By: Danie Ware
524 pages Trade Paperback
Technologically enhanced Ecko, a dystopian vigilante, finds himself trapped in another world without the tech he’s so accustomed to. But is this world real or a simulation known as a “Virtual Rorschach” with a psychiatrist watching his every move trying to fix him?
The very beginning of this novel is a bit of a challenge, but I’m glad I stuck with it. The earliest scenes are in a futuristic dystopian London which was a bit difficult to follow. There was a lot to take in quite quickly, liberal use of the F-word in dialogue, and a handful of British words and phrases I didn’t quite understand. I learned that a “dog-end” is in fact the used end of a cigarette, which I thought somehow according to context that it was some sort of an alley…yep, pretty different things.
But once the story shifted to the other world, things started to settle down a bit and make more sense. This other world where “Reality took a half step sideways, staggered, and fell on its ass…” lit at night by “batshit moons” that don’t follow the laws of physics, there is no glass or metal, and is populated by some nasty alchemical beasties, is a lovely work of world-building, and I’m glad so much of the story took place there. This fantasy world doesn’t exactly follow the usual clichés, and if one managed to sneak in, Ecko was sure to point it out, especially since he’s convinced that it’s all a simulation. This world revolves around trade, and is so caught up in it that the people have forgotten their past and the dangers that still lurk unnoticed. Apathy and greed are themes that echo here and in the real world that Ecko left behind.
Ecko is not the most likeable character, but that’s just who he is. He’s not a hero, but he likes to show off his technologically advanced superpowers as much as possible, and in the process, sometimes manages to do something good. The thing is, he likes who he is, and doesn’t want to be fixed, which I think is the thing I like most about him. His unpredictability is especially entertaining.
This book gets a solid like from me. The characters were interesting, the world-building was cool, and there was a lovely twist at the end. There’s a lot to this book, a lot more than I can adequately describe in this review without summarizing the whole thing. I just wish it was about 100 pages shorter, not necessarily because it was slow…maybe more because there was a lot to follow and required a wee bit more thought to keep track of everything. The sequel, Ecko Burning has been added to my list, so I’ll definitely be getting around to that one in the not-too-distant future. Until next time…