I finally got around to keeping my promise to Kent Wayne (pseudonym) and finishing and reviewing the fourth edition of his “Echo” series, Echo Volume 4: The Last Edge of Darkness Kindle Edition . It marks the conclusion of the physical, psychological, and spiritual quest of elite soldier, Crusader Kischan Atriya.
In this final installment, Atriya finally arrives at the semi-mythical Mandala City. He has a brief reunion with his former tutor and mystical adept Chrysalis Verus, but the main action centers around his training (again) with Mandala City’s blind “Headmaster” Dake. The training physically disassembles Atriya on a daily basis in an effort to get him to “free his mind” (shades of “the Matrix”).
Actually, there were tons and tons of entertainment, literary, religious, and philosophical references. Wayne pulled no punches in pouring every last ounce of his own viewpoints and beliefs (which he makes very plain in the afterword) into Atriya, Dake, and most of the other characters.
I immediately picked up on the Batman/Lazarus Pit reference, Spider-Man, and probably DragonballZ tropes (if you analyze all the references, figuring they represent his young adolescence, you could probably come up with a good approximation of Kent’s age). The ancient tome The Book of Five Rings figured prominently, as did various expressions of Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. In fact, I probably missed a whole bunch, just because they’re crammed together, shoulder to shoulder.
In some ways, I consider this the best of the series. There seemed to be a fair balance between action and character development (which wasn’t always true in other “Echo” novels), although at times, both got a little heavy handed. In fact, there were entire sections of dialogue where I found I’d lost track of who Atriya was talking to, mainly because the author seemed to be using any and all of those interactions to continue expanding the novel’s philosophical underpinnings.
As the narrative progresses, we discover that philosophical concepts and ideas, as well as music, could be weaponized. Reincarnation is practically the foundation of the book, and through past lives, everybody knows just about everybody else in the story, whether they’ve met in this life or not.
Atriya’s ultimate goal is the downfall of the Regent, the unscrupulous occult dictator running the dystopian colony planet of Echo from his elite fortress on the moon Ascension.
I can only imagine that the writing of Echo 4 was cathartic for Kent, projecting his own spiritual quest through Atriya.
At the novel’s end, Atriya (for once) has a happy ending. I can only hope the same goes for the author.
Across the series, the writing can be pretty uneven, but based on the highly positive reviews I’ve seen on Amazon, it seems that for many, “Echo” mirrors what a lot of readers are seeking, the true meaning of self, the universe, and understanding our place in existence.
On a personal note, a lot of that “bounced off” of me, since I tend more toward Jewish philosophy and beliefs. bit if you hanker more for the philosopher/warrior, then Atriya’s journey of the soul might be for you.