More than a thousand years before the action of this book, the earth was abandoned because of environmental degradation, and humanity settled on the earth-like planet of Echo. Echo has stagnated, its citizens living under the autocracy of the Regime. There is perpetual civil war with the Dissidents. The military is highly developed, with specialized, lethal weapons. Additionally, its soldiers are also specialized and are offered enhancements.
One of those soldiers is Atriya, a member of the elite Crusaders unit. He trains for fun. The reader is told about Atriya:
“He embraced the pain. In a way, he was addicted to it. Not the pain itself, but the validation it gave him.”
One day, as he is out running, he comes across a Crusader (or “Crew”) Selection class. Part of the class is punishing those who fall behind (“stragglers”) with severe physical abuse and humiliation. The instructor, Clement (hmmm… an odd name for a character in that job….), recognizes Atriya as “Crew” and asks if he’d like to join in the abuse.
The ritual is nothing new to Atriya, but he finds himself unable to take part.
I have to start by saying that this is not a genre that I usually read. I follow the author’s blog because I find him interesting. The book was offered as a freebie one day, and I thought I’d try it out, thinking f I could not give it a positive review, I would simply not review it. Happily, that was far from that case.
I do have to add that the language is, as one might expect, something other than dinner table polite. Given the genre, dinner table polite would be inappropriate.
The great strength of this book for me was the character of Atriya. The author makes him real, even in this dystopian sci-fi environment. As a reader, I easily became invested in him, although I have little in common with him. Atriya is violent and can and does kill without compunction, but something else bubbling to the surface, something he can’t grasp just yet.
He goes to seek advice from a chaplain, another Crusader, a woman named Verus. I suspect that Wayne is familiar enough with the Classical world to know that “verus” means “true” in Latin. (A purist might bellyache it’s for masculine nouns, of course.) Verus herself seems something of an enigma. Atriya understands this. She is a chaplain, but she is not overly religious. One overdone aspect of the character is she seems to be something of a prophet. She foresees Atriya leaving when he has no reason to leave.
Their relationship is platonic. As a matter of fact, unlike so much of this sort of writing, there is no sex. Atriya does not stop by to toss the sheets with a casual lover or working girl and discuss the meaning of life on Echo. I found the absence of such a hackneyed scene a relief.
However, the reader has to endure some info dumps regarding things like nifty weapons and societal hierarchy. The reader encounters a lot of specialized terminology throughout the book, including the title, which is only explained near the end. There are some gory scenes, including cannibalism.
Tension steadily builds till the end. Atriya manages to annoy the wrong people, who are willing to seek revenge with friends. As a reader, I’m fully there with him. I care. I want to see him succeed. His career is threatened, and his life is in danger. He has limited choices. He decides if this is it for him, he’s going to take as many of them as he can with him.
—Flip the page… the book ends… I mutter words that cast doubt on whether the author’s parents were married—
The first volume, which I admit I did not pay for, includes the first three chapters of the next volume, so the reader gets a good glimpse of what’s to come.
Will I read volume two? Probably. After I wade through some fifty other books, including the one my dearly beloved gave me for Christmas.
All in all, I enjoyed this book.
Title: Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter
Author: Kent Wayne
First published: August 7, 2015