Avery Catesss is the Preciousss

Have I mentioned how much I love Jeff Somers‘ Avery Cates series?

I’m sure I’ve left  a clue or two around here . . .

Speaking of clues, Mr. Somers is offering copies of his latest Avery Cates book, Final Evolution, to the first ten people to solve the puzzle on his website.

Speaking further of clues, it’s become obvious that I’m missing one, perhaps several.  I’ve been working on the puzzle off and on all day, but can’t quite crack it.*

It’s possible my impatience—a kinder word than obsession— is getting in the way.  Or I’m really that dense, which I can’t deny  — I slept through my alarm this morning for the first time since Sunny was a newborn, and the caffeine isn’t doing much.

It’s not like I haven’t had the book preordered since it was possible, but it won’t be out until the end of June.  And there’s something about a free pre-release that channels my inner Gollum.  We wantsss it, the preciousss.  We wantsss it now.

Besides, that puzzle is mocking me.

If you decide to give the puzzle a try, I have one request:  please, please, PLEASE let me read it after you do?  We could call it an early birthday presssent . . .

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* I’m about to call in my mother, who hasn’t missed a single episode of Wheel of Fortune since 1975, does paragraph cryptograms in under twenty minutes, and could have been a code-breaker in any war of your choosing.

Book Review: Terminal State

I knew there were four books (so far) in the Avery Cates series when I started reading it a month or two ago.  I’d assumed, as anyone would, that the main character would be around for that fourth book—or the person in charge of these things would have named the series something a little less specific.  The SFN Files, maybe, or Nietzsche’s Children.  Tales from FUBARworld.

It’s a testament to Jeff Somers’ skill that it still feels like a spoiler to mention that Avery Cates survived Fate’s last attempt to splatter him like a hissing cockroach under a combat boot.

But survival is pretty much Avery’s sole superpower . . . which brings me to Terminal State.

After Eternal Prison, Avery Cates is feeling every one of his past adventures.  He’s earning bed and beverage protecting a small no-horse town from people like him while he recuperates and plans a personal job:  going after legendary gunner Canny Orel, who played him, betrayed him, and left him to the mercies of the System Security Force and their mind-sucking Avatar tech.

Before he can do more than find a possible location, Avery’s swept up in a drafting raid by the System of Federated Nations Army.  Like the rest of the new recruits, he’s retrofitted with salvaged neurotech that augments his body’s systems.  The augments make him feel better than he has in his entire life . . . but as usual, he’s not in charge of the remote—or the kill switch.  Worse, his new CEO just sold him and his control box on the black market.  To Canny Orel.   

And now Avery Cates has two missions: break into besieged Hong Kong and rip the ultimate piece of neurotech out of its creator’s head . . . and live long enough to kill his new puppetmaster.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book, from the classic bit of Catesverse irony in the prologue to the forehead-slapping double reveal and triple betrayal near the end.   A Monk even has a great cameo as a Deus Ex Machina—how freaking cool is that?

There’s also an inside joke or two:  I don’t know if Mr. Somers has been waiting to use that particular Lewis Carroll quote or if its use was spontaneous, but he chose a righteous spot for it.

But as exciting as these books are, what sets the Avery Cates series apart for me is the psychological and emotional layers woven through the storylines.  Seriously.* Jeff Somers doesn’t phone this stuff in and it’s obvious that there’s a bit more to his prepwork than rewatching Escape from New York and skimming the contusion and gunshot chapters in the Writer’s Guide to Grievous Bodily Harm.

Avery himself may assume that he’s the poster child for nihilism, but he never quite manages it.  He’s not a nice person, he’s not altruistic, and if this were the Mikado, his “Little List” song would be the longest solo on record . . . but he isn’t a sociopath.  It would be a lot easier for him if he was—but nothing about Avery is easy. Or simple.  

There’s a center to Avery—call it a code, chutzpah, weltschmerz, whatever—that I think earns him a kind of respect, bordering on hero worship in certain impressionable age groups, wherever he goes.  He tends to discount this as a result of his reputation as a killer—“Avery Cates the Gweat and Tewwible”—but there’s a moment in Terminal State where he’s told that a very dangerous man believes Avery’s word is good. 

This may only mean that this man believes Avery will stay bought . . . but in Avery’s world, that’s not insignificant.

Neither is this series.

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*The appendices are a must read, too.  These are scenes from other characters’ POVs, explorations of Avery’s world, and other things that wouldn’t fit into a fast-paced, first-person narration.  Layers upon layers.

Random Thursday Thoughts . . . With Even More Random!

The Potty-Training Cold War appears to have reached détente.*  Sunny is running for the potty without reminders**—she even tells us to pause whatever we’re doing until she comes back.  Her, ah, solid output, shall we say, has also regulated itself, so that we aren’t all anxiously observing her from across the room on Day Three like a bomb squad, hoping our response time is up to sniff snuff.    It’s a glorious feeling of  (please pardon the pun) relief.

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Free ‘flu shots at the library today for city employees!  After filling out the form and standing in line for a while, I discovered two things:  they don’t give you the ‘flu shot if they hear you coughing like Violetta in La Traviata, so I have to go to an alternate location next week.    Also, it’s the largest, strongest people (think Public Works or Fire Department) who have both the worst needle phobias and co-workers who will never, ever, let them forget the time they fainted, wiping out the city nurse.***

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The books on Medieval Spain that I’m borrowing through Interlibrary Loan are starting to come in—I’m hoping to set my next story there.  It’s a fascinating time and place—beautiful architecture, music, poetry . . . and Muslims, Christians, and Jews all lived together in apparent tolerance and even harmony.  One wonders what they knew that so many of us refuse to?  Maybe I’ll find out.

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All the teachers on Janie’s report card stated that she needed to pay more attention to them in the classroom, with the exception of her art instructor, who said, “Janie is in her own wonderful, artistic world.” 

I like that woman.

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I just finished Jeff Somer’s Eternal Prison.  I’m planning on doing a review, because the Avery Cates series is holy cow amazing—but I just want to say that the last two pages of Part One dropped my jaw so hard it hurt. I’m not the world’s most gullible reader,^ but you got me, Mr. Somers.  It worked.

 

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My famous baked chicken nuggets tonight—or, I hope, my husband’s.  Same recipe, except in his version—and this is very important—I don’t have to cook.

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*That starving-woodpecker sound you hear is me knocking wood.

**Which had become a matter as delicately balanced as nuclear disarmament negotiations:  ask just once too often, and she’d close down talks, preferring to let her eyeballs float than set foot in the bathroom.

*** She remembers this, too, and has everyone taller than her sit down before she comes near them.  Smart lady.

^Stop laughing, you guys—I said reader.