Echo Detained Review

by Astrid Duffy

Former UA student Joshua Daniel Cochran brings terrorism, torture and post 9/11 America down to a personal level in his new novel "Echo Detained." From the moment main character Caleb Nell is forced into a car by a group of large, official-looking men and accused of terrorism in the middle of his cup of coffee, we are faced with the uneasy idea that this could happen to anyone.

As the novel continues, Caleb is imprisoned in a disgusting cell equipped only with a wooden bench, fed gruel with a strange combination of meat and raisins, and tortured by his captors. The implications of Caleb’s experience become increasingly more serious, forcing readers to ask themselves how they would cope in such a timelessly brutal world.

Cochran is unusual in his approach to the subject of terrorism, adding humor to his prose where he can.

Caleb’s first thought when kidnapped is that perhaps this is what happens when you are slow to respond to a jury duty summons. When he first sees that the cell has no toilet, he immediately becomes desperate to relieve himself for no better reason than that he cannot. These very human and personal touches successfully build Caleb (who later becomes known as Echo) as an interesting character who has sufficient detail to exist in the story but is also vague enough that readers can imagine themselves in his situation. The action in "Echo Detained" begins immediately, and for the next few chapters, it seems that nothing at all happens except him eating a little, waiting for the guard and trying not to need the bathroom.

Once Cochran has placed us in the boredom of Caleb’s life, he changes the plot once more and introduces hard, mean characters who, through obviously satirical molds, break Caleb’s spirit so successfully that he becomes a wholly different person, Echo. The torture takes its toll and Echo loses the ability to think for himself, to imagine life beyond his cell and hold onto any hope of getting out of his predicament alive.

"Echo Detained" is a thoughtful examination of the effects of torture on a human as well as the effects of terrorism on our culture. The twist of satire on top of these solid themes makes this novel a sure success.

Next time you tell someone you go to school in Arizona, don’t be surprised if they reply, "Isn’t that where Joshua Cochran went?"