First Published: 2012
Review © 2013 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Adventure fantasy, dystopian science fiction, cyberpunk
Ecko Rising is a promising debut novel from Danie Ware that provides a gritty mixture of dystopian science fiction with sword and sorcery type dark fantasy. It opens in a bleakly imagined near future London with an anti-hero calling himself Ecko who has taken artificial body enhancements to the extreme. With modifications that include tremendously heightened senses and the ability to effectively become invisible, Echo has a perfect blend of abilities for an assassin on the side of a rebel force. However, when a mission goes horribly wrong, Ecko finds himself transported to a new world where technology has been replaced with magic. Exactly where he is becomes one of the main mysteries. Is he in a virtual world undergoing some kind of test? Is he undergoing virtual therapy for his rage against society? Or has he somehow really been transported to another reality?
Ecko is an anti-hero with a strong emphasis on anti. He is extremely violent, resists all authority, and is very anti-social. In the opening chapters, Ecko demonstrates savage killing skills in a dark dystopian future. When he finds himself transported to a pub with teleportation capabilities in a totally unfamiliar world, he only wants to escape. However, there doesn’t seem to be any way out and as he learns more about this new world he finds that dark forces are at work and threaten the very existence of this reality. Despite his efforts to stay on the sidelines, he eventually finds himself drawn into dangerous explorations with a highly varied band of adventurers. Ecko finds that his high tech implants and body modifications are fully functional in this new world where modern technology is nonexistent. However, in a world where strong magic exists, his high tech weapons fit in as just a different kind of powerful magic.
In Ecko Rising, the author, Danie Ware, creates a dark and compelling future London and a very highly imagined alternate fantasy world along the lines of Tolkien. I preferred the futuristic London simply because of my bias against fantasy but most of the novel takes place in the alternate world so this ends up feeling more like a dark fantasy novel with science fiction elements than the other way around. However, this is definitely not a light juvenile fantasy as there are numerous extremely violent deaths, a few torture scenes, some graphic sex scenes and adult language throughout.
The character development is one of the strengths of this novel. The supporting characters are almost as complex as Ecko and all have a realistic mixture of strengths and defects. Some of the characters are highly likable but the main character Ecko is an anti-hero to the point of being quite unlikeable at times. He comes across initially as a savage psychopath and while he eventually shows some human sides, he remains aloof and anti-social throughout. He ends up being both a strength and weakness of the novel as he makes for a unique anti-hero but is hard to like.
Ecko Rising provides an entertaining mixture of violent dystopian science fiction with dark sword and sorcery fantasy. If you grew up with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings but want to graduate to a more edgy adult fantasy adventure, Ecko Rising might be just the ticket.