As was the case with its two predecessors -- The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe) and The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe) -- this third Avery Cates novel is yet another noirish techno-thriller with a high body count set in a futuristic dystopian Earth. Once again, The Eternal Prison is an action-packed, balls-to-the-wall joyride. It's a pity that so few people appear to have discovered Jeff Somers. The author continues to come up with high-octane and entertaining yarns that keep you begging for more. Somers just might be the genre's best-kept secret.
Although he survived the worst bioengineered disaster in the history of mankind, Avery Cates remains a wanted man. Soon, he finds himself incarcerated in Chengara Penitentiary in the middle of Death Valley. Aware that Chengara has a survival rate of 0%, the world's most notorious gunner knows that he must act quickly before his card is pulled. With the help of a few partners in crime, Cates manages to escape. Barely. And once free he discovers that the System is collapsing as governmental factions war against one another. Burning with vengeance, he wishes to get even with those who left him for dead. But when he's offered the biggest assassination of his career, it's a deal he simple cannot refuse. Yet for some reason, the people he killed lately just won't stay dead.
The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding continues to be a nice touch giving the series it's flavor, even though it remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the story. Somers' depiction of Las Vegas and Venice, Italy, in this one kept things fresh and interesting.
As was the case in both The Electric Church and The Digital Plague, the characterization was my favorite aspect of this book. The first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor works incredibly well. At face value, Avery Cates may not seem to be the most likeable of characters. And yet, I find it impossible not to root for him. His uncanny knack to have everything turn to shit around him makes him a joy to follow. Though Cates takes center stage, the supporting cast adds a few layers to this novel. Among the most interesting secondary characters were Michaleen Garda, Grisha, and Dolores Salgado.
I feel that Jeff Somers has matured as an author. The Eternal Prison, though it remains a non-stop action, shoot them all, and kick you in the balls kind of book, shows a lot more depth than its predecessors. It looks as though Somers has more confidence in himself, and he challenges himself more with multilayered plotlines. Which bodes well for future Avery Cates books.
Filled with wit, intelligence, attitude, dead bodies, and pedal-to-the-metal action, The Eternal Prison is an exhilarating read. Not the sort of thing I'd enjoy reading every month, mind you. But once a year, a new set of Avery Cates misadventures penned by Jeff Somers is like milk: It does a body good!
I'm looking forward to reading the next installment, The Terminal State.
If you haven't given Jeff Somers a chance yet, do yourself a favor and so so now. You won't regret it!
The final verdict: 8/10