‘Ecko Rising’ by Danie Ware: A Game of Drones
Okay, so there aren’t technically any drones in Danie Ware’s new novel, but “A Game of Mechanically Enhanced Human Science Experiments” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. That’s essentially what Ecko is: a human being with some robot parts. I guess you could call him a cyborg, although his character definitely feels less “cyb” and more “org”…if by “org” you mean wickedly sarcastic. Ecko starts off as a vigilante fighting against the evil pharmaceutical companies that have taken hold of Future-London. This dystopian future is as dark and dreary as a Zack Snyder film, but before you can get comfortable, Ware catapults you (and Ecko) into a high fantasy world with centaurs, alchemy, and even the occasional werewolf.
Needless to say, Ecko doesn’t exactly blend in with this other realm, which he believes to be a test, like some kind of “virtual Rorschach.” These people have never even heard of an iPad, let alone a man who can breathe fire and calculate risk to within a hundredth of a percentage just by looking at something. The back of the book had a blurb on it from author James Lovegrove, who called Ecko Rising, “The Matrix meets Game of Thrones,” and I did not take that quote seriously at all when I started reading. I was like, “Yeah right, as if that’s even possible,” but by the time I got to page 200, I thought, “Holy s**t, this really is like The Matrix meets Game of Thrones!” It almost feels like George R.R. Martin, Philip K. Dick, and Alan Moore sat down together and said, “Hey, you know what would really mess with people?…” and then they wrote Ecko Rising.
Honestly, I was a little thrown by the extreme genre mash-up, but I didn’t dislike it. Once you get used to the idea of a foul-mouthed cyborg traipsing around the mythical realm of Roviarath with a ponytailed prophet and a feisty blonde, it’s really an interesting combination. It’s kind of like a bacon chocolate bar: two great things that shouldn’t go together, but somehow they seem to work. On many occasions the culture clash provided some comic relief in an otherwise dense epic. One of my favorite parts of the book was seeing how many expletives Ecko could fit into one sentence, and picturing the puzzled looks of his compatriots, who all share a very stilted medieval/high fantasy speech pattern. It’s not every day you hear the words “f**k” and “centaur” used so often within the same paragraph.
Ecko Rising is truly the epitome of the expression, “a little something for everyone.” It has science fiction roots, a fantasy trunk, some romance branches, and a sprinkling of humor leaves to round things out. After finishing the book, I’m still a little dumbfounded as to how Ware managed to create two worlds so vivid and so different, and put them in the same story. I can’t begin to imagine how the sequel is going to go.