The OF Blog: Review of Jeff Somers's The Electric Church

Friday, November 09, 2007

Review of Jeff Somers's The Electric Church

In a world where marketing has become key, sometimes the product falls short of expectations. Sometimes, it's a matter of the product not delivering what was promised in the advertisements. Other times, it's just not as "original" as it could have been. Still other times, the promotional materials seem to be more intriguing and exciting than the finished product itself.

Jeff Somers's debut novel, The Electric Church, falls into this last category for me. The marketing campaign was very impressive, with an intriguing website that seemed to promise a story that would be very immersive, with a setting that had the potential to have the best of the techno-thriller and psychological novels combined into one sleek package.

The book did not live up to this promise. The character of Avery Cates, a killer on the run in a post-industrial scarcity world, while amusing at times, was a bit trite and underdeveloped. The Monks, cyborgs who proclaimed a doctrine of salvation through the immortal transference of the mind into a robotic body, had the potential (again, that damning word) to make a statement about human desire, blah blah blah, but Somers fails to develop this possibility, instead focusing on a rather simple hunt-and-chase sequence that lasts most of the novel. Even the surroundings had that feel of being underdeveloped. It was as if the sketch of a very good novel was published. If only the finished product could have been done as well as its promotional website...

Needless to say, this was not a good read for me. Although Somers writes decently on the sentence level, he really failed to develop his promising idea into a story that would transcend its patische of thriller elements. As a result, the setting was bland, the characters blander, and the action a bit too trite and ultimately nothing memorable. A little more attention to characterization and development of the overarching premise would have gone a long way in making this book a more enjoyable experience than the pedestrian read it was for me.

Publication Date: September 25, 2007 (US). Tradeback.

Publisher: Orbit Books (US)

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