Avery Cates is a bad ass. A major bad ass. And he knows it. And so does half the world. What’s left of it, anyway. It’s a futuristic dystopia Jeff Somers gives us in this five book series and it’s incredibly depressing, with death and destruction waiting just around the corner for practically everyone. Some go sooner than others though.
Cates is a Gunner. He’s a hired gun, a mercenary. He sells his services to the highest bidder and he’s one of the very best in the world. He has survived so much in this series and is still alive. It’s truly amazing. In this book, we see Cates and his apprentice and friend, Remy, in a South American country, ready to take out a small time dictator. They take care of his guards and kill him ruthlessly. When they go to collect their pay, the idiot who hired them claims to be broke and offers them jobs with him. Cates pulls his gun and is about to blow him away when an Angel appears. Angels are psionics with tremendous powers who go around passing judgment on people and killing them. One has come for him. And so it begins.
The book follows the two, with a beautiful female companion, up to Mexico City, where they encounter an old enemy of Avery’s. He’s been waiting to kill him for years. When he meets him, the man is in a hospital and shows him the stumps of where his hands have been cut off. Then he tells him that he’s bait for Cates. Avery starts to understand. Avery’s biggest nemesis and the greatest Gunner of them all, Canny Orel, is stalking Cates all the while while Cates has been after him. He has a score to settle. But Cates sort of blanks out and wakes up to find the guy in the hospital bed shot dead and Remy having done it. What the hell? He wanted to do it. Before this happened, Cates heard that Canny might be in Croatia, so that’s where he heads next, with Remy in tow. Remy acts strangely the whole trip and when they are on board a boat, where the three of them are stowaways, the crew finds them and sells them to some unknown party. Cates is ticked. Turns out it’s a group of Techies, people who are trying to preserve technology in a world where technological advances no longer exist, where manufacturing no longer exists.
First things first. Cates is knocked out. When he regains consciousness, his female friend has beaten it out of there and Remy is in a cage. Grisha, the leader of the Techies, explains that Remy is dead, Cates had killed him in the hospital, and this Remy is a powerful psionic who has been controlling Cates ever since. The psionic is killed and Cates can’t believe that Remy is gone.
Grisha tells him that the system cops left over from when there was a system are now avatars, dead people who have been uploaded into metal chassis’ and who are heavily armed. But while they have the capacity to keep order, they are about to run out of time in three weeks unless he can get the override codes. And he needs Avery to do it. See, Canny has the codes. And needs to be captured alive. But he’s the most powerful psionic avatar on earth and is holed up in a castle in Croatia, where he will be able to defend himself against nearly any attack. Cates agrees to do it, provided he gets Canny back when Grisha’s done with him. So he can kill him.
They take a Techie team and head to Germany, where they pick up some avatar system cops who will help out on the raid. Cates will lead a small team through a drainage pipe tunnel while the cops storm the castle. Well, shit happens. A lot of shit. People die. They come across zombies Canny is controlling, who are attempting to shoot them. Canny’s being is injected, partially, into a doll-like girl in the tunnel, whom Cates and the others capture. But they’re ultimately driven away.
They head to Spain. Cates is convinced Canny will come for them. He wants the head of the girl Cates took with them. It contains too much of his information and personality for him to be comfortable letting them have it. There are about twenty armed Techies and Avery. Then about ten psionics join them for the purpose of helping to defeat Canny. They set up trip wires, security, alarms, everything, and prepare.
Canny comes at night. They can tell by gunfire and the sound of someone yelling as they die. More people die. Canny’s getting closer. The thing about psionics is they have to see you to throw you up in the air or “push” you inside your head or anything like that. So Avery’s told Grisha and some others to always be on the move and don’t let yourselves be seen. One of their psionics spots Canny and throws him up into the air and a good ten Techies rush together to go shoot at him while he is aloft. But they don’t. He’s stopping them. Avery grabs one of the rifles and starts shooting, but Canny causes a buried hovercraft to come up out of the ground and land on the group, minus Avery, killing them all. Avery takes off down into the cellars. It’s an old prison that he had actually been in, with Canny, some years ago. And Canny appears before him. And they get it on. Canny tosses him around like a rag doll. Cates gets a few shots off. They do nothing. Canny pushes Avery’s mind and it’s horrible, but he’s able to withstand it ultimately because his brain was screwed up by the system several years before and is impenetrable. Canny flies through the air. Canny lands on Cates. He’s hurting everywhere. Avery gets him to go down an elevator shaft, where he drops some grenades and it does some good. Canny returns on fire and everything on top of his chassis is burned off. But then he bull rushes Cates and knocks into him hard. Cates knows he’s going to die. Somehow though, he’s able to get on top and pull his gun. He sticks it in an eye socket and pulls the trigger repeatedly. Tough luck Grisha. Not getting him alive. Cates wins in the end. Final scene: Cates walking a deserted street in Toledo, going into a deserted bar and getting some alcohol. Great ending to a great book and a great series. However, there is an appendix, which is really an epilogue, and it’s completely perplexing. It’s purportedly a diary of someone, a woman, somewhere in Croatia, probably back at the beginning of the troubles. People around her are disappearing. People around her are turning into zombies. And that’s it. What does it have to do with the book or the series? Perhaps I’m just stupid, but I didn’t get it and don’t know why it was included. Nonetheless, if you like uber violent dystopian cyberpunk, this is definitely the series for you. Strongly recommended.