Dissension by Stacey Berg (Echo Hunter 367 #1)
Released: March 15, 2016
Reviewed by Mandi
Blurb: For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.
When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.
Four hundred years before the start of this book, the world fell. Humanity was almost lost – as everything was wiped out. But humans did survive, and now four hundred years later, they are truly making a comeback, thanks to the Church and the Saint. The Church has scoured through debris and rubble to find documents, technology, data – to try to save the human race. The technology we know of today, was lost in the fall, so humans have been finding pieces of equipment, or text that explains some tech, but it’s not always easy to replicate or know how to use technology. The Church saved the humans by creating what is called the Saint. A woman, who ascends to save humans. Her body lays in the church, wired to machines….it’s hard to explain, but you basically have to read the book to understand what the Saint does. This is where the Sci-Fi part of the story comes in.
The altar rose in the center of the sanctuary, surrounded by the panels and stations the priests tended. Lights played across the screens in patterns unreadable to a hunter, the priests’ fingers tapping responses with swift precision. Upon the altar lay the Saint. A glittering crown of copper connected her to the machines that preserved the remains of the city, maintaining the forcewall that blocked the wilderness out, the generators that gave the cityens a bit of light in the darkness and heat to keep them from freezing to death in the winter, and more important, powered the crypts where the priests did their work to keep the Church itself alive; for only the Church could preserve what was left of the world. That was the central truth of all life in the four hundred annuals since the Fall: without the Saint, the Church would die; without the Church, the city.
Our main heroine is named Echo. She is a hunter – a cloned human who the church breeds to keep peace. The hunters are like the Church’s soldiers. Every year, there is a tithe, where the Church takes some daughters, who then become breeders for these clones. Now that the citizens are gaining numbers and can feed themselves on their own, less dependent on the Church, they are getting angry the Church takes some of the female children. They want it to stop – and a rebellion is slowly forming. When Echo starts to doubt some of the Church’s actions, she gets banished to the desert –where she eventually ends up in town and befriends a medic, named Lia. Lia is very well-respected, and essential to keep the towns-people safe. They form a close friendship, as Echo learns more and more of the rebellion.
This is such a creative and interesting world. It would take me forever to explain it, so just read the book darn it and find out! I love a dystopian setting – and throw in the Church, who has this Saint that is supposed to be all-knowing and a healer, and have a plan in place – and it just engaged me so much. Echo gets very frustrated with the Church, as things start to happen that get brushed under a rug. Echo is raised to not question the Church’s actions, so when she finds the courage to do so, she gets kicked out. What I love is that – even though she knows things are happening in the Church that aren’t right, it’s so ingrained in her to see the Church as the savior of everything, she can’t let go completely. She uses her time in the desert to gather facts about the rebellion, in hopes the Church will eventually call on her again to report back.
I love that too much time has passed for humans to remember how to use certain technology – how desperate they are to find old text within the rubble. Desperation for knowledge on how to survive.
She imagined the forefathers in the last spasms of the catastrophe they knew was upon them, scrambling to leave a legacy, trying to prevent their accumulated knowledge from hemorrhaging away into the dark. They must have known the hopelessness of the attempt even as they made it. She admired their doggedness, little good though it had done.
Yet every now and then she came across a fragment of unmistakable value, a bit on the diagnosis of disease or treatment of an injury.
Throughout the book you question the Church – are they just power hungry or do they truly have a plan to save the human race? The hunters the clone and create can be so violent and their actions against the citizens outside of the Church wall are not always fair or pleasant. There is so much gray area that I just couldn’t put the book down until all the mysteries were solved.
Echo is fierce, but with a very warm and big heart – something that might differ a bit from the other clones. I love that they were technologically challenged. The world is rustic in a way, yet the Church has this power with the Saint.
My one complaint, is that the romance in this book is too low-key. Billed as a F/F, Echo and Lia fall in love, but they seem more like best friends than lovers. I really wanted their romance to come to the forefront – and instead it was faint. Also, and I feel like I’ve said this a lot lately, there is not a HEA at the end of this book. But I still recommend this – the world is excellent. Echo is a great heroine and there are some really good twists and turns in this book.