So I haven’t actually read many cyberpunk novels yet, which is actually quite sad considering that my own writing (the older draft of Light probably more than the newer one) tends to touch the borderline of cyberpunk rather frequently. I guess it’s mainly due to my experiences with some German cyberpunk like Wolfgang Hohlbein’s “Das Netz” which plainly sucked, that put me off the genre for a while, but then again there were sooooo many other books to read on my list, so cyberpunk was -really unintentionally and to my regret- pushed into the background. But now, The Electric Church got me back on track and it truly lived up to the expectations 🙂
“Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer for the right price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He’s up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag: Conversion means death.”
So far what the dustjacket tells us about Jeff Somers’ debut novel, that got me hooked by using a couple of standard cyberpunk elements like the apocalyptic world scenario, the gritty, first person narrative (I don’t really get why so many people dislike first person narratives so much…) and the fact that you get sucked right in the middle of the story. No doubt, this book reads like an action thriller and you can read it in one go, just like I did on a trip to Idaho for Thanksgiving.
Cates’ himself is more of an anti-hero than anything and actually you really shouldn’t like him, for he is a bad guy. There’s only one problem: you won’t be able to not like him, for even though he rather frequently is an ass, self-centered and cold, he had some moral values that keep him from becoming as dark, cold and ruthless as the rest of his world, which is basically split into two parts: the poor who rarely make it past the age of twenty, living in the slums and killing their guts with booze made from paint thinner or whatever else comes in handy. And the rich, who can afford genetic augmentation as well as the few resources that remain in a world post Unification, ruled by the Joint Council, a world where nations don’t exist and politics as well as the omnipresent SSF (System Security Force) are corrupt and working for naught, but their own gain of power.
Then of course there are the Monks, creepy cyborgs who are but mere shadows of their human identity that they shed with their mortal bodies when being Converted. They’re out for your braaaaaaiiiiinz and Cates soon finds himself in deeper trouble with the Electric Church and the SSF when he’s contracted to kill the founder of the Electric Church Dennis Squalor himself. I’m trying not to give away any spoilers, but just be aware: nothing is what it seems to be.
Jeff Somers’ impressive debut won’t disappoint you if you’re tired of the same old and it surely won’t let you put it down until you’re done. With 353 pages it’s rather short and filled with action and rather nifty ideas like psionics, witty dialogues and worldbuilding that is so scarily realistic, it’ll suck you right in.
For more information, apart from the awesome appendix included in the book itself, that gives a lot more insight into the credo of the Electric Church, check out http://www.the-electric-church.com and http://www.jeffreysomers.com for a hilarious blog.
I’m looking forward to the next book of this series that will be starring Avery Cates. The Digital Plague is supposed to come out in 2009 so we hopefully won’t have to wait too long.
Final verdict: 9/10