Echo: Supernatural Horror With a Beating Heart

Thomas Olde Heuvelt grounds his eerie survival horror in a fascinating and complex queer love story.

Echo Book Cover
Photo: Tor Books

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Echo, the supernatural horror from international bestselling author Thomas OIde Heuvelt, will creep up on you, its claws digging deep in the same way its mystery has main characters Nick and Sam in its clutches. This creates a reading experience just as inescapable; I wasn’t able to stop reading (or listening) to this story of two young men, and how a tragic mountain accident started seeping into their lives, making them question who they are and the strength of their love in the face of the unknown. 

Before the book’s tragic, inciting accident, protagonists Nick and Sam are living their best lives. They are in love, passionate about life, and seem to have everything figured out about, from how they feel about each other to how they fit into the world. That all comes crashing down when Nick is injured during a mountain expedition. His injuries are substantial and there is a long recovery ahead for both him and Sam. But this is where the story takes a drastic turn. This is where you think this book is all about one thing, and you end up realizing it’s about something else entirely…

The mountain that Nick was on is more powerful than anyone can understand. And the scars that it leaves on Nick are more than the physical injuries or mental challenges that are part of any recovery. There is something alive in that mountain where Nick was injured. Something that breathed into Nick, making a change that Nick’s family, including current lover Sam, cannot understand. And as we uncover the true extent of Nick’s injuries, we come to understand that the imprint left inside of him is reaching out for this world through him in unexpected ways that are both frightening and tragic.

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To better understand this story, it’s important to delve into who the main characters of Nick and Sam are separately and together… without giving too much away.

We start the story off from Sam’s perspective. Upon his introduction, Sam is not the most instantly likable of characters, though he is identifiably human in his actions and reactions. He’s not sure of what he wants, is scared of what happened to Nick, and makes decisions that make you wonder about his motivations. But he’s the kind of character whose arc of growth is incredibly rewarding, as Sam. As you devour more of the book, it’s easy to understand why he is the way he is and see the potential for where he can go as a person, friend, lover, and character. 

At the start of the book, much of what we learn of Nick is filtered through Sam’s perspective. He’s admittedly mysterious in the beginning before transforming into a scary specter of who he once was. But, like Sam, the more the book goes on, the more we learn about Nick and understand his pain. His life has been turned upside down and he’s starting to live a drastically different new one. Whatever happened on that mountain is haunting and changing him into something he doesn’t want. And he finds himself fighting it with every fiber of his being to retain his humanity and survive.

Echo may be a horror, but it is also a love story of sorts. It shows us, and its characters, that the only way to survive what’s to come is together. Because the love that Nick and Sam hold for each other is real and built on a solid foundation, they stand a chance at conquering this mountain that is trying to drive them apart. Their bond is further emphasized by the way they continue fighting for each other, especially when it’s scary, or confusing, or both—and, most impressively, when things take a supernatural turn. They are bonded and that darkness that crept into Nick isn’t going to tear them apart as long as they keep trying. The book doesn’t treat them as foolish for continuing to try to work things out in the face of supernatural horror. This makes them human—fragile, but triumphant.

Heuvelt’s Echo ultimately succeeds because it makes the reader just as much a part of this journey as these main characters. We are there with Nick and Sam as they struggle to unravel this mystery and the devastating changes that come along with it. And it’s all held up and supported by Heuvelt’s alternating perspectives and writing that make each character fully formed—the kind of complex storytelling that feels realistic to what we as humans experience on a daily basis. 

As readers, we experience the lives and adventures of others through the books we read. And, no, we may never be haunted by a mountain and have to fight it off with every fiber of our being. But we know what it means to have life throw curveballs at us and to have to reassess who we are and what we mean to others. That’s what connects us all. It’s the beating heart of Echo supernatural horror.

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Echo is out now. Find out more here.