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Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced SF action thriller, 4 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Electric Church (Paperback)
Avery Cates is lying low after a botched hit resulted in a dead member of the System Security Force (brutal cops who act with impunity). However when a Monk (cyborgs belonging to the Electric Church who preach the value of donating your brain to join them) tries to forcibly convert him one evening, the fall-out brings him to the attention of Dick Marin (head of the SSF's Internal Affairs Department). Marin offers Cates a deal - kill the head of the Electric Church and his slate's wiped clean. Cates must find a way into the Electric Church's stronghold past hundreds of homicidal Monks who want to offer him eternal salvation. To have any chance of survival, he'll need to put together a team ...

Set in a dystopian future where Unification of the planet has exaggerated the divide between rich and poor, Cates lives a day-to-day existence subsisting on cheap alcohol bought with Yen earned from his last hit. He remembers pre-Unification and maintains some ethics, e.g. he won't kill children, but at 27 he's already lived longer than average and has nihilistic qualities, sometimes fantasising about giving up the fight for survival although he's pragmatic about his profession. Neither hero or anti-hero, Somers wants it both ways with Cates, which made it difficult for me to totally believe in him, although he's got a strong first person voice.

The plot is simple - Cates puts together a team to complete the job against overwhelming odds. The team are basically ciphers defined by their role to the plot (e.g. the tech guy, the psionic protection, the facilitators). The exception is Canny Orel, a man who may (or may not) be the most famous Gunner ever, who's muscled his way into Cates's team for reasons of his own. The tension between the idealistic Avery and amoral Canny makes for an interesting dynamic. However the plot itself progresses in a predictable way and while the action is well paced with plenty of gun fights and near escapes there's also a heavy reliance on deus ex machina to get Cates out of trouble.

It's a fast-paced read set in a world that I'd like to read more of, but the characterisation was a too perfunctory, Sumers it too reliant on having Avery rescued and Avery's own shades of grey are too light for me to believe in him as a survivor.
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