Planet after planet has fallen to the unrelenting control of the Galilei forces. But Jack Gamble and Ari Norse have been dedicated resistance fighters, willing to do whatever it takes to take back control over their home planet, Torredo. That is until Jack realizes he has been betrayed in every possible way by his comrade, his partner, his lover, Ari Norse. Jack, his fellow resistance fighters, and the sympathetic Riga forces have suffered a significant blow.
Now, Jack is trying to cobble together a second strike for the freedom of Torredo. With the help of deep undercover operatives, code-named Fog and Field, the resistance still has direct access to insider information. And a pirate/businessman named Ben Stone can help Jack get extra resources off-world from a group called the Riga. Jack might also find a new focus for his tumultuous emotions in the handsome Ben. But it will take extremely careful planning and delicate timing to organize and coordinate so many far-flung fighters. And if Norse could fool Jack and the entire resistance for years, there is no telling how deeply the man can deceive them all a second time.
Echoes of the Storm is a futuristic sci-fi novel that features a sizable cast of characters and a plot that relies on feints within feints and outsmarting double-crossers. One of the most immediate stand-out aspects of the story was, for me, how Newcomb begins with Jack and a few resistance fighters running for their lives in the immediate aftermath of Norse’s spectacular betrayal. This was a pretty ballsy move and kept me intrigued for several chapters. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite having literally zero information about the characters or the situation, I quickly felt a deep interest in who Jack was and why Norse betrayed him. Another strong element of the story was how the plot gets broken up between different sides. Many chapters are from Norse’s perspective, many are from Jack’s, and several are from undercover agents Fog and from Field. For me, Fog’s thread seemed at least as compelling as Jack’s, if not more so. This might be a sort of holdover from my years spent as a dyed-in-the-wool Gundam Wing fan and my enjoyment of a good soldier thread.
In contrast to the boots-on-the-ground action contained in Fog’s threads, Jack—who I thought of as the actual main character—felt a bit more distant to me. Even Norse felt more centered in the first half of the book to me given how often the story shifts to Norse’s POV. The disconnect from Jack was amplified further by how I perceived his presentation on page. For one thing, Jack seems to appear in “feel good” types of scenes…the down time after escaping or in spaces borrowed from allies where he can plan his steps. In other words, not much action and a lot more talk of planning. It also felt like Jack was at least as preoccupied with his romantic entanglements as he was with the resistance. Jack starts and remains consumed by guilt and anger over having not realized Norse was an enemy. And it doesn’t take long for Jack to bump into Ben Stone and the narration makes it clear Jack is very attracted to Ben. Most scenes with Jack incorporate his desire for a relationship with Ben to manifest in some way. The “I can’t possibly help myself” vibe is very strong. And, of course, they eventually confess their mutual desire and act on it. It just had a very strong melodramatic vibe that seemed, to me, curiously at odds with the gritty Fog action bits and the fact that Jack is supposed to be, like, the number two best resistance leader after the traitor Norse.
Suffice to say, there is a lot on offer through just Fog and Jack. I will say, however, that I found the big action sequence at the end a bit muddled. Part of this, I think, stems from trying to keep track of an ever growing cast of main/supporting/incidental characters. Keeping the undercover fighters straight was difficult, not necessarily which codename matched which character, but rather who did and did not know the codename/real name for the undercover people. As a result, I was desensitized to some double-agent-reveal scenes, and sometimes I was puzzled that a character didn’t already know that another character was a double agent. Another difficult spot for me was the big fight at the end. With so many prongs in the attack and masked/unmasked double agents, tricks up the sleeve, and secret plans…it was just hard for me to really get into and follow the action. And this was one area where breaking the action up into scenes between small groupings of characters actually lessened the impact. I couldn’t get lost in the tension of Jack’s situation because the next chapter jumped to Ben’s space fight, but before I could figure out who is involved in the space fight and start to get sucked into the drama, we’d cut to Fog’s efforts to thwart bad guys on the ground.
All in all, I think Echoes of the Storm excels at combining an engrossing military story told through a major supporting character’s experience, with a sweetly melodramatic and very slightly bittersweet new romance between Jack and Ben. The first several chapters and the Fog’s storyline were riveting to me. The second half of the book was mostly me anticipating Jack and Ben getting together. The end of the book was a happily ever after ending, but the convoluted fight scene made it a less satisfying ending that I expected.