A friend of mine recommended a book to me about a month ago. I decided to buy it, but save it for a time when I had nothing else to do. I started reading it and finished it in just under ten hours. The book? The Electric Church by Jeff Somers.
Before I get into my review of the book, I have to tell you how I came to read it. You see, my friend Mike knows that I am a history major in school and that along side Horror films, comics, and music, alternate history/realities rank high on my list of interests. I have read a ton of stories and tales regarding realities that take place as a possible future, a parallel present, or a nightmare that is a result of a “what if?” from history (If the south had won the American Civil War, etc.). I don’t know what it is and I guess it is a mixture of my intense interest in actual history and my enjoyment of alternate worlds and stories (Marvel “What if?” and DC’s Elseworlds) from comic books.
Anyway, Mike knew this about me and recommended it to me. The book is a dystopian future, a possible future, for our world. One where technology continued to prosper, machines started doing the grunt work humanity didn’t want to do and the world decided to get it’s act together and unite under one government. This unification caused a bit of a problem. Between the riots, the few rebelious countries (Ireland was the longest to hold out believe it or not), and the advancing technology, the transition period seems to be lasting a bit longer than expected. In this world, the exact year is a bit hazy, but cities like New York (the main background for the book) have grown to encompass the surrounding seaboard. Stretching as far south as Elizabeth, NJ, north to the point it has taken over a good chunk of Connecticut, it stretched to the point where it swallowed Westchester county to it’s west and the whole of long island in the east. It is a big city. The book takes place twenty years after Unification. The world is separated into two groups, the haves, and the have-nots. The poor have no choice but to remain so. Giving into a life of slum-living, crime, and murder. The result of the machines taking pretty much every job that would be available to them. The book is a cyber-punks wet dream. Think of Blade Runner.
The book opens up to our main character complaining about his old age. His name is Avery Cates. He is a gunner (gun for higher) and his age? 27. Which is considered elderly among the poor. The hopelessly impoverished make up 90% of the world. Living in the slums of rotting cities destroyed by riots. Both protesting the unification twenty years ago and from recent hunger riots. There is no hope for them. Life expectancy among the poor is 25 if you are lucky enough to steal and murder your way to survive, or if you manage to stay away from the boots of the SSF (The extremely corrupt government police). Life is hard and there doesn’t seem to be much hope. There are no jobs, the advanced technology has seen to that with the advent of robots and automated vehicles doing the grunt work humanity was so quick to put behind them. Things are so desperate that a new religion has formed and is growing extremely rapidly. The Electric Church is 9 million members strong. Masses converting all the time. Thinking that it is better to convert, that to starve and suffer at the hand of corrupt officials. The only problem is that to become a “Monk” means you have you brain carved out of your head and placed in a cybernetic body. This is done so that you can pray forever.
Avery Cates finds himself on the run from the SSF, and being watched by the mysterious “Monks.” The story revolves around him being hired as a gunner by the least likely employer imaginable. It reads like a mixture of Blade Runner, Ocean’s Eleven, and Atlas Shrugged. If you are a fan of alternate realities, cyber-punk, and dystopian futures, you will love this book as I have. I didn’t know until I was done with the book that it was the first in a series of five. I ordered the second and third in the series and I am currently finishing up The Digital Plague (2nd book). I highly recommend the series and it is worth a try. You can find the books for as little as 99 cents on amazon, or free from your library.
I tried my hardest to be as vague as I could with the description because I didn’t want to spoil anything. If you have read the book, please be careful in what you write in the comments. If you haven’t, give it and try and let me know what you think below! If you have any questions just ask me.
I’ll see you all Saturday, which will be my last blog entry before the big move!