As I mentioned in my reviews of the previous short fiction pieces, in the original series 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. And it certainly continues to be the case in these short stories and novellas!
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, everyone seems to be looking for Cates. Some to recruit him for God knows what, some to capture him.
The Iron Island and its prequel, The Pale, are novella-length installments chronicling the events 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. Time will tell, of course, but it appears that Somers has enough material for another compelling story featuring an endearing group of disparate misfits.
Here's the blurb:
The fourth episode of the exciting new Avery Cates adventure finds Avery en route to the mysterious Iron Island, where he will finally learn why he's on everybody's To Do List, and forge some surprising new alliances.
The post-apocalyptic worldbuilding continues to give the series its distinctive flavor. As was the case with its predecessor, 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. 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. The setting is much different in this one, what with the bulk of the action taking place on a military platform in the Atlantic.
And since everything Cates touches has a tendency to turn to shit, the gunner always finds ways to find himself up to his neck into trouble. 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's evident that fate is not through with Avery Cates yet. And now that he's been captured and taken to the middle of the ocean, his options are incredibly limited.
As is Somers' wont, the first person narrative filled with wise cracks and dark humor makes for a fun reading experience. As I always say, 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 fool. He's in over his head yet again, but that's nothing new for Cates.
With the revelation that the SFF built a failsafe installation designed as a fallback base in case the war went badly, as a final repository of armament, equipment, ammunition, and data, it's obvious what the Stormers are after. Its location is classified, but it's a place where the remnant of the SFF could remake the world anew. And the last existing field reports all name Avery Cates as the final possessor of the details: The location, the access codes, the authorization sequence. At first, the gunner has no idea what they are talking about. And then he realizes why everyone is looking for him and why he needs to escape from the platform.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, or so the saying goes. . .
The final verdict: 7.5/10
As was the case with the other short stories and novella, you can download The Iron Island for only 0.99$ here.