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Friday, September 21, 2007

"The Electric Church" by Jeff Somers

Order “The Electric ChurchHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist’s INTERVIEW With Jeff Somers

While Brian Ruckley’sWinterbirth” and Karen Miller’sThe Innocent Mage” handled the fantasy side of things, and Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series the urban fantasy crowd, Jeff Somers’The Electric Church” is representing the science fiction portion of Orbit Book’s US launch. For Mr. Somers, American author of “Lifers” (2001), “The Freaks Are Winning” (2002) & various short fiction, and creator of The Inner Swine e-zine, “The Electric Church” is the writer’s graduation to the next level…

If you’re a fan of cyberpunk and futuristic noir, then “The Electric Church” will be right up your alley. If you’re not sure what cyberpunk or futuristic noir is, think of a hard-boiled crime/mystery thriller crossed with science fiction elements. For further references, check out Blade Runner (based on a Philip K. Dick novel), Ghost in the Shell, Akira, William Gibson’sNeuromancer”, Richard K. Morgan’sAltered Carbon”, Warren Hammond’skop”, et cetera. In the case of “The Electric Church”, Mr. Somers utilizes a number of familiar cyberpunk/noir-esque ideas such as the gritty first-person point-of-view, an apocalyptic dystopian near-future setting, unflinching language/violence, corrupt law enforcement, cyborgs, artificial intelligences, telepathy and so on. Of course “The Electric Church” also has its distinctions. Instead of a cop or private eye as the main character, there’s anti-hero Avery Cates, a Gunner or assassin-for-hire who happens to be more trustworthy & honorable than the majority of lowlifes that inhabit his world. Then there’s the whole concept of the Electric Church which is a religion where individuals give up their bodies in favor of immortality—the more time to seek salvation, the better.

Regarding the plot, Avery is placed in a bad-to-worse situation that involves Richard Marin the director of SSF’s (System Security Force) Internal Affairs, the cybernetic Monks, the founder of the Electric Church Dennis Squalor, a psychotic SSF officer (Barnaby Dawson) who becomes even more of a threat as the book progresses, and many other complications, all of which are intent on making Cates’ life a living hell. Not everyone is out to get the Gunner though as he does have a few allies in informational guru Pickering, a psionic called Gatz, the techie Kieth, the twins Milton Tanner and someone who or may not be the legendary Gunner Cainnic Orel, but can Avery Cates trust any of them? As with any noir-influenced story, there’s a lot more than meets the eye, so expect a few startling revelations about the Electric Church, SSF, etc. Also, just a warning, but “The Electric Church” is part of a series starring Avery Cates. While “The Electric Church” does a good job of resolving all of the book’s major questions, it’s also setting things up for the sequel. Fortunately, if anything, “The Digital Plague” (TBA 2008) is poised to be even darker, more intense and better than the original.

If I wanted to I could nitpick about “The Electric Church’s” less than original backdrop, the lack of worldbuilding & other info-dumping (not counting the excellent Appendix included at the end of the book or the awesome Electric Church website found HERE), the somewhat weak characterization of anyone not named Avery Cates, or how the prose doesn’t have that panache common in a Quentin Tarantino or Charlie Huston tale, but that would just be mean of me ;) The fact is, Jeff Somers’The Electric Church” is not the best cyberpunk/futuristic noir novel I’ve ever read, but it’s still a lot of damn fun and highly recommended to anyone who’s a fan of the genre…

FYI: For additional opinions on Jeff Somers’The Electric Church” check out reviews by Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Sci Fi Weekly, and


Reanimated said...

I have been eager to see what you thought of this one, Robert. I'm def gonna grab this one on Tuesday.

Always enjoyable material, dude.


Robert said...

Thanks! I'm glad you're trying out the book. Hopefully you'll enjoy it :D

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I've been meaning to get hold of this one for quite a while. I've heard so many good things about it.

Nice review, you've made me speed up my request!

As for the SF bunch in the Orbit launch, I think you may like Debatable Space, too...


Robert said...

Chris, hope you get a copy soon. I think you'd enjoy it very much :) And thanks for the recommendation with "Debatable Space"!

Neth said...

Do you read Jeff VanderMeer's blog?

You should.

Robert said...

Ken, thanks for the link. I haven't really read Mr. VanderMeer's blog before, but that was quite an interesting article there ;)

Barnaby Dawson said...

I'm not sure I like having this fictional namesake!

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