STARRED REVIEW
November 01, 2022

Ocean’s Echo

By Everina Maxwell
Review by
Ocean’s Echo is the optimal blend of emotional love story and suspenseful military sci-fi.
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Tennal Halkana is a problem. He’s a problem for his family because he prefers drinking in gambling dens to fulfilling the demands of being part of one of the most prominent political families on the planet Orshan. He’s a problem when it comes to relationships, flitting from one affair to another in rapid succession. But most of all, he’s a problem for society: Tennal is a reader, a person with telepathic abilities that were genetically engineered by the Orshan Fedstate. When Tennal breaks one too many rules, his aunt conscripts him into the army and orders him to sync, or completely merge his mind, with an architect, a person who can mentally control other people.

Lieutenant Surit Yeni, the architect ordered to link his mind to Tennal, is everything Tennal is not. The child of a notorious traitor, Surit ensures that his every move is thoughtful, controlled and—above all else—principled. Thanks to that last quality, Surit refuses to sync with the unwilling Tennal. The two men fake the bond instead, all while looking for a way to get Tennal out of the army and to the safety of the wider galaxy.

Ocean’s Echo is a slow burn that eventually blazes into a supernova, a novel constrained in its location but massive in its ambition. Its opening scene in a gambling den is exciting, but that action-packed sequence is paltry compared to what’s to come. Set in the same universe as author Everina Maxwell’s debut, Winter’s Orbit, this standalone novel layers intrigue atop intrigue, ratcheting up the stakes one excruciating notch at a time. Maxwell uses her space station settings as pressure cookers, creating close-proximity environments that force her main couple to change and bond with each other. Tennal’s sharp edges bring Surit’s stoicism into relief, while Surit’s rule-abiding nature clashes with Tennal’s chaotic inability to tell the truth. All the while, the pair is wrapped in a world built with care by Maxwell, a writer with a keen eye for detail and nuanced social interactions. Rather than getting lost in the weeds of the mechanics of faster-than-light travel or how exactly readers and architects were made, Maxwell zeroes in on the small moments of soldiers’ daily lives, from tokens that communicate fellow officers’ genders or the politics of getting a second slice of cake from the mess hall vending machine. 

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a massive amount of world building to absorb: Between various branches of the military, syncing, readers and architects, the wealth of vocabulary and protocol to wade through can be overwhelming at first. The learning curve will be less steep for readers who loved Maxwell’s first foray into this universe, but rest assured that this is still a standalone novel that reads like one. Perfect for lovers of science fiction served medium-hard, Ocean’s Echo is the optimal blend of emotional maelstrom and suspenseful military drama.

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Ocean’s Echo

Ocean’s Echo

By Everina Maxwell
Tor
ISBN 9781250758866

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