Avery Cates is a Gunner, a survivor living in Old New York. At age twenty seven he is one of the oldest living on the streets, hiding from the System Pigs and trying to make a living by killing people. This is a world where the System Security Force are all-powerful, and the fastest growing religion is that of the Electric Church. Cates has his suspicions that converts to the Church are forcibly recruited, and those who join become immortal cyborgs. Just when life for Cates seems to be taking a nose dive, he is offered a big job. The biggest. If he can survive through it, he'll be a rich man. But it's a big if...
I really enjoyed this first novel about Avery Cates by Jeff Somers - The Electric Church is a quick read, with a great page-turning quality. The Monks of the Electric Church are genuinely chilling, and the set pieces come thick and fast.
The strongest part of this novel is the characterisation. Avery Cates jumps from the page fully-fleshed - a clever young man who is jaded with life on the streets, a seen-it-all, done-even-more sort of guy. Someone whose bitterness with his lot in life is disguised by an extremely dry sense of humour. Cates is ably supported by a cast of secondary character that you genuinely come to care about.
Somers' prose is crisp and efficient, and the book fairly rattles along - but I did find the plot both slight and something I felt I'd seen before. The idea of someone pulling together a crack team to perform one last big job is extremely familiar, and there were few subplots to distract us from the resolution of this job. It made for a driving and very direct novel, but I liked Cates and the world he inhabited enough that I wanted to see more of it. The world itself (apart from The Electric Church itself and the Monks) was thinly-drawn in this first novel. I do think there is more to explore in future novels.
The Electric Church read like a cross between Richard Morgan and Ocean's Eleven - pared-down, noir and with a body count that defies belief. The humour is black and biting and the action is non-stop. A very worthy first novel in the Avery Cates series - I will be reading the rest.