Exclusive Interview: “Echo Of Worlds” Author M.R. Carey


With Echo Of Worlds (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer M.R. Carey is concluding The Pandominion duology he started with last year’s Infinity Gate.

In the following email interview, Carey discusses what inspired this two-part story, why it’s only two books and not three or four or thirty-seven, and why they’re might soon be another story that’s part of this universe but not part of this series.

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Photo Credit: Mark Mainz / Getty Images


For people who’ve read Infinity Gate, or the interview we did about it, and can thus ignore me writing SPOILER ALERT, what is Echo Of Worlds about, and when does it take place relative to Infinity?

Echo Of Worlds takes up pretty much exactly where Infinity Gate left off.

Like the first book, it’s set against the backdrop of a ruinous war between two colossal inter-dimensional civilizations, the Pandominion and the machine hegemony, also known as the Ansurrection. And the war is escalating, approaching a point of no return where one or both of those cultures is going to be annihilated.

At the end of Infinity Gate we had a kind of coming together of all the main plot strands and most of the major characters. That little group has been assembled for a purpose, which is to head off an extinction event — a Scour, in the language of the Pandominion — and end the war. Which is kind of a big ask considering there are only seven of them and one of the seven is slightly handicapped by being already dead.

When in the process of writing Infinity Gate did you realize this was a story that needed to be told in two parts, as opposed to one or, conversely, three or nine?

It’s a purely instinctual thing, to be honest. When I started plotting, I just had a vague sense that this was probably not a story that could be done and dusted in a single book. There were a lot of characters, a lot of plot strands, a lot of worlds, and the key events play out over a span of several years — with backstories stretching back a lot further than that. So there was definitely a time when I was assuming it would end up as a trilogy, which in some ways is the default form for big but finite stories especially in genre.

But when I was about halfway through Infinity Gate I changed my mind. It didn’t feel like beginning, middle, end — it felt like diastole and then systole, a two-beat movement. The first book is about the origins of the war and the way the main characters become embroiled in it. The second book is about their attempt to intervene and where that takes them.

So two books just felt right.

And then when in relation to writing Infinity Gate did you come up with the idea for Echo Of Worlds, and what inspired this second half’s plot?

It was there from the start. I don’t mean in the sense that every single beat was worked out in advance; I generally don’t work like that. But the story had a shape in my head and it was this shape. The structure is dictated by the war, which gradually moves from background to foreground until it eclipses everything else and becomes the only thing that matters.

As to what inspired it, I guess war and genocide are very much in the air at the moment. I’m not saying Echo Of Worlds is an allegory for real-world conflicts. It’s really not. But you look at what’s happening around you — in Ukraine, in the Middle East — and it’s hard not to go there.

I’m also writing as a Brit, a citizen of one of the former imperial powers that scrawled its wobbly signature across a quarter of the world’s habitable land masses. The legacy of empire still pollutes a lot of political discourse in the UK, and it was very much in my mind as I was writing.

Infinity Gate is a multiversal sci-fi space opera story. Is it safe to assume Echo Of Worlds is one as well?

Yeah, it absolutely is. One reviewer described Infinity Gate as a space opera that never got off the planet, which I think is a very fair description.

In Echo Of Worlds we get to visit a whole lot more Earths — in both the Pandominion and the machine hegemony — and we also finally get a glimpse of what might be out there beyond the Earth. I don’t want to oversell that, because the scope of the story is still mostly defined by alternate dimensions, but we meet one entity that’s got a bigger perspective. And Paz briefly gets to be the first bunny rabbit in interstellar space, but not in the way you might expect.

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So, are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Echo Of Worlds but not on Infinity Gate? Or vice versa?

Not really. As I said, I’m seeing this as one cohesive story told across two books. I think the biggest influence on both books has to be Adrian Tchaikovsky, who right now is furnishing the inside of my head to an extraordinary degree. Nobody writes space opera better than he does, and in a broader sense nobody writes more movingly and urgently about war. Children Of Time and its sequels are absolute masterpieces, and so are the Final Architecture and Tyrant Philosopher series.

I think China Mieville is also a relevant influence here. I’m thinking particularly of Iron Council, the third and last of the Bas Lag novels, in which the inherent tensions and injustices that bedevil the city state of New Crobuzon finally erupt into open conflict. What I’m doing is very different — total war between empires rather than revolution against a corrupt regime, and in a different genre space — but that story had a powerful effect on me when I read it twenty years ago and it hasn’t worn off.

And what about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Because there’s been a lot of multiverse stories of late: Rick & Morty, the Marvel movies, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Yeah, there’s no getting around that, is there? Multiverses are everywhere — that feels like a tautology, but you know what I mean. I went through a stage of devouring all the Marvel movies as soon as they came out, and I loved Everything Everywhere. But probably Fringe was a bigger influence on me than either of those, along with the many parallel universe stories in the X-Men comics. There’s a phrase in one of the Discworld novels where Terry Pratchett talks about an alternate timeline as “the other trouser leg of time,” which has stayed with me. I love that kind of “for want of a nail” speculation. It’s not obviously at the forefront in the Pandominion novels, but it’s there — for example when Essien goes back to a Lagos that’s not exactly his own but very close, and he indirectly glimpses his own analogue. Which is a huge turning point for him.

I think the important thing in multiverse stories is scale, and I don’t just mean all the colossal architecture. I mean the human scale, and the human stakes. They can get lost sometimes if a story isn’t handled well, but they’re the key to everything. That’s why Everything Everywhere All At Once is so perfect.

Now, in the interview we did for Infinity Gate, you said that while Echo Of Worlds would end this story, you also said, “I might conceivably go back in and tell other stories in the same continuity.” Is that still a possibility?

Well, it’s funny you should ask. The next novel of mine to appear will be a free-standing horror / fantasy, Once-Was-Willem[slated for January 28, 2025].

But the one I’m currently writing is something I’m calling “a legend of the Pandominion.” It’s set very shortly after the events of Echo Of Worlds, but on an Earth very far away from the conflict that knows nothing about what’s just gone down.

I don’t want to say anything more about it just yet because nobody — literally nobody, not even my agent — has seen it yet, and there’s no telling what kind of response it will get. All I’ll say is that it’s kind of a mash-up of two very different genres and that it’s a stand-alone, not a direct sequel to Echo Of Worlds. None of the characters we’ve met before show up, though we do get to see some of the spreading ripples from what’s happened before.


With both of The Pandominion books out, some people will consider reading them back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to take in this story, or should people take a break between them?

Honestly, this is such a personal thing, I wouldn’t want to legislate it. Sometimes when there’s too long a gap between books in a series, I go back and reread the earlier books before I read the latest one to get myself in the right emotional space. But I also grew up reading American comic books, so I’m very used to the idea of the gap as part of the reading experience — having to spend a month agonizing about what might happen before reading the next instalment of a story. I think it’s every reader has to make their own accommodation with a serial narrative, and we all do it in our own idiosyncratic way.

To take one example that’s very much on my mind, I’ve waited twelve years for a sequel to Jasper Fforde’s Shades Of Grey, and I’m aiming to do both books back-to-back in a huge, sleep-deprived marathon.

In the Infinity Gate interview we talked about how it — and, by extension, Echo Of Worlds — could work as a movie. Obviously, the writers and actors strikes screwed a lot of things up, but since they ended, has there been any interest in making a movie out of Infinity Gate and Echo Of Worlds?

No, we’ve had no interest so far. The rights are fully available.

So you still haven’t told anyone how you’d like Regina King as Hadiz; McKenna Grace as Paz; and Michael B. Jordan as Essien because you loved them in Watchmen, Hill House, and The Wire, respectively?

No, you put me on the spot with that question and that was what I came up with! And I stand by it…

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Finally, if someone enjoys Infinity Gate and Echo Of Worlds, what sci-fi space opera series of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?

I have to go with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture trilogy: Shards Of Earth, Eyes Of The Void, and Lords Of Uncreation. What a magnificent sequence of books. They’re set in a far future where Earth has been obliterated, one of many planets to fall victim to a race of beings known as the Architects. The Architects don’t just destroy planets, they reshape them into exquisite sculptures, in the process wiping out all life on the planet. So now there’s a human diaspora that includes a number of factions that don’t like or trust each other and that have to make room for themselves in a universe already full of sentient life.

When the story starts the Architects have seemingly been driven off by a group of human telepaths called Intermediaries. Nobody has seen an Architect for several decades. But there are rumors that they might be coming back, and even just the rumors are enough to disturb the fragile balance of power in human space.

That’s all I want to say. Go in knowing next to nothing and be prepared to be amazed, devastated and wrung out.



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