The OF Blog: Jeff Somers, The Electric Church

Monday, October 08, 2007

Jeff Somers, The Electric Church

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers

    The Electric Church by Jeff Somers is a near future dystopian techno-thriller novel. In Somers’ creation, some short time from present our world’s political structure breaks down in a series of uprisings and wars. From out of this chaos, a single ruling organization emerges, the System of Federated Nations, all the world is ruled by a single Joint Council. The System Police enforce the will of the JC and the System. Over the course of 20 some years, a number of riots, unifications, eliminations, etc. has created a mostly destroyed world, were a vast majority of the world’s population lives in poverty and in near constant fear of the System Police… with good reason as the System 'Pigs' are ruthless, corrupt, and as likely to kill the poor as look at them.

    Avery Cates, the first person PoV, is a bad man. He’s a contract killer, though an honorable one. In fact, he’s no worse than most anyone else, just trying to stay alive, when doing that past the age of 25 is something of an achievement. The only hope in this world is to make the most of what you can if you’re not already rich. Or, you can join the Electric Church and become immortal… of course, to do so, your body is killed and your mind dumped into robotic body so that one can ponder salvation for eternity. It is fitting and interesting how Cates, very much a non-hero, is portrayed in this book. One certainly doesn’t hate him, but you can only like him as much as he likes himself.

    Cates finds himself offered an impossible job by one of the top System officials, covertly of course. He’s to kill a very important man. He’s to succeed where much more skilled men have failed. Oh, and he’s not going to get much help, beyond what he can put together for himself. Cates puts together a rag-tag crew of talented criminals and sets about doing a job that will likely kill them all... and quickly.

    I found that I greatly enjoyed this story. It’s short, under 400 pages, and moves very quickly. Cates is a good PoV, and the first person style makes the action-filled story all that much more immediate. The action is good, the characters are interesting, and there is a good deal of fatalistic humor, a marker of any good crime/caper novel in my opinion. Somers world is stark, and the premise is very intriguing to me. While not overly visceral or gritty, the story is still dark, humorous and intense.

    One of the few weaknesses, that I could see, is that it with the exception of two characters, there really isn’t a lot of female characters in Somers’ world. There are a couple, but they are simply there… one gets the impression, while reading, that Cates sees a world predominately populated by men. I don’t know if there was a reason for this, but it felt like a hole to me. Other than that, this is a very strong novel.

    The Electric Church by Jeff Somers is an action/crime story with a compelling main character. This book is a quick and entertaining read, and will be the first in a series. I for one strongly recommend the story to anyone, and I do mean anyone. For those who enjoy the works of Richard Morgan, Matthew Stover, or movies like Blade Runner and Escape from New York… this recommendation goes double for you.

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