Eric Bernt’s Speed of Sound Series

About the author:

Born: Marion, Ohio

Education:

B.A. – Journalism, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Website: http://www.ericbernt.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-Thriller

Future of the series: The second book in the series is entitled The Sound of Echoes was released on 6/4/19.

The Simon Review

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘if these walls could talk’ when referring to a room that resulted in something that may have been historically momentous or possibly scandalous. Well Eric Bernt takes this phrase on a whole new level with his Speed of Sound series by making the walls actually talk. The series begins with a young autistic man that goes by the name Eddie Parks, who is also a savant, creating a device known as the ‘echo box’.  The echo box has the capability of picking up physical signals from the surrounding environment and somehow converting them back to sound waves that are remnants of conversations that had occurred in the past. Eddie’s mother died while giving birth to him and Eddie had been told that she was a beautiful singer. So Eddie’s purpose in life is to hear his mother sing, which gives him the idea of creating the echo box.

What Eddie doesn’t know is that there are others that would like to get their hands on the echo box, and they would be willing do anything to get it, including murder. Two forces are at work in acquiring the echo box, one is Dr. Marcus Fenton, the head of a government-run facility that cares for Eddie. Fenton knows that the echo box would be highly desirable to any government and they would be happy to pay a hefty price to get it. The other entity that is interested in the echo box is the American Heritage Foundation. The AHF was created in the early 1970s by a group of intelligence officers that felt that the American government was becoming unstable and a covert operation that is independent of the government would be necessary to keep it under control. Thus the American Heritage Foundation was born, and they see Eddie’s echo box as a piece of technology that they must have in order to fulfill their mission. Luckily for Eddie, he has a savior by the name of Dr. Skylar Drummond, who is a psychiatrist that specializes in autism.

Drummond is hired to help bring Eddie out of a slump that is preventing him from executing the final phase in the echo box’s creation. Drummond unfortunately finds that the recent death of her boyfriend was actually a murder and is related to Eddie’s echo box. Drummond realizes that Eddie’s life is at stake and knows that she has no choice but to take Eddie and make a run for it and with every agency with an acronym chasing them, it won’t be easy. Fortunately for them, they find a little help along the way.

This is a fun action packed series with some delightful characters. Unless you expect the ‘techno’ in technothriller to be somewhat realistic, the echo box makes for an interesting plot device. When Eric Bernt is not writing novels, he is busy at work as a Hollywood screenwriter and it is not surprising that the Speed of Sound series has that movie-like feel to it. The second book in the series, The Sound of Echoes, comes out in June of 2019 and is a continuation of The Speed of Sound novel, so it would be best if The Speed of Sound is read before The Sound of Echoes. If you have read and enjoyed The Speed of Sound, then you will most likely enjoy The Sound of Echoes.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- The Speed of Sound- because it was more of an on the edge of your seat thriller than The Sound of Echoes

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- The Sound of Echoes- because it was less of an on the edge of your seat thriller than The Speed of Sound. Also the conversations between Eddie and Lolo were a little too cutesy for me.

What about the science? The science in this series revolves around the science of sound. Sound waves are considered mechanical waves and are created when some form of matter vibrates, such as plucking the string on a guitar or a shoe hitting the pavement. This vibrating matter sets in motion a wave in the surrounding medium which is most likely either air or water. The resulting sound wave eventually comes into contact with other forms of matter, such as a wall or the membrane of your ear drum. Two things can happen, either the sound wave is absorbed by the matter or it is reflected outward in what we know as an echo. Eventually the energy from the echo will be absorb by the surrounding medium.

In Bernt’s series, sound waves somehow leave a permanent signature in the matter that absorbed it and then later can be retrieved using Park’s echo box. The only possible way that this would be true in real science is that the matter is somehow changed at the quantum level, and as of now there is no scientific indication that this is true. So Park’s echo box is totally fictional with no basis in real science (see technical word in review).

The Eddie Parks Technical Word in Review: Acoustic archaeology-is a discipline within the field of archaeology that investigates how sounds may have influenced the design of ancient buildings, monuments and sites. For example, some archaeologist believe that the positioning and shape of the stones at Stonehenge may have created acoustics that enhanced the ritualistic aura of the monument. Researchers have performed measurements and modelling studies on the acoustics of the stones at Stonehenge and the results gives support that their positioning by the ancients was intentional in order to enhance the sound quality. Studies done within the ancient Byzantine churches have shown that the architectural design of the churches may have enhanced sounds such as chanting or music.

Acoustic archaeology is not an exact science and we will never know for sure what was exactly on the minds of our ancestors. However, it does give us a glimpse into how sound has had profound effect on our history and culture.


“Doctor, if you don’t mind, I have a few questions.” She flipped through some of the classified Harmony House research materials. “What, for example, is acoustic archaeology?”

Fenton smiled. “Think back to some of the most sensitive conversations that you’ve ever had. Now imagine that someone could walk into the space where you had one of those conversations, and use a device to re-create the exact dialogue from the degenerated, but still identifiable, waves of sound that were first created when you were having that private dialogue.” –The Speed of Sound


The concept of acoustic archaeology has also been used in reference to a paper written in 1969 by Richard G. Woodbury III entitled “Acoustic Recordings from Antiquity” for which Woodbury claimed that ancient recordings could be recorded in the groves of ancient pottery. It is based on the concept that a potter’s tool would vibrate when exposed to sound waves, creating a pattern similar to that of a gramophone type recording.  Others including the team on ‘Mythbusters’ tried to replicate Woodbury’s claims only to find that there were no distinguishable sounds that indicated any type of recording.

It seems that Brent is referring to this type of acoustic archaeology with his concept of the ‘echo box’. Unless sound waves effect matter at the quantum level and we can find technology to measure that change, the concept of the ‘echo box’, for now, is just a fictional concept.

Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: The Sound of Echoes with a score of 4.43

Least Favorite in the series: The Speed of Sound with a score of 4.20

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)

#1-Speed of Sound – 2018

First Line:

Dr. Marcus Fenton, the senior and most respected doctor on the grounds of the government-funded facility, studied the applicant closely.


Characters

Eddie Parks: A young autistic man with savant capabilities; creator of the ‘echo box’

Skylar Drummond: A psychiatrist that specializes in autism

Butler McHenry: Ex-ranger turned cop

Bob Stenson: Head of the American Heritage Foundation

Marcus Fenton: Head of Harmony House


The Setting

New Jersey, New York City, and Pennsylvania


Harmony House is more than a “special place for special people.” It’s a think tank where high-functioning autistic savants harness their unique abilities for the benefit of society. Resident Eddie Parks’s contribution is nothing less than extraordinary: an “echo box” that can re-create never-recorded sounds using acoustic archeology.

All Eddie wants is to hear his late mother’s voice. But what he’s created is inadvertently posing a threat to national security.

To Harmony House’s shadowy government backers and radical extremists, the echo box is the ultimate intelligence asset—an end to the very concept of secrecy. Now for Eddie and the compassionate Dr. Skylar Drummond, the true nature of the institution is becoming chillingly clear.

As ruthless competing enemies close in on Eddie and his miraculous machine, Skylar risks all to take him on the run. Because once that prize is won, Eddie Parks will no longer be considered a “special person” but a dangerous redundancy. An inconvenient echo that must be silenced.


Looking for a review of The Speed of Sound?  Check out:

Words From the Wampuscat

Crown Jules Presents


Amazon Rating-US: 4.42 out of 5 stars based on 1,561 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.48 out of 5 stars based on 147 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.13 out of 5 stars based on 5,870 ratings

Library Rating: 3.66 out of 5 stars based on 16 ratings

Total Score 4.20 (Updated 8/9/19)

 

#2-The Sound of Echoes- 2019

First Line:

As she drove across the Delaware River on the Walt Whitman Bridge, Skylar took in the Philadelphia skyline.


Characters

Eddie Parks, Skylar Drummond, Butler McHenry, and Bob Stenson

Caitlin McCloskey: An American Heritage Foundation employee and daughter to one of the original founders of the foundation

Lolo: Eddie’s new friend


The Setting

Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland


After going on the run—for what he knows and has created—autistic Eddie Parks is back in Harmony House, the think tank that has been his sanctuary for sixteen years. With his miraculous invention, an “echo box” that excavates sounds from the past, Eddie achieved the only thing he wanted: to hear his late mother sing. But where Eddie sees good, others see infamy. Because no conversation ever held will be a secret again.

For Bob Stenson, leader of the American Heritage Foundation, whoever controls the echo box controls the future. To seize the game-changing device, he has to get Eddie where he’s most vulnerable: by kidnapping Dr. Skylar Drummond, the only person in the world Eddie trusts.

But Stenson has underestimated his prey. Eddie has the power of echoes on his side. Now he must follow them—into the most dangerous places he’s ever ventured—to save Skylar and the country.


Amazon Rating-US: 4.60 out of 5 stars based on 64 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.55 out of 5 stars based on 11 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.41 out of 5 stars based on 422 ratings

Library Rating: 3.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Total Score 4.43 (Updated 8/9/19) 

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