Titan Books, out now
Ecko – the ‘g’ is silent – is the best at what he does. Usually. But put him in a world where a lot of what he relies on simply isn’t there, and all bets are off…
In her debut novel, Danie Ware effortlessly juggles a dystopian hard sci-fi environment with a fantasy world with its own very specific set of rules, and comes up with a story that keeps you gripped in part because you simply cannot anticipate what moves the participants are going to make next.
Comparisons have been made with Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant, and there are certainly echoes of that series’ placing of a man from our world in a fantasy set-up – but this differs importantly because Ecko is from a mad version of our future, one whose basis is horribly believable. It means that not only do we not have a familiar locale, but our point of view character is working off a completely different set of parameters. It’s a trick that more experienced novelists might baulk at, but for the vast majority of this, Ware makes it work.
There’s a certain Life on Mars aspect to it as well: Ecko tries to persuade himself that none of it is real, and consequently doesn’t allow himself to care, but the onslaught of events starts to take its toll. He’s never going to be a particularly likeable character, you suspect, but there’s certainly far more to him than you might believe from the arrogant figure of the first few pages.
It would be interesting to see Ware tackle a story set purely within her future London before continuing the adventures of Ecko – she’s created a setting that is rife with storytelling possibilities.
Verdict: Not for the faint-hearted, this is a strong debut; I suspect Ware will be a name to watch out for in future. 8/10