Echelon by Josh Conviser, a review


Echelon was a good read, but not great. I enjoy cyberpunk and this certainly had all the best elements of that in it. Definite flavors of William Gibson to it with it’s technological advancement and vast conspiracies but with it’s own style and tone.
Reading it felt a bit like I imagine it must be like to ride a luge. As you get close to the end things seemed to fly by with multiple twists that left me reeling. Which can be exhilarating, however in this case it left me feeling a bit breathless and confused as to how the story went from the beginning to end and still all tied together. The reveals were inventive and well timed for all that there was a rushed feeling to it.

The story is about a vast conspiracy to control society by controlling the information flow. Ryan Liang, an Echelon agent brought back from the dead through nanotechnology grows suspicious of who is controlling the flow and whether their motives remain peaceful or have turned dictatorial. He is assisted in this venture by the standard crew of the hacker who gets into his mind and helps guide him through the missions, the computer whiz who navigates the flow like he was born there, and the underground crony with all the hook ups to necessary supplies (for a price of course!). Enough high speed chases, violent confrontations and tricked out bio mechanics to please a Michael Bay fan, however the characters all fell a bit flat. There is some character development but a lot of it is of the standard variety that you can see coming a mile away. I didn’t feel anyone learned too much or changed from who they were initially even though they (Liang especially) goes through some intense experiences both emotionally and physically.
There were two  real draw to the story. The big picture, the reasons why the characters are doing all of this. The concept of one group having infinite control over all information was fascinating and it is taken to an extreme here. Echelon keeps things happy and conflict as minimal as possible and this seems to affect society in ways that we may not have though of. When information is exchanged digitally it can be changed, what are the ramifications of this for society?
The other truly enjoyable part of this book was the technology. It seems a mostly natural extension of what exists now, granted more then a few years in the future but still mostly feasible. It certainly was not played off as a wonderful cure for all humanities ills but it also didn’t fall into the terrible trap of ‘scary science’ that inevitably brought us all down. Humans are very much the source of the sometimes horrifying things that are and have been done, the technology is portrayed accurately as what it is, a tool.
Overall it was an interesting story but I had to force myself through the last of it. I was glad I did because the end was satisfying but it was not as enjoyable as I had hoped for.


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