Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony by Kent Wayne
While Crusader Kischan Atriya fights to keep his life and sanity, his mentor Chrysalis Verus undertakes a perilous journey across the wilds of Echo. Their separate paths intertwine in the unlikeliest of places and across all borders, both psychic and physical.
REVIEW: Glorious mech and “magic” | ★★★★☆
This third installment is a more in-depth exploration of the world of Echo as well as the psyche of our broken hero Atriya and his enlightened mentor Verus. Both the sci-fi and supernatural elements in this were enjoyable to read, most especially the intense action. A few philosophical elements were also inserted here, and I especially enjoyed Verus’ interaction with the “Flow-riders” as well as Atriya’s conversation with the Regent.
Verus’ journey in the desert was a change of perspective and change of pace from the previous book’s fast-paced action which centered on Atriya. She does eventually encounter some action herself, this time with manipulation of Kaia (which is somewhat akin to magic) rather than advanced military tech like Atriya. Gribbles the Tokage lizard added a little bit of quirk, and that scene with Gribbles and Atriya was completely unexpected but enjoyable to read nonetheless. I’ve seen documentaries about dolphins and orcas lifestyles and intelligence, which really fascinated me, so a particular scene with the dolphins was quite endearing.
Intriguing as Verus was, the highlights of this book, though, were definitely Atriya’s scenes. From him sleeping in such a horrible apartment to his epic battle in the Wastes with his Exo, I was with him in both slow scenes and intense scenes. I was genuinely full of dread when I came across the term Enhancile (what? again?? now???), and was internally screaming for him to stop boosting when he kept doing so (have you not learned from Cityscape 87?!). The world-building continues to be excellent and the way Atriya navigates it is thought-provoking. The sci-fi elements and military jargon are so cool to read as well and I especially like the terms Judge, Jury, Enhanciles, Enforcers, Crusaders, Specters, Harvesters, Orbital, Ascension, Regent, Dissident, Kaia, “approaching shatter”, and how they are used within this world (“Wraiths” not so much, but we’ll see). The epilogue in the hospital was especially heartbreaking because I know a lot of people are suffering that way in the real world.
It’s so ironic that Verus considers Atriya as someone incredibly important, while Atriya himself is questioning his own purpose and survival.
(Some things I didn’t like were when the narration gives descriptions of specific real-world things which are not part of the current timeline of Echo because it takes me out of the story and reminds me that I’m reading a book where apparently the author is a fan of this and that. It makes me think of the author rather than the story, and therefore takes me out of the story. Like maybe describe a pose as something cool or majestic rather than saying she looks like a samurai; or describe the music as something empowering or energizing rather than saying it came from Pacific Rim, “an Old Earth classic”. Basically I’m not fond of these Old Earth references, although I do like that Atriya is old-fashioned, with his revolver and such. Note that I love Pacific Rim and the soundtrack, but some of my friends did not, and it didn’t do as well as it should have in the box office so I don’t think it will be a “classic”… see? I’m thinking these things when I really didn’t need to when reading this story. Good thing there were no references to Evangelion or Gundam or anything like that, then my mind will go to emo fifteen-year-olds piloting mech LOL. This also goes for directly naming the specific martial arts styles that Verus uses as the fight is still ongoing. It is impressive indeed but you can’t be thinking of the specific name of the fighting style your friend is using while you are in a life-and-death situation. That only happens in anime! But then, I’ve never been in a life-and-death situation so what do I know? The phrase “spooky action at a distance” also took me out of it because that’s what Einstein called quantum entanglement, and I felt that it wouldn’t take me so much out of it if the narration had just mentioned “quantum entanglement” instead. My brain got interrupted in the middle of the story because it reminded me that Einstein was wrong about quantum entanglement. I can’t be thinking about Einstein while reading a book that had nothing to do with Einstein. But anyway, this is just me. Other readers might love all these references. And with that, I’ll end my nitpicking. Also, sorry for nitpicking.)
Overall, definitely a compelling read. On to the next one!