Last night I finished The Electric Church by Jeff Somers. It is the first in the Avery Cates series, and the first I’ve read by Jeff Somers. It was published in 2007.
From the back of the book: Avery Cates is scared. He’s up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry.
I enjoyed this book because the storyline was both original and familiar. I liked the familiar feel of a ruined civilization, overwrought with the high-tech enhanced tools of a society split sharply between the haves and the have-nots. I liked the storyline that put a “church” (that, in this story, has nothing at all to do with an actual religious organization) which is ruled by machines and makes converts by physically killing them and repackaging their brains. This is really cool noir sci-fi, high-tech, futuristic dystopia stuff. And I loved it for that.
Avery Cates is a decent character. Developed enough that one can follow the story, and yet, we are not told everything about him immediately upon meeting him. The rest of the cast of characters are definitely interesting and unique. The overarching point of the book is that in this ruinous society, one cannot get “too close” or make “lasting friendships” because its all a struggle to survive to the next day. There is a sense that the people Cates meets and interacts with are based solely on utilitarian needs.
This is the first in a series – I think there are three books in the series – and I would happily read the rest of the series. I can appreciate that the ending of the book sets up the next book nicely, but the ending here could also, in fact, just simply be an ending to a standalone book as well. There are no good guys/bad guys, per se, so to say the “good guys” won is also a bit of a stretch. The trick to Cates’ character is that he has rules – he may be a criminal and a Gunner (mercenary), but he is not simply a thug without any moral code.
The concept of the Electric Church and their Monks is really neat, and I would love to see that concept expanded and developed.
Some parts of the book, though, were a bit repetitive. How many times do we need to be told that Cates is 27 years old? Once the point has been made, I do not think we need to be told every other chapter. Also, some of the descriptions of the “city” and life in the ruined society are repetitive. I understand wanting to emphasize the scavenging struggle that occurs in the remnants of civilization, however, Somers seems to think each description is the first time he told us. Its not horrible, but I feel it was slightly repetitive. I get it, now tell me something more.
Overall the story reminds me of the ruined society in the latter Terminator and Matrix movies – which I liked.