The Eternal Prison (book, Jeff Somers, 2010)
A review from SFX 193.
Jeff Somers/Orbit/ 390 pages/ £7.99
Gunner Avery Cates smokes and kills his way through an increasingly sorry future.
For those new to the adventures of Avery Cates (including yours truly), they’re this: Cates is an assassin from a school of fiction so hard boiled that, were it an egg shot from a gun, it would prove more efficacious a munition than depleted uranium. Cates kills, he quips, he smokes endless fags, and because 1930s-era America just wasn’t desperate enough for Cates, his creator Somers has dreamt up a whole future for his ultra-gumshoe that has a damn good go at redefining the word “shitty”.
It kind of works.
In this, the third of the novels, even Cates starts off having had enough, but when someone incarcerates him in Chengara, the nastiest prison on the planet and one with a horrendous secret to boot, it presses all his vengeance buttons, and another killing spree is in the offing. There’s a ton of twists and hair-raising escapade it’d be a shame to blow, so that’s that on the plot. Suffice it to say, close to gripping covers it.
Some laud Somers; that isn’t going to happen overly here. The plot relies of far too much fortuitous coincidence to keep Cates alive, and Cates himself relies far too much on a pair of techie characters to do what he can’t, which, seeing as we’re looking at a run down but hi-tech future, is quite a lot. The techies pull endless rabbits out of hats so Cates can gun some other deserving fucker down, and do another deal far the wrong side of dirty. Those lauding some mentioned above might say that this is enough, but you’ve only got to look at Neal Asher to find stories of similar ball-cracking intensity that are also top-rate SF. Sure, Somers has a way with words that early Asher lacked, but it’s cynical posture, all swearing and ciggies and guns.
Still, damn good fun.