Posted on July 27, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
Available at Amazon.com
So about a month ago, when I was looking for something to read that didn’t concern itself with hordes of zombies and or the living dead in the big box book retailer I happened to glance over at the Sci-Fi section and see this wonderfully packaged series of books by author Jeff Somers, they had a smart design and yeah as shallow as it sounds, I look for that sort of thing when I purchase a book. Because you can at times- judge a book by its cover. Presentation is over half the product, and yeah, OK, I have been burned before by the way something has so handily caught my eye on the shelf.
Seeing that it was put out by Orbit books, who also put out Feed by Mira Grant, one of my 2010 top picks for Zombie reading, I was intrigued enough to purchase The Electric Church. Now I am not in the habit of re-reviewing a book that has been on Flames Rising before, I will say this short little thing about it: This was hands down one of the best pieces of science fiction I have read in a long time.
Naturally a few days later I had to go back and pick up the sequel, The Digital Plague, which takes place, from what I can gather either just a few months or years after the events of The Electric Church. The Story for The Digital Plague is centered on now ex-gun for hire turned antigovernment movement leader, Avery Cates, as he continues to battle against the global tyranny of the System Security Force. He’s amassed a crew of regulars and revolutionaries in his new found goal of bringing down the world. One corrupt cop at a time. Again this is a series of books and if you want to read the prior review of The Electric Church on Flames, I am sure the magical coding expertise of the editors here will allow you to do so.
The Digital Plague is a fast paced, obscenity filled, noir drenched piece of science fiction that never disappoints, and Jeff Somers is a writer of great skill and one of the best senses of black humor since Warren Ellis. There’s so much right with this book that it makes me want to hit myself in the face repeatedly with a bag full of hammers for not finding this series earlier. Without giving away too much of the story I will attempt to give you a short rundown. Avery Cates has made his name known for killing System Forces cops and hordes of cybernetic killing machines alike, and as this book opens up he becomes infected with a mysteriously manufactured plague of nano machines which eats its victims from the inside out. As Cates attempts to find out who has made him the walking angel of death, he finds himself in the company of old friends, current rivalries and unlikely allies. As the story unfolds we see Avery make his way from the destroyed streets of New York to Paris and beyond to search for the cure and who has done this to him and in in doing so he finds an even deeper conspiracy about to unfold. But there is so much more to this book than the last little blurb that it nearly does a disservice to Mr. Somers writing.
Somers easily handles his dystopian world, making the Avery Cates novels seem as socially relevant as either Philip K Dick, or William Gibson did in their times, in fact more so than Gibson, because if you go back and read “Neuromancer” and then his (Gibson’s) later novels you see the same display of themes, whereas Mr. Somers allows the singular character of Avery Cates to mature and grow, but that may be due to the serialization aspect, not Mr. Gibson’s inability to transform himself as a writer.
Somers also has a great command of the character, allowing you to see Cates fail, or haphazardly stumble blindly through moment after heart pumping moment making the ex-hit man a lovable and sympathetic character. The action is well paced and never, never, never watered down, with equal parts big cinematic explosions and hand to hand beat fests. You can almost see the movie rights flying from the page to the screen as you continue to read on. (Which, according to the authors website, the movie rights have been optioned, though no further info as of yet.) It is a perfect series to sit down and enjoy, wholeheartedly.
And as with most mass market paperbacks it’s at a definitely affordable price. So I implore you to either order, or run to your local store and buy yourself the whole of the series so far. Because this is one of the best Sci-Fi series of the last decade, and hopefully this one as well.
Review by Eric Pollarine