Alien: Echo by Mira Grant is a young adult science-fiction horror novel set in the Alien universe. It follows twin sisters named Olivia and Viola. The latter is always sick and stuck on bedrest, unable to have a normal life, which is further complicated by their xeno-scientist parents constantly changing planetary colonies for their work. Their current colony seems like a great place for Olivia, the healthy twin, as she finds youthful romance with a local girl. However, her seemingly tolerable existence gets royally fucked-up when monstrous aliens stir up bloody chaos for everyone.
Y’all may have noticed this book in my Weekend Reads post from this morning. I finished the book shortly after scheduling that and decided to do a review promptly before the fires of my fierce disappointment began to die down.
I’m a huge fucking fan of Alien and xenomorphs in general. I’ve got novels, most of the films, plushies, and even refer to myself as a kindred cat-version of the beloved xenomorph (I mean, they are so cat-like…to me at least). But this book was catastrophically atrocious. It’s one of the worst books I have read all year and the worst addition to the Alien extended universe I’ve ever encountered. I cannot truly express how angry and let-down I felt by Alien Echo, but I’m going to try in this very ranty review.
Where do I even begin? I mean, there are so many things I want to yell about. The urge to tug at my hair in sheer frustration did arise quite a few times as well. In the plethora of crap that is wrong with this book, I think the most obvious of them are the romance, godawful characters, and the irritatingly repetitive use of a very specific set of words. Oh, and the Alien elements.
Olivia, the healthy sister, is obsessively smitten with a local gal named Kora. All she does is moan and whine about kissing Kora. Either she’s ecstatic she’s being kissed and never wants it to stop, or she’s upset that she’s not being kissed and wants to find ways to make it happen again. Her infatuation with Kora is also based entirely on superficial bullshite such as physical appearance. There is no depth to Kora’s personality beyond her beauty other than the fact that’s a brat who wants attention and to maintain her popularity. But Olivia has her head so far up her own ovaries that she doesn’t realise she’s being used, and that Kora is not a nice person at all. Yet… who cares because Kora has the softest lips and the prettiest hair and OH MY GOD SHUT UP. The book isn’t even subtle about how much Kora is using Olivia. There were times while reading where I felt this had to be a satirical jest of sorts because how can anyone take this seriously?
Romance in young adult fiction can be superficial and shallow at times, however in almost every instance that superficiality doesn’t last forever. It eventually grows into being something much more and helps the characters grow, whether they stay together or not. Olivia’s obsession for Kora became the sole focus of the story and it wasn’t based off anything beyond how she looked. There was no depth to it at all and that is what bothered me more than anything else, even more than the protagonist’s constant prattling about it. This was one of the most ingenuine and laughable portrayals of romance I have ever come across, and I’ve read some pretty awful shite. I mean, this can give Sarah J. Maas a serious run for her money.
Another reason the romance pissed me off so much is because it is a gay romance. As a gay person, I crave reading gay romances. That sort of representation is extremely important to me and my identity. Olivia and Kora felt like a mockery of gay female relationships that you’d expect from dude-bros who sexualise lesbians for their jerking-off pleasure. When you combine this stupid blunt fetishization with the immature dynamics of their so-called relationship, even referring to it as romance is a grave misjustice.
The other characters in the book are also absurdly written. You have the alpha male douchebag who’s crushing on Kora, so he goes out of his way to do the alpha male bullying. Then there are the other people whose names I can’t remember because they didn’t provide any decent contribution to the plot aside from being fodder, literally and figuratively. Plus, there are the mostly-missing-in-action parents because in young adult fiction, who needs parentals when you have kissing and kids who think they’re much smarter than everyone else?
Each teen is moulded off basic and boring stereotypes that aren’t even fleshed out enough to be interesting. The parents have fascinating jobs and do really interesting things in terms of their research, but they are usually bickering and non-existent for most of the book. Their secrets and their concern for their daughters would have been a fantastic way to provide some emotional and contemplative dimension to the rice paper thin narrative. It also would have been a marvellous way to tie the story to key facets from the Alien universe, creating a cohesive connection to it. When they finally do make appearances, they’re only present for a few minutes before disappearing again. I question the decision to place them into the story to begin with. Hell, I question a lot of things about this book. Why lie?
Next, we have something that started off as a minor annoyance but then quickly exploded into a constant needle in my index finger—other poor aspects may have exasperated this one seemingly tiny thing—that wouldn’t stop pricking over and over again. Olivia likes to use the word “prime” and “subprime” as way to refer to things or people as “cool” or “uncool” respectively. These words sprouted up at least three or four times in between each page flip. Serious editing was needed here because this level of repetitive word usage disrupts the narrative’s flow quite a bit and can be heavily off-putting. It also creates space for readers to get bored. I did read in other reviews that the author tends to choose a phrase or series of words to regurgitate in her works over and over again. This is another sign that she’s not for me because that would drive me fucking baddy.
Lastly, we have the inclusion of things that makes this an Alien novel. The real action and actual horror parts didn’t begin until more than halfway through the book, somewhere around 150 to 160 pages or so. That is a big stack of pages filled with teen-drama nonsense to get through in order to reach the action and alien creatures. The aliens are shown in extremely limited quantities and their brutal havoc was depicted in a similar inadequate manner, mostly towards the very end. I picked this up solely for the xenomorph badassry, for which there was naught. Naught. Naught, I tell you!! Hence all the rage and then some…
Alien Echo is a colossal titan-sized duffle bag of disappointment, poor writing, lousy characters, an outrageously significant lack of horror qualities, and the most appalling romance a person could ask for, more so if you’re gay and looking for that sweet gay representation. I would not recommend this book to anyone, especially not to folks who are thirsty for some Alien universe ooey gooey goodness. Those three words are non-existent in Alien Echo, particularly that last one. The only echo you’ll hear here are my tormented screams of disgruntlement.