Review: Dissension by Stacey Berg (Echo Hunter 367 #1)


Dissension by Stacey Berg // VBC ReviewDissension (Echo Hunter 367 #1)
Stacey Berg
Published: March 15, 2016 (Harper Voyager Impulse)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amanda

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

Four hundred years ago, civilization as we know it ended, and the only thing propping up what’s left of humanity is the Church. Those left in the city rely on the Church to maintain the lives they’ve carved out of the bleak and unforgiving desert.

Echo Hunter 367 is one of many copies, created to uphold the Church’s authority. There’s no room for questions, even when she starts to see that not everything is as it should be. As she slowly uncovers the seeds of a rebellion that could destroy the foundations of the Church, she ends up in a fierce and unexpected war against an enemy she’s never trained for: doubt.

Dissension was a strange animal. It’s rare that I read a story that engages me and makes me think…yet I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. But that’s the case here. Dissension has a lot going for it. The world Stacey Berg has crafted is original, bleak and edgy and designed to keep you on your toes. The relationship Hunter has with the Patri and the Church itself is a frightening allegory for what could happen if you challenge an absolute authority. The world Hunter lives in is brutal and rigid. Doubt is not allowed, and questions, while tolerated, are best doled out in small bits so as not to draw unwanted attention.

There’s the sense that technology existed at one point, but the world collapsed and left behind crumbling ruins. What’s left is protected by the Church and powered by the Saint, a young woman biologically designed to keep the population alive, if not thriving. This is particularly and spectacularly creepy—a religious entity solely responsible for the lives of an entire city? *shudder*

For all its ingenuity, though, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Berg does a fine job of moving the plot along, and the pacing in the last quarter of the book was particularly intense. The story is told entirely from Hunter’s point of view, and the way she regarded the world around her was almost clinical and kind of blank. None of her heightened emotions—her confusion, her growing affection and attraction to Lia, a med living in the city—really come across. They’re just sort of there. The lack of connection to any of the characters made what could have been a four or even four and a half star book and took it down to a three and a half.

Maybe other readers won’t have the same difficulties I did. Dissension is a powerful book despite its flaws, and worth picking up.

Sexual content: none

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