Author: Jeff Somers
Publisher: Orbit • 368 pages • £6.99
What is it about noir cyberpunk and crime fiction? Is there a specific reason why these two are so often put together? Are they a natural fit due to their common theme of alienation (plus of course noir’s underworld settings matching well with cyberpunk’s dystopian tendencies)? Or is everybody just copying William Gibson?
Whatever, Jeff Somers is making a great case for the tradition. The Digital Plague is a sequel to The Electric Church, and though it carries over some concepts and characters from that book, it works well enough on its own. Once again we follow Avery Cates, a wealthy hitman with an impressively-staffed organisation, who’s alarmed when one of his minions betrays him and then people around him start to die in a very nasty way (the eponymous Digital Plague). How can he cure it before it wipes out everybody in the world and, more importantly, him?
Somers has a terrifically lively style and a good grasp on plotting, and he creates intriguing concepts and brilliant characters. Cates is a great creation, alternately arrogantly proud of his achievements and eaten up with guilt at the thought of all the people he’s killed: his moral code regularly pops up, though you can judge whether you buy it. The book’s also full of humour, courtesy of an exaggerated approach to almost every element of the story. You want subtlety? Look elsewhere.
This is a brash, brutal, brilliant novel, gleefully packed with violence. Fans of gratuitous swearing will also find plenty to enjoy, with major profanity appearing on nearly every page. In fact, possibly on every single page – we haven’t checked, but it seems eminently fucking plausible...