In a not-too-distant future, the world is run by a corrupt government known as the ‘System of Federated Nations’. Somewhere within the chaos of this sprawling, monstrous superpower is Avery Cates. Cates is a bad man, and he has a big price on his head. A gunner by profession, he lands himself into trouble when he puts a bullet in a System Cops head. Big mistake. Not only that, Cates infamy also seems to have clocked the attention of the Electric Monks, a brotherhood of cyborgs with human brains whose religion that promotes eternity through death seems to have grown three-fold in the last few years. Soon Cates doesn’t know which is worse… being captured by the SSF, which means instant death, or being cornered by the Electric Church, and be converted into a zombie.
Cates must walk a deadly line between the two, if he is to survive…
“Eternal life can be yours… for a price”
Good cyber-fiction is hard to come by. It is a special sub-genre that has its own narrow rules. Unlike most sci-fi novels, the world of cyberpunk almost always exists in a dystopian world that resembles our own and is never that far off in the future. It is, in essence, a delicious melting pot of renaissance decadence and futuristic technology. The best writers recognise the allure of these two juxtaposing worlds that makes the genre what it is. And this was what I was hoping for when I picked up this book… oh boy was I wrong…
The ‘romanticism’ aspect of the story was barely covered by Somers in the form of the ‘Electric Church’, which are die-hard zombie-like religious types that serve as a futuristic version of the Roman Catholic ‘Inquisition’. The religion basically asks you to convert, and if you refuse, you promptly get shot, have your brain removed and installed in a cyborgs body. No questions asked. If you’ve seen Vin Diesel’s ‘Chronicles of Riddick’, then you’ll probably remember the Necromongers. The Monks are merely a more digital version.
Apart from that the most off-putting thing about the story was an overuse of ‘f’ words and the phrases ‘SSF’ and ‘system pigs’. This repetition was very distracting, and Somers could have found more effective ways to reinforce the invincibility of his cops with a few strategically placed examples of their ruthless, unforgiving nature. Unfortunately this repetition only served to demean his skills as an author, as it gave the impression that his command of language was below par (which is not the case, as Somers proves elsewhere that he is more than capable of a unique turn of phrase).
Another downfall is the structure of the plot; it does not follow the basic rules of the cyberpunk sub-genre, which are quite cut and dry. The stasis was very short. So short in fact that the action began almost on the first page, and when this is the case Somers felt the need to keep the pace up, which meant characters were perpetually on the run from one cop or another. The story was always on an upward climb taking me somewhere more and more dangerous, but as a reader I didn’t feel the danger at all. As a result this allowed almost no time for character development. I was over 100 pages into the story and still meeting new characters (which were ‘MAIN’ characters I might add). As a rule of thumb all main characters should be introduced within the first 2 chapters, any longer than that and your story is in trouble. Apart from that I thought the plot was very dynamic. In fact it might have been a little TOO dynamic for Somers, as there were places where he felt a little lost for words, like he was biting off more than he could chew. The characters themselves reminded me of washed-out versions from William Gibson’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, where a mish-mash of eclectic types come together to form a motley crew of hackers and weapons specialists. Somers did state that he was inspired by Gibsons’ work, which gives me the idea that maybe this book is a form of homage.
If only Somers had whittled down his characters, made them leaner and sparser. The book read like an experimental piece where the author was writing really only to please himself. Having said this, “The Electric Church” was Somer’s debut novel and I can see that his imagination does hold a lot of promise. A fledgling author needs to cut his teeth somewhere and I like to hope ‘The Electric Church’ was the novel Somer’s ‘learned’ from. So, if there were less characters, a more focussed storyline that followed a simple yet effective plot arc, then this could have been something brilliant.
I give this 2/5 stars.