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AUTHOR: Jeff Somers
Author Website (You really should take some time and explore this site. It’s a visual treat and eerie as hell and actually adds to the world Somers created)
I don’t usually judge a book by its cover, but the cover to The Electric Church is so well-done, somehow both bleak and exciting. You instantly want to know who the weird looking person holding a gun is and what his story is. Second of all, the title is intriguing, as it sounds like something out a steampunk setting that also sounds like a New Age religious cult. Everything on the book screams “READ ME”.
I’m glad that the actual body of the book printed on the pages was just as cool.
While reading The Electric Church, It quickly becomes apparent that the author, had never seen a dystopian future or western he didn’t like, as there elements of all of them from the last twenty years or so, and this is not an entirely bad thing, not when it’s done this well and intelligently.
Jeff Somers’ debut novel is a rollicking sci-fi adventure about a hitman who accidentally killed an undercover cop while on a job. Avery Cates works in Old New York(and in this world, New York is the entire East Coast) where life is cheap and in his line of work, he’s a respected twenty-seven years old and reaching fifty is considered ancient in his line of work. After a great opening as he plays cat and mouse with the genetically-enhanced cops and one of the Monks after him, he’s finally hauled in and is given a choice by the chief: Be executed immediately or do a personal job for the police and kill the founder and head of The Electric Church. To give anything more away after that point of the story would be criminal. You need to dive into this fresh and un-prepared.
It’s the concept of the Church that sets this novel apart. The Monks are almost entirely expressionless in their cyborg bodies and they’re all superhumanly fast and strong and it seems like there’s a new one on the streets everyday, preaching the scripture of their church. The only way to join the church (And they do not take no for an answer when they want you in their flock) is death. They place your brain in a robotic body of one of their Monks and the cycle goes on. They’re like an extremely motivated Church of Scientology.
I love the characters most of all though, Avery is like The Man With No Name in a world much like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Carpenter’s doomed New York and his band of rogues supporting cast all have a unique voice and everyone has surprising depth. It is often very funny and the action is done extremely well. Yes, Somers sometimes goes too far in telling you how much of a badass Avery is, but throughout the story, he’s constantly out-matched, so the tension rarely lets up. Also, the ambitions of the novel seem to exceed what’s actually written and the world Somers creates isn’t as fully realized as I would have liked, relying sometimes too much on familiar worlds created by directors and writers already. It’s a familiar fictional sci-fi world and because of that, it feels like a crutch.
Still, it’s such a confident debut, and the pacing and characters are so assured, that I see a bright future for Jeff Somers, and I’ll be shocked if it’s not a movie in a few years.