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Echelon Paperback – July 18, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Characters tend to banter rather than talk in screenwriter Conviser's workmanlike SF debut, set in an indeterminate and pacified future in which whoever controls Echelon, an electronic surveillance system, controls the world. After Echelon agent Ryan Laing dies and is brought back via nanotech "drones," he possesses an extra connection into Echelon's data flow. This ability comes in handy when Ryan and fellow agent Sarah Peters discover a coup in progress against Christopher Turing, Ryan's mentor and Echelon's director. Alternately on the run from and penetrating into Echelon's past and present, the pair persuade other agents to join them in a hunt for a legendary hacker hideout, Elysium. The highly visual descriptions of the cyberpunk setting make the usual suspects (nanotech that confers superpowers, secretive "suits" vs. "street" hackers, virtual/physical reality crossover) a bit more cinematic, albeit at the expense of believability. The mystery of Echelon's origin dangles at the end, pointing to the promised sequel. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Echelon, a supersecret global spy system, has been in control of the world's data portals since shortly after World War II. It has wiped out dissension virtually everywhere, and the peoples of all countries are peaceful and content. Christopher Turing, head of Echelon, suspects a conspiracy and calls in operative Ryan Laing to save the world from villainy. With the help of internal nano-bot drones and a handler whose input is inserted directly into his mind, Laing overcomes evil threats–eventually. At times this story is overwhelmed by over-the-top screenplay action scenes and character shorthand. However, fans of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels may find that this tale delivers less action but more ideas. Teens familiar with the novelizations of Star Wars, The Matrix, or Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life will need to slow down if they want to get a full measure of insight from the political and ethical issues proposed by Conviser.–Dana Cobern-Kullman, Luther Burbank Middle School, Burbank, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (July 18, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345485025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345485021
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I wrote Echelon to be a gripping, spy-fi thriller, mixing a little Robert Ludlum with William Gibson. It's a genre buster, you might say.

I wanted to write something that would be fun, fast and riveting ' and I took a roundabout route getting there.

It started in Aspen, Colorado, where I grew up, took me to Santa Barbara, California for high school and then to Princeton University. I then hopped around, living in Europe, Asia and Australia ' doing research of course! An avid mountaineer, I climbed in ranges around the world, including the Himalayas, before giving up the mountains for the jungles of Hollywood to pursue a career in screenwriting. It worked out pretty well; I became the Executive Consultant on HBO's series, Rome, and sold a film to Fox.

But, all the while, I had this twitch in the back of my mind ' this idea about the NSA's eavesdropping program that just wouldn't die. Finally, I got down to it and wrote Echelon. That was three years ago. Since then, the NSA's eavesdropping has become front page news ' making Echelon topical. Beyond being an edge-of-your-seat read, Echelon illuminates the possible consequences of the road we're headed down now. So, I guess that roundabout route got me to the right place at the right time.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Echelon is one of those novels that is quite fun while you're reading it and then instantly forgotten once you've finished. It's not bad for what it is - all high-octane, densely plotted stuff packed with boat chases, shootouts, conspiracy and subterfuge for those who like that sort of thing. The problem is, there isn't enough here to make the novel stand out on its own two feet as something unique. It's all very Neuromancer crossed with James Bond without being as good as either. In fact, Conviser's depictions of 'the flow' aren't nearly as convincing as Gibson's portrayal of a digital world and that was written well over twenty years ago before such things as the internet even existed!

You would think that a novel filled with this much action would make me care about what's going on to the main characters, but unfortunately beyond all the explosions and fight scenes there is very little at the heart of this book. A lack of core characters makes it obvious away who the real bad guy is. And a lack of subtext and moral questioning about the implications of Laing's actions leaves the book feeling flat and bland. Personally, I think a much better novel could have been achieved if Conviser had spent more time going into the implications of what he shows us. For example, what's it like coming back from the dead? Was there an afterlife? If not, how does that affect someone's take on life? Laing's attitude of constantly going around like a man with a death wish just seems wrong considering he's already died once.

As said, this isn't a bad book. It's a solid example of its genre, well paced and with consistent writing. But more than anything else, it just didn't excite me very much. To be blunt, I found it hard at times to care about what was happening and quickly got bored while reading it despite the rate at which I was turning those pages. That, more than anything else, is the biggest criticism I can level against this book.
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Format: Paperback
Nice ideas... would have like to explore some of them a bit.

However, it seems at times like this book has been written for a movie.

All in all, a worthy read.
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Format: Paperback
In the late twentieth century, the NSA used ECHELON as an information gathering program on the net but the data collected proved too chaotic and overwhelming to be useful. Computer scientists sought the key to separate the dross from the gold, which led to Echelon becoming the guiding force that ruled humanity; though most people believe that to be an urban legend. However those who allegedly control Echelon use the program to insure the planet is a safe place to live.

The head of Echelon believes that a saboteur is working inside the Echelon community. The head of the Agency maneuvers thing so that when he is captured, Echelon agent Ryan Laing, restored from the dead due healing drones added to his physiology, learns who the traitor is. However, Ryan assumes this is too simple because the person is a follower not a leader so he turns to hacker Sarah to help him uncover the traitor's master.

Josh Conviser paints an interesting picture of a future guided by guardians who hold so much power that when one turns egomaniacal the world is in jeopardy. Combining current technology with Lord Acton's warning that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" ECHELON is a plausible science fiction thriller that grips readers with its grim realism. This compelling action-packed story line starring a wonderful hero will have audience pondering whether we are already walking that path with telecommunication manipulation.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Paperback
I picked this up at a bookstore on a whim as the title sounded interesting. Turned out to be a little bit different than what I thought. I was expecting this to be more of a current X-Files and got something a little more futuristic. Not that this is a bad thing. Just expect more future tech than current tech.

I thought the book read decently but was not completely smooth. I found sections where some of the action and descriptions got a little bit "muddy". It didn't stop me from finishing the book but I did find that I noticed it. Then again, from the authors description, this is his first novel. Heck, I wish my first novel was this good... :)
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Format: Paperback
Normally when I read a book, it is of the fantasy genre. Despite that, I checked out Echelon although it is more like a science-fiction-type-thriller. I did this because I simply wanted an interesting and complete story packed into an ergonomic 304 pages. I received that and more when I read it. Josh Conviser portrays human nature in a not-wholly original, but nevertheless fascinating way. He characterizes humans as uncivilized anarchists who would destroy each other without a dictator-like Big-Brother in charge.
The story takes place in a near future where the world has not seen strife or war for almost a century. An organization named Echelon is the reason for this. Echelon consists of computer nerds, mathematicians and field agents working in secrecy and regulating the affairs of the world with an iron fist. Although originally a part of the NSA, Echelon does not serve any one nation. It achieves its total dominance over humanity by filtering through every piece of data that is transmitted in the "flow".
The flow is, fundamentally, our present day internet. But it is completely different from the world-wide-web that we know. In this future, to log on to the flow, one slips on special goggles. Once online, a new world appears, a world where anything is possible to see, hear and feel as if it were real.
A couple other interesting aspects of this future include the results of global warming and amazing advancements in nanotechnology.
The main protagonists include Echelon field agent Ryan Laing and Sarah Peters, a code nerd/mathematician. Laing executes Echelon's dirty work; he is the hitman whose purpose is to take out the potential human threats to the stability of the world.
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