(Disclaimer – I was provided a comp. copy of this ebook for review purposes. I do not have any connection with the author.)
We first meet Agent John Aries, Echo Agent, and his partner, Tarus Arken Karazhja, better known by his nickname ‘Lovelace’, in this the first of the ‘Agency Case Files’, as they investigate the apparent suicide of Massey de Sargon. Set in a future Earth, this sci-fi thriller quickly grows in complication leading to an ever more desperate and far-reaching investigation which takes John and Lovelace to and beyond the limits of their skill and endurance. This is a fast paced and gripping read, one which I am happy to recommend.
In many ways this book reminded me of the highly popular Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, but with a sci-fi setting rather than urban fantasy. The pace, tone and language is very similar, but instead of vampires and werewolves we have Echos and Pures. It feels more pulp than hard sci-fi in its action and the inclusion of supernatural elements and religious backdrop, although the seeing itself is complex and well thought out. Much is left hinted at in this book in both the present and the past and I’ll look forward to this being further developed in later volumes.
The Echos are humans with psychic powers, the ability to call upon the power of The Wyld to manipulate in some way the world around them, each having their own specific area of expertise. This power comes with a sinister twist, the Wyld is carcinogenic, each time they call upon it, they take one step nearer to their death. There is also the risk that they lose their self-control and unleash a devastating blast of power upon the world around them. Despite these drawbacks, use of the Wyld is a constant lure to it’s channellers.
Pures are a human subspecies. Lovelace is enhanced with a massive, toughened build, a mouth full of sharp teeth evolved for tearing and all black eyes, devoid of white. They too have their weaknesses; in Lovelace’s case a sensitivity to bright light and religious compulsion.
The activity in the book is balanced between fast and furious action scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster and political intrigue as the partners find that the case ruins deeper and wider in their society than at first believed with severe ramifications for both of them. The interplay between these two is fun as they are both forced to discover who the other is and if they can trust them.
One of the main issues in the book is that of class. In this futuristic setting, the higher your class the higher you live, literally, with the wealthiest and most successful enjoying better air, space and views, whereas the poorer and lower classes live far below in squalor and darkness; a criminal haven.
This is a very enjoyable read, a fascinating setting with humour, action and interesting characters. It’s not deep hard-core sci-fi, but explores some interesting questions about the forces that drive us, our relationships and commitments. I’m pleased to see a book of this style adopting sci-fi, makes a pleasant change. I’ll be reading more!
As well as reading, one of my hobbies is playing rpg games. As I read this I couldn’t help but feel this would make an excellent setting and often found myself thinking how I would stat up characters and utilise the rich setting. Naturally I was thrilled to discover son after finishing that Chronicle City have produced a such a game, the Broken Shield RPG (http://shop.chroniclecity.co.uk/Broken-Shield-1). I will be checking that out before too long as well.