The Electric Church
By Jeff Somers

Avery Cates is 27-years-old and already a veteran among his underworld compatriots. After accidentally killing an undercover cop on a job, and also witnessing the bloody recruitment process of the titular Electric Church, he finds himself embroiled in a knotty Catch 22 situation. Either side with the police and assassinate the head of the cyborg zealots – a mission that’s claimed the lives of several gunners previously – or face summary execution for his crimes.

      It’s a tense, crackling thriller of a premise, made all the more so via some rapid fire chapters, delightfully sweary dialogue and suitably grotesque supporting cast.

      Admittedly, some of the tropes that originally put cyberpunk on the map appear a tad jaded in their recreation here. Shades (mirrored or otherwise) are perennially de rigueur, while the dollar still manages to vanish behind the much sexier yen. That said, there are some pertinent cultural sideswipes that take things in an interesting, if not altogether new, direction.

      Ty Kieth, for example, is the tech operative of Cates’ misfit crew, and it’s his job to ensure the team remain below the radar of a police force hardwired into national surveillance – more hide and seek than hacking and cracking. There’s also some nice extrapolation focusing on body fascism and cosmetic augmentation – the result being a physique that would leave a heyday Arnie feeling decidedly underdeveloped. But it’s the Borg-like aspirations of the Electric Church itself, that throws up the most pertinent shades of uniqueness. The idea of a religion based around the continuation of the mind supported indefinitely within a machine body, is simultaneously chilling, thought provoking and potentially attractive. So a powerful notion, yes, and one made occasionally beatific thanks to Somers obvious skill at framing a narrative. But, something worthy of genre canonisation and reader salvation? Regrettably not.