Book Review – ECHO, Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

I want to support indie authors, especially good ones. In an earlier post, I decided to read the book of a blogger I follow: ECHO Volume 1.  I love science fiction, and one of his advertising posts just totally convinced me to buy this thing.  It’s not doing too badly on the Kindle Store, either, and that’s indicative of the author’s command of prose.  Overall, I’d recommend the book (though I warn you should go ahead and buy the collection rather than just the first book).  I rated it 4 stars on Amazon because the ending felt abrupt and poorly placed, but the style and universe were excellent.

The Book

ECHO Volume 1: Approaching Shatter ECHO
Author: Kent Wayne
Written in 2015
Published by Amazon Digital Services LLC
Buy It on Amazon

I saw an ad on the DirtySciFiBuddha blog.  Though I’d ignored them for months, for some reason Wayne’s poking fun of the dreaded Twilight series made me interested in his writing style.  I decided to splurge on the first book and, since I’m trying to get more involved in this blogging thing, talk about it online.

Non-Spoiler Review

As a whole, I would definitely recommend ECHO.  The book had excellent style (though, fair warning, it did dip into the gruesome a little).  The named characters all felt different, especially those with significant screen time, and each felt very thoughtful.  The prose dipped into melodrama and overuse of Latinate vocabulary a couple of times, but I accept that this is an indie book that didn’t have a team of editors prepping it for bestseller (though it is still better than a lot of the trash that does become bestsellers).  There were a few too many opportunities where Wayne explained the world rather than showed it, but this didn’t ruin my desire to finish the book.

For a military fiction, I found the entire book extremely thought-provoking and well designed.  I don’t mind a little gore that’s meaningful (or very purposefully not-meaningful, like in Ash Vs. Evil Dead), and everything in ECHO was rather tasteful or thought out.

Beyond that, though, the military aspects didn’t seem to be the most important.  After looking at Wayne’s blog, it’s pretty obvious that philosophy and mindfulness are important to the author, but I wasn’t expecting just how approachable he had made that interest.  Out of everything I was worried about coming into the book, being inundated with philosophical bullshit was one of the top concerns.   He hid it well into the backdrop of his world and the story as a whole.  As a non-Buddhist, I appreciated how he handled this very well.

Like in the summary, though, there was some bad news in this story.  The ending was really rough.  I watched my Kindle percentage climb, and I kept wondering how the hell it was going to wrap up.  When I got to the end, I didn’t feel like it was an appropriate cliffhanger – it didn’t leave me aching for a next book, it left me feeling incomplete, like I needed a next chapter that should have come with the first book.  If you feel like this book may be for you, don’t waste your time on book 1 alone; buy one of the omnibuses so that you can see what happens and not get the sinking disappointment of ECHO Volume 1’s ending.  In a few months, I’ll probably buy and review the sequel as well, but we’ll see how tied up I get in other garbage.

SPOILERS AHOY: Plot Review

Atriya is a Crew operator – an advanced soldier slotted for training in exosuits, but also doomed to fight difficult battles and face dangerous enemies.  Atriya, however, isn’t the same kind of drug-junkie or steroid popper as the rest of the Crew.  He pushes himself to extremes, fueled by his own desires as well as the priest Verus’s encouragement.  After an unfortunate fight against his old troop leader, Atriya faces a difficult decision to either rejoin that life he purposefully left, or take a suicidal quest to find a secret city of the enemy.  That seems inconsequential, though, when Higher Up makes a mistake when calculating the strength of his immediate foes.

There wasn’t much plot to be had.  Character driven, the first installment of ECHO focused on building Atriya and the mental break he may have had at the end.  Around the middle of the book, I changed my expectations of how much was going to be accomplished during this installment.  I’m not entirely sure what the overall plot of the series will be, and I’m not even sure that I know what the main problem or villain is.

The end was disappointing.  The summary I put above wasn’t a teaser – that was the actual end.  He’s battling a group of enemies, has limited communication with his team, his armor is failing, and… plip!  That’s the end.  It just didn’t feel right at all.  In the afterword, the author claimed that it met some kind of psychological/thematic end criteria, but I didn’t recognize them.  When/if I buy the second book, I’ll let you know if having the second installment on hand is worth it.

That being said, the opportunity to see Atriya’s growth was not wasted fun.  It just means that this section of my review is going to be short.

 

SPOILERS AHOY: Characters

The main character was multi-layered, thoughtful, and was given what I think was just the right amount of talent and strengths.  He wasn’t unbeatable, and yet he was definitely not your average citizen or even soldier.  What set Atriya apart was his desire for something more, for something that I’m not sure his career choice will put him on the path towards.

One of my favorite parts was when Atriya was considering whether or not to punch Benson (that bag of turds).  The tension in his thoughts and the wonder over whether or not he was going to do it kept me on the edge of my seat.  I wasn’t surprised, either, that he did punch Benson, but I also would have been satisfied if Atriya had chosen otherwise.

I was worried, last week, that I was getting too SJW when it came to female characters.  ECHO, however, proved to me that I was right about Ready Player One.  If Wayne could write a futuristic military fiction in which women are 1) barely present and 2) not very powerful as a whole, and yet still incorporate a female character that seems like a person first, then I have no remorse for ripping others who fail to do so.  Verus was a great character, and her influence on the main character was apparent throughout the story.  I’m intrigued as to how she got where she was, but he gave me just enough information about her to keep me satiated.

A villain, Benson, was also excellently written.  In that passage I mentioned before, I secretly wanted Atriya to beat the living daylights out of him, even though I knew it couldn’t turn out well.  Delightfully filthy man.

The most disappointing character was Han.  The best friend of the protagonist, Han also appeared in passages where I thought the author got overly philosophical.  He was a vehicle where Wayne said things he almost got away with, but I don’t think he quite did.

SPOILERS AHOY: Setting

ECHO was set in a very well-thought out dystopian world.  Even though it wasn’t entirely explained, the way the society was structured gave a sense of hopelessness and limited mobility.  The presence of the Ascensioner in Scape 87, at the very end, was unexpected and drew in many questions as to why, given that the race lives on the moon.  There’s a lot left to be explored, and I think Wayne had figured it out beforehand anyway.

Next week: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Next week I’ll be reviewing the classic by Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court!  Good luck to me!

2 thoughts on “Book Review – ECHO, Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

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