I’ve been following Kent Wayne’s (pen name) Echo series for a few years now. Kent is an indie author with a vision for life on and in orbit around a colony world called “Echo” set a thousand years in the future. Being a veteran, he renders military action with a keenly realistic voice, sometimes going over the top. After reviewing Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter over two years ago, and Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes last October, I was anxious to get into the third installment, Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony.
“Agony” takes a very dramatic twist away from the first two novels. In “Shatter,” we are introduced to “Crusader” Kischan Atriya, an elite soldier who is becoming dissatisfied with his role as “Crew” but is unable to articulate why. He gets in deep with members of a despotic religious order who have ordered his death, and after a brief encounter with his mentor, the mysterious Verus, we follow him in a slow descent into what could be the end of his life, engineered by his own supposed allies during a mission into a “Scape.”
Volume 2 picks up right where the first tale leaves off, and the reader is thrust into an adrenaline-fueled power dive with wall-to-wall combat scenarios, the first half of the novel being non-stop action. Atriya manages to survive, thanks to his specialized enhancements, his own wits, and his unimpeachable sense of honor, but at a terrible cost to his body and mind. Having barely survived by the end of the story, he has few options left, all of them leading to tragedy and death.
In the first two novels, everything is from Atriya’s point of view 100% of the time, but in volume 3, the POV regularly toggles back and forth between him and Verus, who we only encountered briefly in the first novel. In that sequence, we were presented with a hint to her hidden abilities, which are revealed in full force in “Agony.” While she is on a “hero’s journey” to the enigmatic Mandala City, the home of a group of people who possess powerful psychic abilities that may span multiple (reincarnated) lifetimes, Atriya accepts his most dangerous assignment yet, resulting in further crippling his body and ultimately meeting the architects of Echo’s dystopian society, who live in pleasure on an orbital platform high above the squalor of the planet.
The shift in perspective between Atriya and Verus (although occasionally, they are in direct contact across the span of distance between them) is jarring, at least at first. I didn’t expect it at all, since there was practically no mention of Verus in the second volume. Clearly, Kent has a master plan for Atriya’s life that involves tearing him down completely, so eventually, he can be rebuilt, assuming he survives.
What has started out as a straight forward SciFi Military saga morphs into a spiritual pilgrimage (still with plenty of action). I do, however, find myself wondering if Kent had a solid, detailed outline of volumes one through four (yes, there is a final chapter) before ever starting to write, or if “Echo” has evolved during its creation. I only mention this because I had all but forgotten about Verus through the second volume, and her having such a game-changing role in this novel was more than a surprise. It might have been more effective and “smoother sailing” if the readers would have been teased a bit throughout volumes one and two so that when Verus finally emerged in the third volume, we could all go “Ah ha, now it all makes sense” rather than “what the heck just happened?”
That said, Echo remains a very accessible, readable series, and I can’t wait to see how Kent wraps it all up in Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness. The Echo series is not classic military SciFi as some of my favorites, such as Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, or Timothy Zahn’s Cobra series, but Kent’s writing keeps me coming back for more, which is the goal for writers and readers.
I’ll be putting this review on Amazon shortly. Oh, I’m trying to catch up on my reviews, so this isn’t the last one for today.