Monday, 10 September 2007
‘The Electric Church’ – Jeff Somers (Orbit Books)
When the nice folks from Orbit Books bought me lunch, a couple of months ago, one of the books that they were particularly eager to talk about was Jeff Somers’ debut ‘The Electric Church’. I liked what I heard and when Pat also gave it the thumbs up on his site (can’t find the exact link but I think he has an index) my curiosity was piqued even more. As luck would have it ‘The Electric Church’ was waiting for me when I got home on Friday night. I read a couple of pages; then I read some more, the next thing I knew, it was Sunday night and I’d finished it. Great stuff, every single page tells you in no uncertain terms why this book has been chosen as part of Orbit’s opening salvo on the US market.
Avery Cates is a ‘gunner’; a hit man in the dystopian future world of the ‘System’, a unified world order ruled over by the Joint Council. Avery Cates will do whatever it takes to survive but he seems to have developed a nasty habit of killing the elite System Police and this will lead him into his biggest and most dangerous job yet. The Electric Church is the world’s fastest growing religion where ‘converts’ have their brains removed and housed in robotic avatars, all the better to contemplate eternity. Avery’s mission? To kill Dennis Squalor (the founder of the Electric Church). Or is it? Avery isn’t sure exactly sure what’s going on but he does know that a lot of people are shooting at him…
‘The Electric Church’ is a frantic and fast paced thriller in the gritty mould of ‘Altered Carbon’ but a lot lighter in tone. You’ve still got gun battles, grizzled cops and ‘heroic villains’ but you also get plenty of witty banter that will make you chuckle and sometimes laugh out loud. Somers’ world building is simple yet very effective, he only uses words when they’re needed and this helps to keep things fresh and interesting. While his characters can be found anywhere in noir fiction they all have their own distinctive voice here, although I wasn’t too sure about Cates’ epiphany that sets up the story for later books (I’d have preferred a little more crime first). The only thing that slightly jarred, for me, was talk of Cates’ age. He starts off as a twenty six year old and is then described as twenty seven for the rest of the book. I know he probably didn’t have much time to celebrate but I think his birthday could have been mentioned…
Don’t let that one small thing put you off though, ‘The Electric Church’ is an entertainingly bullet spattered read that hints at great things from Somers in the future.
Eight out of Ten