According to Richard Powers,
[The] aim in The Echo Maker is to put forward, at the same time, a glimpse of the solid, continuous, stable, perfect story we try to fashion about the world and about ourselves, while at the same time to lift the rug and glimpse the amorphous, improvised, messy, crack-strewn, gaping thing underneath all that narration. To this end, my technique was what some scholars of narrative have called double voicing. Every section of the book (until a few passages at the end) is so closely focalized through Mark, Karin, or Weber that even the narration of material event is voiced entirely through their cognitive process: the world is nothing more than what these sensibilities assemble, without any appeal to outside authority.
Margaret Atwood describes the novel's "underlying sketch" as being from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as detailed in her 2006 essay "In the Heart of the Heartland." The Land of Oz, according to Atwood, is ..like the "country of surprise" in Dr. Weber's book, a land of brain episodes. Or as Powers says, lift the rug and glimpse the amorphous, improvised, messy, crack-strewn, gaping thing underneath. Each of the characters, according to Atwood, corresponds to a character from The Wizard of Oz. Karin is Dorothy trying to find her way home. Mark is the brain deficient scarecrow. Daniel is the lion who lacks courage. Robert Karsh is the flashy Tin Man who lacks a heart. The winged monkeys—destructive or helpful, depending on the situation—may possibly be represented by Mark's two primitive-minded video-gaming pals. Dr. Weber is the Wizard who appears to know all but is exposed in the end. Barbara is a combination of Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West. Powers is known for structuring novels around other works of art, and clues to the Oz connection are scattered throughout the novel: At one point, Weber's wife Sylvie says, "Yo, Man—I'm home!... No place like it!", and five pages later, Weber reflects: "The utter estrangement of it: I've a feeling we're not in New York anymore." Robert Karsh even "..hummed a high- pitched rendition of the tornado music from The Wizard of Oz," (p. 295).
Colson Whitehead in The New York Times, called it a "post-911 novel .. not an elegy for How We Used to Live or a salute to Coming to Grips, but a quiet exploration of how we survive, day to day."