Echo is a human colony gradually slipping into decay. Cityscapes crumble, Dissidents grow in number and the ruling elite has left the planet’s surface for an isolationist paradise on the moon.
The main character of Approaching Shatter is Atriya, a member of the elite Crew, who is slowly finding his world and the sense of his place in it dissolving under. All Atriya has ever wanted to do is be good at his job, constantly pushing himself to be stronger, tougher, better. But doubt is creeping into his world view. Despite all his efforts, he seems to have plateaued in his constant training. His dissatisfaction with his lack of progress, as well as the seeming obliviousness of everyone around him, is driving him towards some kind of breakdown.
There is a lot to like about Approaching Shatter. The thought that has gone into the world portrayed is obvious; ranging from new religions to new diseases to social structure. Given Atriya’s vocation (and the author’s background), the bulk of the world-building focuses on the militaristic parts of Echo, creating a detailed description of the various levels of soldiers, their training regimes and, of course, the weapons they use.
But despite all the military trappings, there is relatively little action in the novel. A vicious and detailed street fight in the first third is the main exception. Based on the final chapter, and the excerpt from Vol. 2, there will be more in the next installment. Instead, the novel is more concerned with Atriya’s inner life. Throughout, he struggles to come to terms with the realization that there is something missing from his life, but unsure of what.
My main complaint is the abrupt ending. While it did serve to leave me ready to read Vol. 2; it was more than a little jarring. Even the author acknowledges as much but overall, I did enjoy Approaching Shatter. As I said, it’s well drawn and detailed, and fans of military sci-fi will find plenty to enjoy.