Jeff Somers' second Avery Cates novel continues the trend of noirish sci-fi, filling the pages with action and hard-arsed back-and-forth.
Following the first novel, "The Electric Church", Gunner Avery Cates has spearheaded an anti-establishment campaign that has grown from strength to strength during the intervening years between books. "The Digital Plague" brings us swiftly up to date even as the story leaps straight in, with Cates on his knees with a gun to his head. A daring escape - or incomprehensible release - allows Cates to return to his base of operations, where he soon discovers the first victims of a terrible technological plague. This propels him on a journey to track down the source of the deadly sickness - an old friend - and put an end to it if he can. Cates brings himself as close to death as a man can be, following the trail of his own personal involvement.
The writing is as smooth as ever, bringing the first-person narrative more alive than most other fiction out there, especially sci-fi. The hard-boiled approach serves Somers well, and he's certainly got it down pat, and he thankfully doesn't overdo it by making all of his characters Hollywood-style immortal, something that conversely made the first book so enjoyable. The characters undergo sophisticated transitions and the book is no overly long - although it is accompanied by more unnecessary appendices, but of course nobody's obliged to read those; they don't add much.
There are plenty of totally transparent seeds planted for the third instalment, which has been announced as "The Eternal Prison" - you'll see the pointers miles before the end, but although they're inexpertly delivered they don't get in the way much. "The Digital Plague" has a finely crafted story with some great characters that drive the plot along with force and style.
Well worth reading, especially if you liked the first one - I'd recommend reading them in order, though.
7.5 / 10