[REVIEW] The Electric Church – Jeff Somers

Jeff Somers
The Electric Church (Avery Cates, Book 1)
Hachette Orbit (US: 25th September 2007; UK: 3rd April 2008; AU: June 2008)

Religion is electrified in the snappy first book of Jeff Somers’ cyber-noir series featuring Avery Cates.

John Lennon might have imagined a world without religion, but this futuristic tale features a church gone mad, where to convert means sacrificing your brain to a cyborg’s body. And if you don’t want to convert…well, the Electric Monks want to kill you. (I think. I read a lot of this in front of the TV, and thus didn’t pay as much attention as I should have.)

If your mission is to kill the head of a legalised-yet-suspicious religion, where might they live? In England, apparently, in Westminster Abbey – only what Avery Cates finds there is mind-blowing. But before that he has to build up a team to help him take down Dennis Squalor – which is nice, but I got tetchy waiting for the assassination to begin.

Although the cities are still named New York and London, the world seems to be run by the System. Travelling by hover instead of cars, the police are deadlier. And everything’s digitised, including a chip – if you can afford one – in your brain that will allow you to receive medical treatment. If you’re poor (which most folk are) you’re on your own. Dead, really – nutrient tablets can only do so much. It’s a bleak vision of the future, yet it’s definitely believable – the brain chips and a religion that corrupts, that is.

But that’s the great thing about the futuristic genre: it has apt social commentary for contemporary society. If religion’s supposed to be good for you, then why are you one who’s always forking out? The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

In any case, this novel might leave you wondering just what exactly people are hiding behind their sunglasses.


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