The Electric Church (Avery Cates Series #1)

The Electric Church (Avery Cates Series #1)

by Jeff Somers

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316019385
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: 09/25/2007
Series: Avery Cates Series , #1
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 502,499
File size: 824 KB

About the Author

Jeff Somers was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. After graduating college he wandered aimlessly for a while, but the peculiar siren call of New Jersey brought him back to his homeland. In 1995 Jeff began publishing his own magazine, The Inner Swine ( Find out more about the author at

Read an Excerpt

The Electric Church

By Jeff Somers


Copyright © 2007 Jeff Somers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-316-02172-2

Chapter One


"First, they remove the brain."

I wasn't really listening to Nad. I never listened to Nad, actually. We were standing in a shadowy doorway on Bleecker - just a doorway, a rectangle of ancient brick melting away to dusty rubble on either side - watching the gray faces flow by, waiting for one in particular so we could kill him. Well, so I could kill him. Nad wasn't a Gunner. He wasn't even much of a criminal; he was possibly the worst pickpocket that had ever lived, and over the years had been pinched by the Pigs so often, with the mandatory accompanying beatings, that he'd started to go a little crazy in his middle age. He was all about conspiracy theories, always telling anyone who'd listen about the sinister forces that ruled the world. For me, it was a lot simpler: Hostile assholes with badges ruled the world, case closed.

Nad was pretty much useless, but I felt sorry for him. I paid him a pittance to work lookout for me on these shithole jobs I picked up, murdering small-fry criminals who'd overstepped their bounds or owed too much yen for too long. Of course, he was pretty useless as a lookout, too.

"You can't digitize thebrain," he continued after a lazy pause, "I mean, you can, but it doesn't work. What you get on the other end is bullshit. It sounds okay at first, but when you get into it, the thought process is fried."

"Uh-huh." I'd spotted a cigarette butt on the street a few feet away, only half-smoked. I wondered what the odds were that in the five seconds it would take to claim it, my job would walk by and I'd spend the next five hours listening to Nad while tonight's dinner drifted away. I licked my lips and scanned the crowd.

"So the Monks, they remove the brain. They slice open your head like a fucking can, remove the brain, and put it in one of the Monk bodies. They hook it up, thousands of threads, so thin you can't see 'em. Some of 'em are data transfer lines, some of 'em are electrical, to stimulate the organ. Then they fill the head up with a nutrient solution, to preserve it.

"Fucking bam! You've got a Monk."

I sighed. "Nad, everyone knows this. It's on the fucking Vids." There were more and more "Special Reports" on the Electric Church showing up on the huge fifty-foot public video screens every day, reporters with perfect skin cheerfully telling us that the fucking Monks were everywhere, in case we hadn't noticed.

"Yeah, but Ave, think about it: Who's volunteering for this shit? Who's walking up to one of the Tin Men and saying, hell yeah, cut my head off and vacuum out my brains! Fuck that. The Monks are hunting people. I know a guy -"

I winced. Every bullshit story on the street started with I know a guy. It was the international code for bullshit.

"- Kitlar Muan - you know him, shylock outta the Bronx. Or knew him. He was telling me a few weeks ago how one of these Monks was like following him. Always around, always holding up walls or some shit wherever Kit went. Then, one day, Kit's gone, out of touch, and the next day, he's a fucking Monk. You know how the Monks go around and say hello to all their old friends, tell them how they converted? So there I was, and here comes this Tin Man, all vinyl smiles and brandnew black robes, and it walks right up to me and sez, ?Good morning, Nad, you used to know me as Kit Muan, now I'm Brother Muan of the Delta -"

I let Nad's chatter wash over me, bored. If Nad thought the Monks were shooting people in the back and cutting off their heads, it was a good reason to believe otherwise. I kept my eyes roaming over the good citizens of what was left of downtown Manhattan, angry, yellow faces, but I didn't see my mark. I stamped my feet in frustration, cold and tired. It was a low moment. Things had gone downhill at a furious pace since my near-death experience on the East Side; the Pigs were still circulating my description and going hammer and tongs at trying to track down who had murdered Colonel Janet Hense, and I'd exhausted my credit spreading the fog thick to keep my name out of it. Not only was I broke as a result, but being so blatantly connected with an ongoing cop-killing investigation made me a hot property, and business was not good. So Avery Cates the Gweat and Tewwible was reduced to pulling street work for low-rent dipshits. A man needed to pay his bills. If you didn't pay your bills, people like me stood in shadows waiting for you and slit your throat, and I had a lot of bills coming due. Street Work paid shit, but it paid.

There were, in fact, a trio of Monks across the street from us, and I wasted a moment staring at them. It was a typical scene for them: two standing on either side of a third who stood on a box, preaching. And preaching. And preaching. Walk by in the morning, and this freaky thing with corpse-white skin, dressed all in black and wearing mirrored sunglasses, would be making a speech about salvation. Come back at lunch, the same freak was making the same speech. At night, it was still there. At first we all thought they were fucking Droids. It was a joke: The same Droid that took your job last year was now putting God out of business.

As I stared, one of them turned its pasty white head and looked back at me. I fought the immediate urge to look away, get interested in the near distance suddenly. I just kept staring - you had to keep the act up. I was Avery Cates, toughest bastard in the System, and I would stare at creepy Monks if I wanted.

The Monks all looked alike. Their plastic faces were capable of expression, in weird, programmed contortions that never looked natural, but their faces were identical. At first you saw them here and there, heard rumor of them. Now they're everywhere. You see Monks in the street, on the trains. The Electric Church was a registered religion. It was all very legal - they claimed to have paperwork on every member, showing voluntary submission to the conversion into a Monk. So far the System Pigs bought it, and left them alone.

After a moment, with extreme casualness, I looked back for the cigarette butt and licked my lips. It was almost half a cigarette, and looked to be of good vintage: Pre-Unification. Stale as hell, but still better than the shit you got these days, even if you could afford them. Which I manifestly could not. I stared transfixed at it, and wondered if anyone I knew would see me kneel to get it. You had to keep up the rep all the time.

Nad nudged me gently with one elbow. "That's our man." I looked up, fl ushing, angry at myself. Staring at a fucking cigarette butt while tonight's meal ticket strolled by, my ass saved by a dried-up burnout like Nad Fucking Muller. I made fists with both hands and resisted the sudden urge to punch Nad in the face.

I recognized my mark from the grainy files I'd seen: a short, heavyset guy in an ancient leather overcoat about a foot too long for him, worn like a half-rate royal robe, dragging along the street. He was flanked by two huge men who couldn't bend their arms, muscles on muscles twitching. I kept my eyes on the mark, who bustled, walking fast. The Little Prince. His name was Rudjer something; it didn't matter. He was low on the food chain and was trying to rise from the depths, and he was about to explode.

I studied the trio. Their eyes were straight ahead, faces set in the usual hardassed grimace - we all had it engraved on our faces - acting like the rest of the poor fucks on the street would just naturally get out of the way. Which they did, because even though the Little Prince was a nobody who didn't realize his button had been pushed, he still had more juice than most of the people around him. He had some yen, some muscle, and that snazzy overcoat.

He glided past me, one of the monsters on his payroll lifting a skinny kid off the ground and tossing him aside to clear a path. I didn't move. Nad started to twitch next to me, impatient, but I held up one hand without looking at him and he shut up. I'd quieted Nad down the hard way often enough; he was well-trained by now.

When they were past, I stepped out into the flow of bodies and matched their pace, keeping my hands in my pockets. My own coat wasn't as regal as the Little Prince's, but it was functional, and contained a number of useful items. It also had holes cut into the pockets so you could arrange your hands without being seen. Keeping my eyes on the three amigos, I felt around for the blade I'd secreted in an inner pocket and took it firmly in one hand. The Little Prince was small fry and barely paid enough to be worth it - a bad man, certainly, no better than me, but not exactly someone who'd enhance my reputation. Bullets were too expensive for shit like him.

I followed in their wake for a while, watching. I knew Nad had slipped into my gravity without having to look; Nad and I went back a long way, and he'd never liked being alone. It didn't take long to establish that the Little Prince's security wasn't worth whatever he was paying them: Like a lot of amateurs, they were one-dimensional, and thought all their troubles would be coming at them from the front, with plenty of warning and a lot of fanfare. Not once did they look back.

Turning my head a little to get an idea of the environmental factors, I almost missed a step, because three Monks were keeping pace with me. I couldn't be sure - the Tin Men all looked alike - but my immediate thought was that these were the same three who'd been preaching across the street from us. One was looking right at me, marching through the crowd like it didn't need eyes. I stared back at it in surprise for a few steps, then tore my eyes away, checking my meal ticket. They were still pushing through the crowd like they owned the streets. From the show they were putting on - all grim determination and regal pomp - the Little Prince was probably out on his collections, squeezing water from stones and performing other miracles on a par with getting money out of my fellow citizens. This all worked to my advantage, because tough guys didn't look over their shoulders to see who might be creeping up behind them, and tough guys didn't need to take basic precautions. More shitheads died being tough every day, when a little good old-fashioned paranoia and cowardice went a long way. It wasn't even cowardice. It was an aversion to death.

The Monks were still keeping pace, but were no longer looking at me. They just floated through the crowd. They were harmless, in my experience, but they creeped you out. Even people who made their living killing and maiming their fellow human beings shied away from those perfect rubber faces, that serene certainty. I didn't doubt the Monks could defend themselves, but every Monk I'd ever run across had been unfailingly polite and nonconfrontational. They still made my skin crawl, and having three of them following me like fucking albatrosses made me nervous.

The crowd thinned a little as we moved north, makeshift stalls sprouting up on the sidewalks, in the streets, little shacks built from scrap wood offering whatever people could scrounge to sell, generally stuff no one thought was worth stealing in the first place. The goods got better as you moved uptown, until you finally reached a point where the Crushers started eyeing you distrustfully and the stores had decent security in place, mainly to keep people like me out. I tensed up a little, resolved to ignore the Monks. If the Little Prince was going to put the squeeze on someone that owed him yen, it was going to be here. Much further uptown and the Little Prince would be outclassed.

Sure enough, he stopped in front of a flimsy stall that was staffed by a man about my age and two young kids with the hollow look of poverty. The place was selling meat pies, the meat not much of a mystery considering the pile of dead rats the boys were engaged in skinning right there in the street. Business was slow, because rats were everywhere, and if I wanted one, I could catch five without working up a sweat.

The proprietor stepped forward, wringing his hands. I didn't listen to what was said, I just watched: The Little Prince stuck out his chest and crossed his arms, listening to whatever plea the old man was shelling out with his chin thrust out, nodding importantly. The two goons just menaced the whole operation, making the boys flinch and knocking shit off the counter, being tough.

I moved fast. There was no talking. No speeches. I wasn't here to make an impression. I scanned the street quickly for Crushers or - worse - System Pigs, and saw nothing, not even the three Monks. Then I stepped up behind the Little Prince, and before anyone could react I just pulled my blade from my pocket, grabbed him around the shoulders, and dragged the knife across his neck, the blade sinking in deep. Then I dropped the knife, stepped back, and drew my automatic. I didn't point it at anyone in particular; that often got misinterpreted, and just encouraged gunplay. I was just discouraging intervention while I waited for the Little Prince to actually die. No one paid for grievous injury, after all. The two goons paused and stared, first down at the Little Prince where he lay gurgling, then at me, and finally at each other.

One muttered something under his breath and turned to the other, gesticulating forcefully and hissing something foreign - half the hired muscle in the damn city spoke gibberish.

The other swore - you didn't need to speak the language to recognize swearing - gesturing at the Little Prince, then threw up his hands and glared at me. "Non mon problème, okay?"

They knew the score: With the Little Prince dead, no one was going to pay them, so there was no longer a job to do, and they certainly didn't want to end up dead, too. Non mon fucking problème indeed. These were the bottom-of-the-barrel assholes; you couldn't trust them - they had no goddamn pride, no ethics. To illustrate the point, his fellow made a show of wiping his hands, and the two of them lumbered off, arguing loudly. I looked at their former employer, and he stared up at me with wide, dead eyes. The family was already back at work, furiously making rat pies for the hungry people of New York City. You could count on the good people of New York to never remember a face.

The crowd swirled around me as I reholstered my gun, and then Nad was at my shoulder. "Good work," he said.

It didn't feel good. "Hell," I said. "I need a drink."


Excerpted from The Electric Church by Jeff Somers Copyright © 2007 by Jeff Somers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Somers packs his techno-thriller debut with enough gunplay and explosions to satisfy a Hollywood producer.... But the characters are the real prize in this entertaining near-future noir." —-Publishers Weekly

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Electric Church (Avery Cates Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Avery Cates is a professional hit man, but his latest kill in old Harlem angers him as his client¿s agent failed to provide key needed information. First the victim was probably a Systems Security Force (SSF) cop second there was a child in the apartment. Avery knows the SSF elite Stormers and throwaway Crushers hunt for him for what he assumes is killing one of them, undercover Colonel Janet Hense. He also knows if they catch him the Stormers will set it up so that they can legally kill him in one of the illegal Old Manhattan dives or on the street fleeing. Instead, the authorities want Avery to kill Dennis Squalor, the founder of the fastest growing religion the Electric Church. The government leaders know Squalor is a threat to their primogenitary power. He espouses the belief that an individual¿s life is too short to understand the universe as it takes eternity to do so. The faithful convert to invincible cyborgs with their brain inside these Monks kill objectors. To get to Squalor he must get past protected by concentric circles of Monks, Avery needs a miracle hell whatever he does he needs a miracle because he is caught between the Stormers and Crushers on one side, and the Monks on the other. --- THE ELECTRIC CHURCH is an invigorating futuristic urban noir science fiction that grips the audience from the first fight in the East Side dive and never slows down as the antihero with ethics runs a gauntlet with the stake being his life. If he fails the authorities, they will kill him if he goes after Squalor, they will convert him, which means they will kill him if by some miracle he succeeds and kills Squalor, the authorities will kill him. Any way he sees it he sees his imminent death. Fans will want to walk on the wild side of Old New York as tour guide Jeff Somers provides a powerful thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He saved my life in VietNam!!! ... King Rhino
Christopher_F More than 1 year ago
This was an enjoyable read, it was a reccomendation from a friend. I feel the plot never had the real bang I expected.
Blix_Oona More than 1 year ago
Cybernetics, digitized minds, and the social consequences of such technologies are explored in an action-packed and dystopic near future. Fun to read. The ne'er-do-well anti-heroes are refreshingly irreverent, even though some are NOT nice people. Some editing problems near the end forced me to re-read a couple of paragraphs, but otherwise a satisfying and exciting novel. A good read for futurists, transhumanists, and social darwinists.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Good book that clips along at a pretty fast pace. Cates never gets a chance to rest from cover to cover. The environments are harsh and brutal the viewpoint is from the recieving end of 'police/SSF brutality' (to the tenth power) the characters all have flavor. Give the author credit for not going into extensive detail on every aspect of the story, instead opting to condense his story to ONE book. He did a good job. It was fun to read, has an interesting and unique plot, and was easily finished in less than 12 hours.
peridotite on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I read the first chapter in the bookstore, and the style drew me in ¿ somewhere between cyberpunk and a hard-boiled detective novel. Unfortunately, as the book unfolded, none of the characters gained any depth, none of the problems became interesting, and the solution was always violence. The book doesn't even follow its own rules; it sets up the System Pigs as so dangerous even assassins don't dare touch them, but by halfway through the book the characters are casually mowing them down. Absent interesting characters or challenges, the book ends up being a pointless exercise in style. Nice style, though.
FrontStreet on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The setting is the world in the future, a future that haas been described in other sci fi or fantasy books before this one. But that is part of the appeal of this debut novel, it takes the familiar, the acceptable and turns it into a terrifying prediction. It is the feeling of reality, the possible changing of our world into the one portrayed in The Electric Church that propels this work. It is easy to create the absurd, the fantastic. It is harder to take the already written and tweak it into new realms.The world has fallen apart, police control the surface and the citizens are cowed by fear and starvation. Avery Cates is surviving but only from his talent as an assassins. While many hold the title it is not an easy job, or one with a long life expectancy. And after he is wanted for killing a policeman his life seems like is done with. But even he is surprised when he is approached by one of the most powerful men in the world and given an impossible task- kill the leader of the Electric Church. The Electric Church is the religion of the Monks, cyborgs with plastic faces, mirrored eyes and eternal life. It is the major religion, one of strength and immortality. The job of killing its leader is impossible but it is Avery's only chance for survival. His journey to undertake this feat is an adventure not to be missed.The plot is well paced, the action is unusually nonstop, and the setting fits both. The book will grab and keep the reader's attention which really is the point of a good book. It is a nice entry into the literary world of contemporary, dark science fiction. But is goes one step into becoming more of a flag ship for a newer genre. It could possibly be called hard boiled sci fi.That step is the characterization. What Sam Spade did for hard-boiled, Avery Cates will do for science fiction. Avery even has his beloved sidekick and an assortment of helpers, each one strongly created by Somers. They are not your traditional good guys which is what adds to the fun of the book. They are your hard boiled heroes, tough with tarnished hearts and souls. The dialogue even matches the bar set by masters of pulp fiction. Somers was able to write characters that can hold their own in a fast moving plot. His creation of The Monks and the story behind their creation is both horrifying and brilliant. It is these two developments in the book, the main characters and The Monks, that show case the talent and potential of Jeff Somers.
noblechicken on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Pretty cool 1st novel by Jeff Somers. Excellent energy and a fast moving plot. Cyberpunk meets Chandler, etc etc etc. The problem with it is a lot of the characters' dialog sound the same. They always talk to our protagonist, Avery Cates, like a Bond villain: " Well, Mr. Cates, it seems we have this to do." "Mr. Cates, would you like to tell me more about this situation." "So, Mr. Cates, would you like a hot dog." "F*ck you, Mr. Cates, there is no mustard." At first they seem different from each other in their mannerism and area of expertise, but they all eventually sound the same in tone. I think someone should run a count on how many times "f*ck" and "Mr. Cates" is used in the book, then compare them. You would probably lose a few chapters! (heh) Besides all that, this was a pretty swell book, very cinematic and I look forward to reading the second one, The Digital Plague. Kick butt, Mr. Cates!
gregandlarry on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Interesting story. Would make a great action movie.
calculoid on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a fun read. The good: the main character, Avery Cates, is really well developed and interesting. It has a cool, future-noir, post-war/disaster, police-state setting and a lot of action. Somers' excellent writing style, which is witty, and biting, makes me want to keep reading. Also, cyborgs!The bad: at times, the story made me feel like I was reading a video game, and some of the action scenes would conjure the soundtrack to The Matrix as I read. Both of these criticisms could fit well under 'The good' too, because they aren't necessarily bad things. They just aren't my favourite associations to make with a book.If you follow Jeff Somers' twitter feed and enjoy it, then you will enjoy reading his books too. I generally try to avoid reading series, but I am willing to continue with what is a five book series to get more of Somers' style and more Avery Cates.
grizzly.anderson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
FrontStreet has a great summary of the book in their review, so I won't belabor the point by repeating that. Instead I'll tell you that in Jeff Somers and The Electric Church I've found one of my favorite things: a new (to me) author with a fantastic voice describing an amazingly rich and detailed world telling an exciting new story.Ok. No story is ever really new. Its cyberpunk, so there is Gibson and Sterling. It is dystopian, echoing classics of HG Wells. It has a gun slinging anti-hero fighting cyborgs (Dick & Blade Runner) and the corrupt cops and government (every Noir Detective novel). But Somers's novel isn't just any one of those things. It takes pinches of each of them to spice up his own recipe. What I can't say is that it is the seed of a new genre of "Hard boiled SF". Just recently Richard Morgan has gone there with Thirteen, and any of the Kovacs books, Warren Hammond with KOP, and David Brin has toyed with the theme. Go back a few years and you'll find more. But it seems there are more and more of them now, so maybe we are seeing the Hard Boiled SF detective's day in the sun.
freddiefreddie on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Not as well-executed as I anticipated. Excessive profanity. Not that excessive profanity offends me (I use it myself), but Somers seems to rely on that to spice up the dialogue. The pace, breakneck and breathless, was also a little too fast for me. I suppose I like a more slowly-paced book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The baby grifin peaked out of the nursery to see the real world. Being cooped up in there was too much for her. Ruffling her black feathers, she stepped out. "Star! You're not supposed to be out here yet!" My mother pushed me back into the nursery. "But mommy!" I whined, and sat on the pile of leaves. "Little one, he outside world is very dangerous." Naomi said. "Yes, it is, and we don't want our only pup getting lost already, isn't that right sweetie?" My father nuzzled Naomi. I grunted and murmured, "No fair." "What was that?" My dad asked. I started to get really mad and frustrated. "I said, NO FAIR!" I then bolted out of the camp, spreading my puny wings. I flew away from the camp tears streaming down my face. After a while of flying, I saw a new camp. It was filled with different kind of animals. "What's that?" I stared down at the camp and sudenly a huge blow hit e in the head. "Oww.." I moaned, feeling my head. I looked up and saw that I had hit a tree and landed in the camp. <p> Ok I hope you liked that. It was my story of how I got here! Also, am I allowed to have powers? ~Star
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thy bounce in. "We want to be warriors!" Moonkit squeaked. Rainkit nodded his head in agreement.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He walks in. "Hi"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The fierce dog pads in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me a huge fan of the Sci-Fi genre. It feels like Somers is out for Cates, making him go against all odds but always coming out on top, just barely though. Cates' view and everyone elses reaction to him and the world just adds to the tone of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love these Avery Cates books! I have never been so attached to a character! There is something so appealing about a self depreciating anti hero that knows exactly where he stands in the world (at the bottom of the barrel). Jeff's futuristic dystopic world is really intriguing and I've never read fight scenes like his. Not to mention, Jeff knows when to stop writing the Avery Cates novels and ends on a note that is ironic and hilariously pathetic (appropriate for the character).I can't wait until his next series comes out!
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John Walker More than 1 year ago
It was an entertaining read, nothing thought provoking or groundbreaking. A nice take on future-noir detective stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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