Spark Press, pb, £12.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

The planet Earth has been ruined by endless war. This story opens in Portland, Maine, and some knowledge of the local geography will assist the reader as the tale progresses.

There are now two species of primate occupying the Earth: the native humans and the Echoes, an almost identical humanoid alien species with the capacity to resurrect when they die.

The Commonwealth of North America is all that remains of human government. Its authoritarian rule is enforced by a paramilitary police force. The Wardens, however, are a faction from within the Echoes species that seeks to impose its own order on the world.

Then there is the remainder of the population both human and alien, many of whom are scratching a less than bare living from within the ruins of a former global prosperity. Many of these, both human and alien, exist outside the remit of both government and The Wardens and are known as Brigands.

The major advantage the Echoes possess within this brutal social landscape is that if they are killed, they can regenerate back to life fully cognisant of their previous identity before they died. Consequently, in the story, there seem to be more Echoes around than humans. The Echoes can be permanently killed by inflicting a traumatic injury, or second death, as they begin the process of resurrection. This makes life cheap.

The plot structure is fairly complex, which the reader gradually acquires as they work their way into the story. The writing style is graphic, well-presented and perfectly clear. Dramatic sequences are very tense, inducing that page-turning excitement that a dedicated reader appreciates.

Our hero is a young woman named Dani. She has an intimate friend called Mike, who happens to be one of the paramilitary police. The story really starts when the man she calls her uncle, Jace, short for Jason, tells her that she is an Echo and, in reality, he is her half-brother. This confuses her as, although he tells her she has been killed and resurrected twice she has no recollection whatsoever of those previous two lives. In Echo culture, this is highly unusual.

As Dani absorbs this revelation, she gets caught up in a nasty three-cornered fire-fight between the local Brigands, the paramilitary police and The Wardens. I won’t give you any spoilers, but what follows is a tale of conflict and violence told in a strong narrative style. It holds the reader in as group solidarity begins to form among the fighters, both human, Echo, paramilitary and Brigand against The Wardens who become seen as the problem that needs to be solved. Gradually a strategy for dealing with The Wardens begins to form.

Does this book contain a non-fiction message, maybe unintentional, that reflects upon the divisions of our own time? The reader can work out their own loyalties in that regard.