Thursday, 24 April 2008
‘The Digital Plague’ – Jeff Somers (Orbit Books)
Last year I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of Jeff Somers’ debut ‘The Electric Church’, a gritty ‘dystopian future’ thriller that (while by no means perfect) I had a lot of fun with and left me eagerly waiting for the sequel. Well, it’s ‘sequel time’! :o) Actually, it isn’t ‘sequel time’, it’s ‘great sequel time’…
Since the events of ‘The Electric Church’ life has been kind to gunner Avery Cates. He’s not just another contract killer anymore; his criminal record has been wiped clean and he’s heading up his own organization, Avery Cates is the criminal king of New York. All this is about to change in the worst possible way when Cates is kidnapped and injected with nanotech that kills anyone that comes near him. With faces from the past dogging his every footstep, Cates must save the people that he cares about (himself mainly) as well as a whole bunch that he would like to see die if he didn’t need their help. It’s time for some tough decisions and a steady trigger finger…
If you enjoyed ‘The Electric Church’ then you’ll be pleased to know that you’re in line for more of the same with ‘The Digital Plague’. If you haven’t read ‘The Electric Church’ then you should pick it up first as the two books tie very closely together (despite a five year gap between events). To be fair, Somers gives the reader a whole load of ‘what has gone before’ in ‘The Digital Plague’ but if you’re after the full effect then read both books!
Somers seems to have decided that his readers must know enough about the world of ‘The System’ and ‘Joint Council’ as he lends more emphasis to the story this time (although some of the depictions of abject poverty, burnt out buildings etc are crushing in their bluntness)). And what a story it is! Once Cates get moving he doesn’t stop. There’s no time to stop as there is far too much happening and Cates’ hit list grows ever longer with each passing chapter. The revelation about who is behind everything comes straight out of the ‘Big Book of Sci-Fi Cliché’ but because things are moving so fast you don’t see it coming until it’s right on top of you. The ‘revenge plotline’ was first rate stuff but where things fell down (slightly) for me was the explanation around what was going to happen after the ‘revenge bit’. While I could see the reasoning behind it I was left wondering if this needed to be included, a matter of personal taste I guess but I thought the story worked better focused solely on one theme.
Like David Gunn’s ‘Death’s Head’ books, ‘The Digital Plague’ is another example of sci-fi that’s there purely to entertain you. It’s very much ‘Altered Carbon’ in style and tone but benefits (at least as far as I’m concerned) from less of the ‘political undercurrents’ that you find in Morgan’s work but more explosions and action instead. I like Morgan’s books but Somers has got the mix just right as I’m concerned! The fact that ‘The Digital Plague’ has a body count that rivals Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ is another plus point :o)
I’m now left twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the next instalment, ‘The Eternal Prison’, to reach the shelves. Looks like I’m in for a long wait…
Highly recommended to anyone who likes their sci-fi mean, streetwise and drenched in bullets!
Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten
PS Do you want to know what I thought of 'The Electric Church'? Have a look over Here.