Rating: 4.5 stars
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Brooklyn wakes up alone in a room with no doors and no windows. She knows only two things: she’s alive, and she’s angry. Very angry. The mysterious agency, Isolation, has captured her, captured her friends, and may have even killed some of them. They’re responsible for everything that’s gone wrong in her life, for the monster she’s turning in to, for the monsters she had to kill, for the death of Gabriel, for taking her from her parents … Brooklyn is beyond forgiveness. She’s trapped and watched and alone, and she’s going to get her freedom; she’s angry, furiou,s and scared, and she’s going to get her revenge.
When the wall does finally open, it’s to the familiar face of Gabriel, the girl she had a crush on, the girl who died so that Brooklyn might live. Only there’s something wrong, something a little different with Gabriel’s smile that goes beyond the new scar. It’s only when her best friend lunges for her throat that Brooklyn understands the truth: it’s a clone. It’s a clone of Gabriel and it’s going to kill her unless she kills it first.
Whatever Isolation did to her to make her stronger, faster, and less human makes it easy to kill the clone. Once it’s dead, though, rather than freedom, Brooklyn finds armed guards and a medical professional on the other side of the door. It was a test, it was only a test, and it’s but the first of many. Brooklyn has to play their little games — killing clones of her friends, of her lovers, of herself — in order to please Juneau, the Machiavellian man in charge of Isolation. Each test makes her stronger, faster, and a better killer. Each test makes them all better, her friends and her teammates, those who still live; each test brings them closer together.
The problem with training monsters is that monsters don’t like cages and Brooklyn has had enough of this one. She doesn’t care if she has to kill a dozen men, a hundred, or a thousand. She’s getting out of here with Gabriel, Porter, Dawson, and the rest, and whoever stands in her way is going down.
ECHO Campaign is the second book in the Isolation series and would, I think, be a confusing read if you haven’t read the first story. Brooklyn and her friends — all of them young adults in their late teens — were at a camp, training to fight, defend, and kill, and told they were some of the only survivors of a disease that had ravaged the planet. They were going to be the future, reclaiming the world from monstrous zombie monsters, helping create new cities so that humanity could thrive. One night Brooklyn and her friends escaped to find out everything they’d been told was a lie.
Well, not everything. There are monsters, failed clones of Brooklyn and her friends who became feral creatures that were hard to kill — hard for normal people to kill. Only, Brooklyn and her friends aren’t normal. They had all been given a vaccine when they were children that has turned them into super-soldiers and are now going to be trained to be weapons for the highest bidder. In this second book, the plot gets even more convoluted and labyrinthine as more details of Isolation’s plan — and Juneau’s twisted brilliance — are exposed.
Brooklyn has grown from a quiet, watchful girl from the first book to an angry, rage-filled young woman in this story. She’s like a coiled spring, all tension and power waiting to burst forth. Knowing Gabriel has betrayed her, Brooklyn is constantly picking fights with her, when she’s not ignoring her or hiding from her. What makes matters worse is that Gabriel is always there, watching, reminding Brooklyn of unspoken words, of confused feelings, of that last, desperate kiss before Gabriel sacrificed herself.
Gabriel, too, is angry, but it’s a cold anger. A sharp spear of frozen rage in her heart — or where her heart would be if it weren’t for the cybernetic replacement after a feral monster nearly killed her — that keeps her going. She’s fighting tooth and nail for Brooklyn, for Dawson, and even Porter. She doesn’t know what they see in him, but the two people she loves love him, so she’ll make the effort.
Dawson is calm in his rage. He has a plan, and if it takes a thousand days or a thousand years, he’ll see it through. He’s stable and patient and willing to do what Isolation tells him to do even though it breaks a part of him each time he has to kill a clone of Porter or Gabriel, or even Brooklyn. He’s a rock, solid and implacable, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an equally violent monster beneath his facade.
Porter is quieter, needier, and more uncertain. Unlike the others, he wasn’t given the vaccine as a child. Instead, he’s the son of Juneau, Isolation’s villain in charge. To save his friends, and to prove himself, he took a dose of the virus knowing it might kill him. Instead, it turned him into one of them. Almost. Somewhat. He’s not as strong, either physically or emotionally, he’s not as ruthless. But he won’t turn his back on Brooklyn and Dawson who he loves with all his heart.
It’s a snarl of explosive love triangles that comes together in a quiet moment, forming a polyamorous quartet that is surprisingly stable. If you wanted to, you could ascribe elements to them. Brooklyn is a raging inferno, Gabriel is changeable and deep water, Dawson is the shifting earth, and Porter is wind. Together Brooklyn and Gabriel are a violent storm of pain and passion, while Dawson and Porter have a quiet and sweet tenderness that just wants to hide away, but when all four of them are together, they manage to find peace and resolution that will shape not only their lives, but the lives of their new race.
I won’t get too much into the plot save to say it’s clever. The author excels with complex and intricate world building with a fast pace and well-written fight scenes. I will, say, though, that the fight scenes — particularly between Brooklyn and the guards — can get a bit repetitive. There are no extraneous moments, no deluges of exposition. Instead, everything is parceled out, one bite at a time, and we only learn the truth at the same time Brooklyn does. The few plot twists are smoothly done with no cheating or winking at the audience. Add to that some masterful writing and genuinely interesting (and morally conflicted) characters and you have a very fun book. It’s a quick read and a good one, and I can’t wait for book three to come out.