source of “horror” in the book. Much of it comes through the eyes of Sam, who keeps lamenting about the beautiful body of his boyfriend before the accident, and shuttering at the horrifiying “thing” that’s in the hospital bed now. He constantly refers to Nick as “what’s left of him now”, and questioning if he can stay with him now that this has happened… First off: way to make your character seem like the most shallow and immature ass ever. Second, and more importantly: what a disgusting way to represent someone who’s been through a horrific trauma, and lifechanging bodily consequences… This kind of stuff is a strong dealbreaker for me, and Olde Heuvelt broke the deal hard with this one. Conclusion of my own little experiment: trust your own pre-2015 reviews and ratings… I might pick up this authors upcoming works if I’m truly interested, but I will NOT be going back to any of his old titles. You can find this book here on Goodreads.