on 12 October 2012
Ecko is a fast-paced story of Chandleresque cyber-street-ninja, shifted into a doomed fantasy world with little juice in his tanks but a gutful of attitude and trust issues.
He's in over his head and can't keep his mouth shut. Contrary to Ecko's own expectations, there are no firebreathing lizards. But with that (small) reservation this is grown up fantasy fun that expects the reader to keep up. DW doesn't feel the need to spend a chapter explaining the biology or history of every monster or relic. This accentuates the feeling of displacement that many of the characters feel in their journey to the Heart of Darkness. Yes, there are Conradian overtones but you'll be too busy with the banter, politics and combat to notice. Ecko and his comrades swiftly divide into the quick and the dead.
DW's first novel shows a confident understanding of the tropes of fantasy and cyberpunk fiction. She plays within these, retaining the consistency of her world and the believability of her characters in a fun filled romp.
I'm already looking forward to the next book.
on 1 January 2013
I get what this book was trying to do by blending fantasy and sci-fi which isn't easy but it didn't do anything for me.
I like the idea of the book more than I enjoyed the book and spent a lot of time checking how many pages I had left. Plus it has more cursing than I like to see in any book regardless of how much of an undesirable the main character is.
(Full disclosure: I received this free from the publisher to review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and are not altered by this. In this case I would quite happily have paid for it!)
on 7 January 2013
I had high hopes of this, but they didn't last long. It started well enough in familiar SF dystopic future territory, but then switched abruptly into Fantasy. This might have worked except that the Fantasy was held at a distance, seen through the eyes of someone who didn't believe it was real, that it was all just a video game. But if none of it is real, why should the reader care? I certainly didn't. I found all of the characters, and indeed the whole fantasy world, two-dimensional. I don't know whether this was deliberate, but the result was just boredom. Ecko, the title character, is utterly baffling. If he were in this real world he would be a surly teenager wearing his trousers half way down his bottom and a baseball cap on backwards. In the book I struggled to think of him as a person at all. He swears a lot and spends most of his time crouching. Oh, and he has some superpowers. Character? None. Mercifully he is absent from much of the book leaving us in the company of the two-dimensional video-game people. Just so we don't get all these identical "people" mixed up the author helpfully gives them some verbal tics. One says "loco" a lot. Ecko, well he swears (and crouches) and blackness comes into it a lot too - his grin as black as a nightmare. Black as this, black as that.
On the positive side I read it all the way to its distant end. Most of the other reviews, which I blame for persuading me to read this, are very positive so maybe you will enjoy it.
Ecko is an unlikely saviour: a savage, gleefully cynical rebel/assassin, he operates out of hi-tech London, making his own rules in a repressed and subdued society. When the biggest job of his life goes horribly wrong, Ecko awakes in a world he doesn't recognise: a world without tech, weapons, cams, cables - anything that makes sense to him. Can this be his own creation, a virtual Rorschach designed just for him, or is it something much more? Ecko finds himself immersed in a world just as troubled as his own, striving to conquer his deepest fears and save it from extinction.
If Ecko can win through, he might just learn to care - or break the program and get home.
Imagine taking a character from a cyber-punk thriller and transplanting them wholesale into a fully fleshed out fantasy novel. Danie Ware's debut novel, Ecko Rising, does just that.
Ecko is terrifically smart, more than a little inquisitive and great at what he does. So good in fact, that he is a trifle cocky about it. Does this make him a bit irritating/smug at times? Perhaps, but that's all part of his quirky charm. Ecko's journey is the core of this novel and it's a voyage of discovery. He finds himself in a world totally different from anything he's used to, where he has no idea of the rules.
Ecko is such a fun character, and such a palpable presence, that I missed him when he wasn't in every single scene. That said there are some other fantastic characters that managed to hold my attention in his absence.
There is a warrior called Rhan who has been around for so long that he's become rather complacent with his lot. He spends his time drinking, partaking in illegal substances and reminiscing about the good old days. Ware uses Rhan to great effect, deconstructing the hero myth and dragging him through the emotional ringer. It's always fascinating to watch a character, particularly a flawed one, get metaphorically taken apart by the events in a plot. It is surprising how emotive his plight becomes. Initially, there was admiration of this near god-like hero, and then anger at some of his actions, followed finally by pity. Rhan has a couple of wonderful moments of self-realisation that are particularly well observed.
The other two characters that spring to mind are Triqueta and Redlock. It quickly becomes obvious that there is an existing relationship between these two. The writing very quickly establishes a sense of history between them both. This adds a welcome extra layer of depth to their characters. Redlock in particular is a joy, he spend quite a lot of time running around trying to decide what to attack first with his axes, how can you not love that?
The best thing about this novel is that, like Ecko, you very quickly start to buy into the fantasy world he finds himself in. Everything just feels so vivid and alive. In each new chapter you get hints about what is going on, but the full truth is never entirely revealed. Based on the final moments of the novel there has to a sequel (please let there be a sequel!). Ecko Rising is a fantastic genre-bending mashup that will appeal to anyone who likes intelligent thoughtful writing, with just the right amount of action. Just wait till you discover the delights of The Wanderer. Yes, I'm being a tease, but you can thank me for it later.
In retrospect, 2012 really has produced an exceptional crop of debut novels. Ecko Rising has more than earned its place as part of that select list. Judging by the writing on display I expect many more great things from Danie Ware in the future. She is undoubtedly an author to keep an eye on.
on 2 May 2014
I first heard about this book when I watched a panel at a convention in north Wales where Danie was talking about it, and how it wasn't so much a merger of sci-fi and fantasy as it was a head-on collision of the two worlds. I was intrigued, bought it whilst sitting in the audience (the joys of Kindle) and started reading it a couple of days later. And you know what...? She's not wrong.
This isn't a tale that gently weaves sci-fi concepts into a fantasy universe, or slowly leaks fantasy elements into an otherwise familiar environment. No. This is a book that forcibly rams a science-based futuristic protagonist into a fantasy world, and then leaves him to fend for himself with absolutely no familiar points of reference.
Does it work? Definitely. If you like your sci-fi to be straightforward or think Tolkein and Gibson should never be seen in the same bookshop together (let alone at the same party) then this is probably not the book for you, but if you want to try something a bit out there and a bit on the edge then give it a go. I seriously doubt you'll be disappointed.
on 19 November 2012
I like this book a lot - a fast-paced, highly-competent sf/fantasy yarn with an interesting protagonist from a debut author. I hear there's at least one follow-up due, and look forward to reading that as well. However a lot of reviews have been stressing how original the main plot is. I didn't find it original, it all felt very like Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee to me - cynical, tech-savvy anti-hero finds himself in cod-mediaeval/fantasy land and what happens to him. In all fairness, the fantasy land is just as ready (via magic/the supernatural) to meet techno with both barrels, but it's still a big antecedent. If you can get over that then you'll have a lot of fun with this book - and it's worth the getting over.
on 3 May 2014
I bought this book because I followed the writer on Twitter, before this delightful tome was even published, because she struck me as a very wise person. On actually reading this box of delights, which pulls off the very neat trick of blending at least two different worlds - one a kind of futuristic London cyberpunk, the other a world of heroic fantasy - I was surprised at just how well she got this kind of genre blending to work when so many others had failed at this kind of thing before now. For me, at least, it was a page turner and, alas and to my regret, I can't say I'm young enough not to know better... this is a really entertaining read through from start to finish.
I even wrote review on my blog where I make the point, among many others, that Ecko...
"...also has a nice line of postmodernistic, eclectic pop-culture references which are peppered liberally throughout the novel and it seems very clear to me that Danie Ware has a full-on, take no prisoners, gamer’s mentality mixed in with a good appreciation of all things sci-fi and fantasy and it makes for some lovely nods to various genre classics that will have fans of such things (who are probably the core target audience of books like this) lapping it up and in her pocket from the word go. “A connecticut yankee in King Arthur’s Arms” for example or “The Magic Faraway Pub” and... “Ain’t exactly Minas f**** Tirith, is it?”. Neat little throwaway lines like this give something for the fanbase to look out for but, perhaps more importantly, they anchor the character of Ecko by giving him cultural references to a reality which the reader understands historically but which most of the characters in this book don’t comprehend in the slightest... and this is a great way of aligning Ecko with the reader and getting you on his side, of course. There are even references to things like Star Trek and Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion (a personal favourite) in here... and probably loads more that, as a not quite hard core fantasy fan, I was undoubtedly missing."
If you want to know more about my thoughts on this book... and why the author owes me about 29 minutes of London tube commuter time back in my life with a wave of her magic wand, please check out the rest of my review here... [...]
on 2 January 2013
Danie Ware's debut novel, like its eponymous star, is not quite what it appears to be...
Ecko has been taken, upgraded, turned into something both super and sub-human. Beneath a veneer of cynicism and wise-cracking, deep down, he wants to be a hero. Catapulted into a fantasy world of centaurs, golems, fallen angels and pubs that vanish at dawn and re-appear where their owners need them to be, Ecko gets his chance. But is it a game, a glitch in his programming, or real life?
The cover looks like SF, and the novel certainly starts off that way. But it's more of a light veneer of SF over a world that is resolutely fantasy at heart. If you like your SF hard you may be disappointed, but if you're a fan of Fantasy and SF, the mash-up works well. Danie Ware paints subtle parallels between the stagnating land of the Varchinde, fallen into a monotonous cycle of trade, and the London of the future, with its apathetic populace held in thrall to a dictator, plugged into video games and blind to the horrors of the world outside. Both worlds need shaking up, need monsters to fight and heroes to fight them. Even heroes in unexpected guises...
Ware's origins as a gamer and fan are obvious; her enthusiasm for all things nerdy is apparent throughout the book (There was a particular nod to Lord of the Rings that had me grinning), but this is no colour-by-numbers D&D ripoff - even if a Bard, a warrior and a werewolf are having a drink in the bar when Ecko literally drops in.... It's bigger than that, and smarter.
Ecko Rising isn't flawless. Some of the prose needs polishing, and Ecko can be by turns brilliant and irritating. The narrative jumps between viewpoints rather quickly, particularly near the end, when I really wanted to be looking through Ecko's eyes. But it is a strong, competent debut, and the ending leaves no doubt that it's the beginning of a longer series that will see more paths cross between stifling London and the Varchinde grasslands. What this means for both worlds is left for the reader to speculate...
on 4 June 2013
I enjoyed this, the opening chapters were a bit weird and hard to follow but the characters and plot were quite well developed subsequently and many were quite likeable. I liked it enought to try another book of his.
on 1 December 2012
So I bought Ecko Rising on the dat of release having conversed with Danie ware via twitter. Her enthusiasm for genre and general knowledge of science fiction and fantasy is what had initialy drawn us to each other. The fact that this has only been via social networking does not detract from the ability to have serious conversation. This mnight sound like simple fan boyism.
But Ecko Rising has been one of the most refreshing and substantial reads of this year. From the out set I knew that the book was going to be an awesome read. And the book did not fail to draw me in and make me want more.
The second book has to out match the first in every way for the series to continue and I believe that it will. Danie Ware has brought a new refreshing out look on the science fiction fantasy genre. Gone are shiny vampires and over contrived plot lines. This book is simple awesome.
So awesome that I have read it cover to cover twice now. And will read it again very soon. I cannot convey enough that this book is a must read for any science fiction/fantasy reader.