The Electric Church
by Jeff Somers
Review by Steve Sawicki
Orbit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0316021725
Date: 25 September 2007 List Price $12.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Electric Church is a cyber-punk novel with a few interesting twists. Avery Cates is a somewhat typical hoodlum--preying on the weak and avoiding the strong and managing to eke out a life in a future that has divided class between the haves and the rest of us. But Cates has a small problem. He's managed to come to the attention of the Monks, cyborgs with enhanced bodies and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. They have but one mission--convert everyone to the electronic church. No one really knows what this conversion entails except that those who do convert are never seen as human again. Cates, hired to do a job that ends up being more involved than he first thought, ends up needing to call on old friends and enemies to help him stay alive. And as if that weren't problem enough, the head of the secret police (who are nearly as corrupt as the regular police) has also taken an interest in him and wants a small favor done.
Somers has written a book that owes much to the cyberpunk writers who have come before him. But he has also taken genre in a bit of a different direction which makes the novel a refreshing addition to the sub-genre. Somers' writing style is also well suited to the task: short, bullet-like, heavy with noir shadows without becoming too cartoonish. The entire effort is well done and an excellent melding of form and style.
I am always a bit nervous when religion is used in such a key way in novels. I've found that it's either used as a pulpit to point out all the current wrongs or put forth as some unrealistic pap. In this case, Somers blending of the cybernetic and the righteous, allows him to investigate issues that are neither derived historically or unrealistically presented. The conflict between the church, the police, the system and the society is a dynamic one that drives the book forward. Avery Cates, caught in the middle of all of this is interesting and a good pivot point for the action. There are a number of surprises as well that Somers manages to introduce in a very natural fashion that makes the book a fun read. I'd highly recommend it.