|Echo City is a dark fantasy novel set in what I
take to be a post-apocalyptic future. The eponymous city is surrounded by a desert so
inimical to life that no one can walk more than a day across it and live; as far as the
citizens are concerned, Echo City is the only human community left in existence. Not that
"community" is quite the right word, as the city is composed of several
conflicting districts - Cantons, as they're called - each with their own population and
agenda and each built over countless previous levels of habitation. There are Echoes
beneath each Canton, vertical ghost towns that few people dare to venture into for fear of
Two cataclysmic events threaten Echo City's continued existence. The first is
the arrival of someone from outside, someone who has survived the trek across the desert -
who is he, where has he come from and what does he want? The second is the coming of some
vast, terrible thing rising up from the lowest Echoes of the city. While a burst of
activity from a normally isolated Canton distracts the attention of the authorities, a
group of heretics and dissidents try to address the two dooms facing the city with the
help of the Baker, a genetic sculptor of questionable morality.
This is a promising set-up, and the various plot strands all pull together and resolve
in a satisfactory way, but stone me, this book is slow going. The first 200 pages
felt uphill all the way; answers start coming through around 250 pages, but it's another
150 after that before the action really picks up speed, and by that time I was exhausted.
After 500 pages it's a race to the finish, which came as something of a relief.
I'd strongly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to wallow in atmosphere (and has
a couple of weeks to spare for it); to anyone looking for a gripping story, it's worth it
when you arrive at it, but you might want to skim those first couple of hundred pages.