Having enjoyed Jeff Somers' The Electric Church last summer, I was really curious to see if the author could do it again with the sequel. As was the case with its predecessor, I was immediately sucked into this cyberpunk/noir techno-thriller. And I'm pleased to report that The Digital Plague delivers the goods, and then some!
Let's be honest here: Jeff Somers may never win a Hugo Award. Nevertheless, as long as he cranks up these explosive and entertaining balls to the wall and action-packed near-future thrillers, Somers will continue to rank pretty high on my reading list! Two volumes into the Avery Cates series, and these books are definitely becoming addictive!
Crime has paid off extremely well for the Gunner Avery Cates. Following the events of The Electric Church, he has now become the richest criminal in New York City. However, his fortune and success mean that he has made plenty of enemies. So much so that he can't puzzle out who captured him but couldn't eliminate him before Cates' associates came to his timely rescue. As a matter of course, the notorious Gunner wants revenge for this insult and someone will have to pay. But as he's plotting this violent payback, everyone who has been in contact with him starts to die in a particularly gruesome manner. As a mysterious plague begins to decimate the entire Eastern Seaboard, Cates remains unaffected. Soon, he'll discover that he's the carrier of the virulent virus, and he finds himself in the uncomfortable role of both the executioner and the savior of the entire human race.
The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding doesn't intrude on the tale that is The Digital Plague. Still, Somers' depiction of NYC and Paris gives this novel its unique "flavor."
As was the case with The Electric Church, the characterization is the facet which truly propels this story forward. Once again, the first person narrative filled with witty and dark humor is a joy to follow. Avery Cates might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, and he is a dirty and disreputable scoundrel -- and a killer. And yet, for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for him. These books wouldn't be nearly as good if told in the third person narrative. Dealing solely with Cates' POV certainly keeps things fun and interesting. Quotes such as this one will keep you smirking and reading on:
I was half blind, covered in my own blood and puke, pumping out death from my
pores, and things were starting to look up.
The Digital Plague is a veritable page-turner. If you're looking for a high-octane, kick-ass science fiction novel with a high body count, look no further. This book is for you! Indeed, The Digital Plague packs a powerful punch, with a few low blows thrown in just for good measure.
The final verdict: 7.75/10