Audible version, narrated by Jane Collingwood and Thomas Judd.
This story is set in an imagined not too distant future, in the year 2115. A lot of scientific advancements have been made, including ECHOs. ECHO stands for Enhanced Computerised Humanoid Organism, and they’re essentially very advanced androids. They look human, they are built from flesh and blood, but they also have an operating system. They are stronger and faster than humans, they have no emotions and no capacity for critical thought or curiosity – at least they’re not supposed to. They are basically designed to be slaves.
Audrey Castle is a teenage girl who lives in a relatively low-tech environment for the time, with her parents. Her father is very critical of all the technological advancements that have been made, and cautions his family as well as the world at large against implicitly trusting technology. He’s also adamantly against the resurrection zone – which is a sort of zoo with de-extinct species, including Neanderthals. This has caused some tension in the family as his brother, Alex Castle, is the owner of Europe’s leading tech company and also the man behind the resurrection zone.
One day Audrey emerges from her pod after class and finds her parents murdered (this is not a spoiler, it’s one of the first things mentioned in the book). She flees and is rescued by her uncle. In Alex Castle’s house Audrey quickly gets the feeling that something is not quite right, and she meets an unusual ECHO boy, Daniel, who frightens her with his intensity.
I won’t say more on the plot as I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice it to say that Audrey tries to get to the bottom of what happened with her parents, and things escalate.
I really enjoyed this and it sucked me right in. The world building was great and I could easily envision the world being described. It’s sort of believable even, though I personally take a less cynical view of mankind. In addition to an exciting and fast-paced story, the book also raises some interesting moral questions about what defines us as humans.
I did think that the plot was very obvious though, and it annoyed me how long it took for Audrey to catch on. And while it does ask interesting questions I found it on the whole a little simplistic. A lot of “maybe being human is just xyz”, “maybe love just means xyz” and similar “deep thoughts”. I know it’s YA but I think teenagers are intelligent enough to be interested in delving a little deeper into questions of morality and humanity.
I also expected more from the ending. It’s hard to say in what way without giving anything away, but lets say that it didn’t fulfil the expectation that it would be about broader themes rather than individual characters.
Haig is definitely a good writer though and this was an engaging story that had me hooked, and I would recommend it particularly to YA and sci-fi fans. I just feel like it could have been more.