Avery Cates: The Pale

As I mentioned in my reviews of the previous short stories, with The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe), The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe), The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe), The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe), and The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe), Jeff Somers introduced us to Avery Cates, a not very likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Down on his luck most of the time and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative has been a highlight since the opening chapter of the very first volume.

As you should know by now, I've been pimping Somers' series as much as possible every time a new volume was published. Although it had been five years since the last installment, it was nice to be reunited with Avery Cates in "The Shattered Gears" and "The Walled City", the first two short stories chronicling the aftermath of the original book sequence.

The last volume, The Final Evolution, appeared to bring the overall story arc to an end and no further misadventures seemed to be forthcoming for our favorite gunner. But now, someone is looking for Cates. Someone set up a trap to capture him. And in "The Shattered Gears" we found out that the answers he's looking for might be in Moscow. Only Moscow got turned into slag during the war. In "The Walled City", Cates now knew that some people are indeed after him and he's trying to discover who they are and why they're searching for him. Problem is, first he needs to survive in a world where mankind seems to be on the brink of extinction.

Here's the blurb:

Continuing from The Shattered Gears and The Walled City, Avery tries to put distance between himself and The Angels and meets an old man with an unusual companion named The Pale. When they accompany Avery thinking he'll provide them protection on the road, they come to regret it. Because someone's hunting Avery.

The Pale and its sequel, The Iron Island, are novella-length installments following the tale which began in "The Shattered Gears" and "The Walled City." Jeff Somers had no idea that this tale would grow in the telling when he initially set out to write the first short story. Which is why he elected to self-publish them. As things stand, the author plans to group those two short stories and the four novellas (there are two more on the way) into a single novel when they have all been released. This book would act as the first volume in what Somers plans to be a new trilogy. Whether or not there is enough interest from Orbit (the imprint which published the original series) or other publishers will determine if this new series will be published the old-fashioned way, or if it will continue to be self-published. Only time will tell. . .

The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding is a nice touch which continues to give the series its distinctive flavor. Though it boasts a bigger wordcount than the two short stories, being a piece of short fiction means that this aspect remains in the background and doesn't intrude on the tale itself. And yet, readers of the Avery Cates series will definitely feel on familiar grounds as they go through The Pale. Now that the entire world order has collapsed, powerful individuals are manoeuvering to carve up small kingdoms and city-states for themselves. With most technology no longer working, psionics are gradually coming into power around the world. And one of the most powerful psionics alive appears to be searching for Cates.

As always, the first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for an enjoyable reading experience. As I said numerous times, Avery Cates is a despicable, manipulative, immoral, lousy, and sick fuck. Yet for all his faults and shortcomings, it's well nigh impossible not to root for the poor sod.

Thankfully, you can always count on Cates to somehow find himself in deep trouble, even when he's not looking for it. And now that he's actually looking for it, you can be sure that he's going to find it! With former Stormers from the System trying to recruit him and what might be the strongest psionic left in the world attempting to capture him, it seems that fate is not through with Avery Cates yet.

Indeed, the gunner will find out the hard way that his freedom of choice is limited.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

As was the case with the first two short stories, you can download The Pale for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the book trailer:

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