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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 September 2007
Set in a near future dystopian New York and London, this high-energy story pits mid-level hitman Avery Cates against the two most powerful forces in the quasi-fascist world. The first of these is the System Security Force (SSF), the totally tricked-out elite troops who keep the peace in the name of the System of Federated Nations. (If is the "SS" in their name reminds you of another group of elite soldiers, it's probably intentional.) Of course, in this class-stratified future, keeping the peace pretty much means keeping the plebes in line and protecting the wealth and health of the upper crust. They don't pay too much attention to small fry like Cates until one of his hits goes bad, and he kills an undercover SSF officer.

Alas, if you kill an SSF officer, all bets are off, and you're lucky if you live 24 hours. As it happens, Cates is incredibly lucky -- instead of being stomped into a pink puddle, he is made an offer he can't refuse and is directed to kill a very high profile target. This brings him up against a sinister religion known as The Electric Church, whose membership is growing at an exponential rate. The reason for its growth may lie in the wild rumors of forced conversion and brainwashing, rumors that Cates' new assignment will prove or dispel.

Jam-packed with fast and furious cinematic action, the book's real distinguishing feature is its colorful cast of characters. Cates assembles a team to help him -- including a weedy acquaintance with mysterious mental abilities, a British techie on the lam, and strange twin sisters specializing in transportation -- and then leads them to London for the big showdown. It's crucial in these kind of stories (or movies) that the hero be likable and his henchmen interesting. Cates, as the hitman with a heart of, well, silver if not gold, is charismatic and flawed enough to carry the story (until the end, when he kind of loses it), and the cast of supporting characters have enough personality and surprises to keep one interested. The overall effect is kind of comic-booky (not in a bad way), and while it's not exactly groundbreaking or earth-shattering stuff, it should fit the bill for those looking for an action-packed futuristic shoot-em-up.
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on 2 September 2009
The Electric Church mixes cinematic action sequences with a fast-paced plot and a no-frills, utilitarian writing style - and here lies its Achilles' heel in my view.

The book reads like a film script, with a breathless pace that hurriedly ushers you from one action set-piece to the next, with minimal character development and back-story, making its dystopian world seem flimsy and insubstantial.

Sci-fi at its best is as much about ideas as it is action, and The Electric Church is skewed in favour of the latter at the expense fleshing out the reasons why we should feel sympathetic towards the main characters or an affinity with the world they find themselves in.

Each chapter is no more than a few pages long and meaningful exposition as to why the main protagonists behave as they do and what brought them to where they are now is very thin on the ground.

While the action is fast and furious and the plot clever and expansive, the book ultimately feels disposable, like wolfing down a take-away with a plastic fork from a cardboard container, as opposed to savouring something special that lingers on the palate.

If you want a book that has a similar story theme and action-oriented ethos as The Electric Church but is set in a richly realised universe with believable characters I would recommend Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. It mixes furious cyberpunk action with an impressive depth of story-telling and character development and is everything that The Electric Church could have, and should have, been.
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on 23 October 2007
The book starts with lots of pace and lots of depth, like a real page turner. The story reminded me of "Escape from New York". The characters are well defined, the description of New York very atmospheric. Unfortunately after around 1/3 of the book, the pace drops, the descriptions are repetitive. The finale is disappointing and short. It might work as a movie, but as a book it lacks depth and energy.
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on 17 August 2010
Avery Cates is a Gunner, a survivor living in Old New York. At age twenty seven he is one of the oldest living on the streets, hiding from the System Pigs and trying to make a living by killing people. This is a world where the System Security Force are all-powerful, and the fastest growing religion is that of the Electric Church. Cates has his suspicions that converts to the Church are forcibly recruited, and those who join become immortal cyborgs. Just when life for Cates seems to be taking a nose dive, he is offered a big job. The biggest. If he can survive through it, he'll be a rich man. But it's a big if...

I really enjoyed this first novel about Avery Cates by Jeff Somers - The Electric Church is a quick read, with a great page-turning quality. The Monks of the Electric Church are genuinely chilling, and the set pieces come thick and fast.

The strongest part of this novel is the characterisation. Avery Cates jumps from the page fully-fleshed - a clever young man who is jaded with life on the streets, a seen-it-all, done-even-more sort of guy. Someone whose bitterness with his lot in life is disguised by an extremely dry sense of humour. Cates is ably supported by a cast of secondary character that you genuinely come to care about.

Somers' prose is crisp and efficient, and the book fairly rattles along - but I did find the plot both slight and something I felt I'd seen before. The idea of someone pulling together a crack team to perform one last big job is extremely familiar, and there were few subplots to distract us from the resolution of this job. It made for a driving and very direct novel, but I liked Cates and the world he inhabited enough that I wanted to see more of it. The world itself (apart from The Electric Church itself and the Monks) was thinly-drawn in this first novel. I do think there is more to explore in future novels.

The Electric Church read like a cross between Richard Morgan and Ocean's Eleven - pared-down, noir and with a body count that defies belief. The humour is black and biting and the action is non-stop. A very worthy first novel in the Avery Cates series - I will be reading the rest.
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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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on 5 July 2008
Still a relatively fresh-faced arrival on the fiction scene, Jeff Somers brings a brilliantly competent slice of sci-fi action in the form of "The Electric Church", in which the "Gunner" Avery Cates, a mercenary of sorts in a dystopian future, is hired by the fascist State Security Force to shoot down the leader of a new religion: one where the brains of the converted are removed and inserted into high-tech bodies.

It's a great story, full of surprises that reward the reader regularly. Told in the first person, it brings very personalised observations of a world where most of the inhabited areas lie in ruins following a series of hostile takeovers and riots. Gunning is the only way to make enough yen to support a steady diet of gut-rotting booze and stale Pre-Unification cigarettes, and Avery Cates is one of the best Gunners available.

The narrative is clipped, stylish and engaging, affording one of those rare experiences where you really get to know the character, which is often difficult in first person fiction. Somers brings it off with flare, describing as the character contemplates them the broken down cities, the hard-assed people inhabiting them, and an all-important choice: surrender to the growing faith of the Electric Church for immortality and salvation, or live in poverty with all guns blazing?

An awesome read by a true talent. Don't miss out.
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on 10 November 2009
Ok, so its not a master peace of writen art, but its a absolutly excelent book. I loved it, I rushed out to get the sequal and I look forward to the Eternal Prison making it to this country!

It's not ment to be deep, but as you read it you just want to know whats going to happen next. I would have loved a train delay, or any thing just to keep reading. It's not often that I read a book on the train, and then when I get home I read it some more.

I have not read any thing I enjoyed this much since Snowcrash.
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on 14 April 2008
I picked this one up on impulse after reading the blurb, I started reading Sunday Afternoon and put it down again Monday Evening, after desperately squeezing in time to read it between other commitments.

It's a great thriller, a definite page-turner - interesting characters and setting, and a plot with enough depth to pad it out but not so much that the (virtually relentless) action is bogged down. And there's definitely plenty of action - between the brutal police force, a mysterious and highly influential government figure, criminals and psychopathic electric Monks, the main character and the reader are thrown from one shoot out to the next, picking up an interesting cast of extras and a real feel for the world along the way.

As said in another review it has a great first third and it slows slightly towards the end, sometimes in the last few chapters it has descriptions which seem to repeat themselves, which was strange, and seemed to be an attempt to pad out the text.

Another slight criticism was that the supporting cast seemed to be trying too hard to be interesting - they were, to put it bluntly, very strange indeed, and were sometimes a bit like comedy sidekicks who had wondered in from a different novel.

Even so, it was a cracking read, excellent pace and, as I said a great story, which kept me guessing and turning the page.
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The Electric Church - Jeff Somers
To be honest when I originally read the back of this I was wondering what I was letting myself in for. Then for the first few pages felt even worse as it really felt like a struggle to get started. However after that, the author seemed to get his stride and I became hooked as he had created a wonderful set of characters in this rich mans Utopia against the backdrop of the poor mans Distopia where each crumb of bread is a hard fought battle.

Really creative plot with magical elements to not only demonstrate how psychopathic the human mind can become, but highly addictive to see how the man vs. machine battle will come out. I really did enjoy this tale and look forward to future books by Jeff. Top that off with a kickass website to entice the readers in and Jeff really has done a lot of work to give the readers a sci-fi book that they deserve. To sum up what appears is a touch of Asimov, a dash of Clarke, tied up with a bit of Bradbury with just a hint of Hassel. Well done Jeff.
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VINE VOICEon 11 December 2007
I did wonder if Dirk Gently inspired this story with its reference to electric monks but in fact this comes across as Bladerunner without the worrying about the cyborgs being human.
Avery Gates is a Gunner for hire / assasination who has a moral code in a time where graft , death and violence are the norm and where 26 is thought old .
The action is relentless going from New York / New Jersey to London and involves deaths galore - but still not loosing sight of the plot (which has a good twist at the end) and hanging the action on a good story.
Its definateky got its roots in Bladerunner, society gone to pot, anyone who is not police is 'little people' but there is also a sense of 'this is not right' and I'm pleased to see there is a sequel l- can't wait !
This is action packed sci-fi and a great story
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