Surrounded by a vast, poisonous desert, Echo City is built upon the graveyard of its own past. Most inhabitants believe that their city and its subterranean Echoes are the whole of the world, but there are a few dissenters. Peer Nadawa is a political exile, forced to live with criminals in a ruinous slum. Gorham, once her lover, leads a ragtag band of rebels against the ruling theocracy. Nophel, a servant of that theocracy, dreams of revenge from his perch atop the city’s tallest spire. And beneath the city, a woman called Nadielle conducts macabre experiments in genetic manipulation using a science indistinguishable from sorcery. They believe there is something more beyond the endless desert . . . but what?
It is only when a stranger arrives from out of the wastes that things begin to change. Frail and amnesiac, he holds the key to a new beginning for Echo City—or perhaps to its end, for he is not the only new arrival. From the depths beneath Echo City, something ancient and deadly is rising. Now Peer, Gorham, Nophel, and Nadielle must test the limits of love and loyalty, courage and compassion, as they struggle to save a city collapsing under the weight of its own history.
Echo City is one of those books I picked up because I loved the title. Simple as that. I’m not a die-hard fantasy or sci-fi reader but I like to dabble, so after reading the synopsis, I was intrigued. Then, after reading it, I was completely satisfied that I have great taste in titles, because it’s everything a good sci-fi fantasy book should be (for me) with all the elements that make an exciting story, though not gratuitously included. There’s horror, action, violence, technology, genetics, even ghosts.
Lebbon has created a fascinating world here – a city that is so well realised you can almost smell it; a cast of characters to whom you immediately relate and an ominous, hidden menace which changes the book from being a world – building epic to a frenetic race against time thriller.
The middle section does perhaps drag on a little, but it more than makes up for it with a thrilling climax. If you haven’t read much sci-fi fantasy then I’d suggest Lebbon is a great place to start. I’ve often been put off fantasy works because writers spend 500 pages describing the weather and architecture. Lebbon doesn’t do that. He builds this universe brilliantly, but he never lets it take over the story.
This book reminded me of Twelve Monkeys, with it’s strange tech and otherworldly atmosphere. But while Lebbon has crafted something that may have echoes (sorry) of familiarity, he has created something totally unique, which I highly recommend.