Echo (Breakthrough #6), by Michael C. Grumley

Eight stars

Michael C. Grumley has taken series readers on quite the adventure, positing much in the realm of science, sci fi, and even evolutionary beliefs. In what started as an attempt to bridge the communicative gap between humans and dolphins, Grumley has used the series to connect on a deeper level with where it all began and what influences may have been present, as well as how human evolution may have included species never thought part of the mix. With the IMIS team still using a cloak of secrecy, one of the senior members of the US administration is killed, perhaps for what he knows. John Clay and Steve Caesare are asked to look into it, only to discover that someone has been working to develop a powerful and unstoppable force that could make America more of a superpower. While Alison Shaw continues to work with her dolphins, she learns that they have more of a communicative interest than first imagined, about a vast array of topics and in much depth. When news that the next piece of the evolutionary puzzle exists in Europe, the team travels there, only to discover that it is much more complicated than at first glance. Another stellar piece of fiction with hidden truths the reader will have to decipher for themselves. Grumley is amazing and makes it all come together seamlessly. Series fans will love this newest instalment, though I would caution no one to use this as a starting point, as they will be completely flummoxed.
The fact that the IMIS team has been able to keep their missions and abilities to speak with other species completely secret is surely baffling to many. Through the use of a complex computer program, speaking to dolphins and, more recently, gorillas, has helped reveal some of the evolutionary truths that humans had yet to realise. However, when a senior official in the US Government is murdered, there are concerns that the truth may have leaked out and things could go sideways. It will be up to former Navy SEALS John Clay and Steve Caesare to get to the bottom of it all.
After following a few leads, it would appear that someone has been using some of the revelations and technological discoveries to create a super soldier, one who can not only withstand a great deal of injury, but also morph its DNA to better adapt to any situation. While the early tests have not been entirely successful, there is one out there, seeking some form of retribution on those who did them wrong.
All the while, marine biologist Alison Shaw continues to work with her dolphins, Dirk and Sally, as well as many others, trying to learn more about their intelligence and the evidence of an alien presence over the past millennia, leaving clues to the originis of Earth and species evolution. Shaw, having seen the magic of the life-enhancing substance the aliens left behind, seeks to use her connection with the dolphins to understand the narrative they offer, as she crafts a better understanding of human existence and where things are meant to go. 
Sally and Dirk appear to have a larger interest, seeking to interact with Li Na, a Chinese teenager who was given an injection of the alien substance and whose abilities seem heightened. The curiosity to seek communion with Li Na has Alison wondering what her dolphins know or wish to understand. Li Na herself has been showing some odd premonitions, things that show a cognitive connection to other species that is, as yet, completely misunderstood by the scientific community.
After Clay and Caesare return from their mission, they are told that the next piece of the alien narrative lies in a small European city, one that houses a relic that could help explain the evolutionary story. Travelling first to France and then to the African continent, Clay leads a team to uncover some old religious and historical artifacts, only to become more confused along the way. While the truth is out there, it is certainly not in plain sight. With moments of intense adventure and others of contemplation, this is another piece in Michael C. Grumley’s series that will have readers wondering and demanding more. The final novel in the series (as I was led to believe)? One can hope not, as there is much yet to be understood! Michael C. Grumley keeps the reader on the edge of their seat while crafting a collection of detailed novels where complex plots are the only thing that can be assured. The simple idea of inter-species communication has ballooned into something much more complicated, yet also highly intriguing for those who are patient and can handle a little science fiction with their thrills. This is yet another book that pushes the limits of the reader’s imagination, weaving together some portions that may be a tad fanciful with a great deal of history and science to keep the mind spinning. The narrative is ever-evolving and advancing, which adds another spark to the series and keeps me coming back for more. Keeping track of everything may be a little much for the reader seeking a superficial read, but those who want adventure and to think as they flip pages, this is a series perfectly catered to your desires.
Grumley has does a wonderful job in developing his key characters throughout the series, adding depth to their personalities, as well as roles. There is a great deal of development as it relates to the larger narrative and where each character fits, but the personal connections between those who grace the pages of the book are not forgotten. Friendships, romance, and even some deeper banter create a wonderful contrast to the struggle for understanding of the larger human evolution theme that the series presents. Grumley has found the perfect balance and those readers who like to enjoy their characters will find the author has not skimped when it comes to that part of the series advancement.
Rather than focusing on secondary characters here, I thought I would mention that Grumley has been able to effectively push history, science, and philosophical thought in the novel, which has also been present in the entire series. The reader cannot sit idly by, flipping pages, and hope to absorb all that the book has to offer. There is a strong ‘active reading’ expectation, though the benefits pay off exponentially for those who invest themselves. While not written in a highly technical manner, there is a lot to digest and comprehend, pulling on threads from past plots and novels. The story is ever-advancing, but requires acute attention to detail to understand things properly. Fair warning to readers (though, by this point, one should have read the previous five novels to understand 99% of what I have written).
Grumley has ensured that the narrative advances continually for those who seek action and thrills in their reading experience, peppering in the science and history needed to illicit some ‘aha’ moments. The strong characters continue to reveal themselves in new and exciting ways, but do not impede the larger narrative as it relates to science, technology, or evolution. While there are some eye-rolling moments, I was able to set those aside and completely lose myself in the writing, which never leaves the reader feeling less than enthused by what is presented. Puritanical readers may want to stay away, as Grumley has created a more… realistic presentation of dialogue, which does include the odd naughty word. This is a strong series and keeps the reader thinking, begging to better understand where we (humans) came from and what connection we have with other species on more than a superficial level.

Kudos, Mr. Grumley, for another stunning read. While rumours that this was the final novel made it to me, I am prepared to retract that statement, as much remains unsolved! I cannot wait to see what you have to say next.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: