Alan's Reviews > The Echo Maker

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
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's review
Jan 27, 2009

really liked it
Recommended for: The introspective and intricate
Read in January, 2009

A strong and powerful novel which, like most of Powers' work, skirts the edges of science fiction - in this case, the science of mind. The central character, Mark Schluter, suffers brain damage as a result of a mysterious accident in his truck, on a lonely road in central Nebraska.

Mark comes out of coma with a particular disorder that should be at least somewhat familiar to any reader of Oliver Sacks' works about the mind (Sacks is himself, by the way, never mentioned in the book): Capgras Syndrome, the unshakeable belief that someone close is actually a clever impostor.

In Mark's case, the impostor is his sister Karin, who has been at his side since shortly after the accident. Mark treats her with indifference and suspicion that are only cruel in their effects; he truly cannot understand why she's upset that he doesn't accept her as being his sister. Karin's efforts to understand and, perhaps, cure Mark lead her to a high-profile popularist of neuroscience, one Gerald Weber, whose encounters with the Schluters and the other denizens of Kearney, Nebraska, precipitate his own crisis of self.

Powers has written an intricate and erudite book whose threads threaten to fall apart at least once, near the end, but he ties them together again into a satisfying whole. His grasp of character is multi-talented, succeeding in a traditional novelistic sense but also managing to place that narrative within a scientific, rational context without sacrificing understanding. Gerald Weber himself would envy Powers that. As do I.
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