01/04/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Orbit. 387 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK. ISBN: 978-1-84149-705-1) .
check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.jeffreysomers.com
'The Eternal Prison' is the third Avery Cates novel and also the most confusing. Chapters are split between time he is in jail and what appears to be later when he's out doing an assignment that was asked of him. Whether it would be deemed a spoiler to say that he's been caught in the avatar programme, shades of 'The 6th Day' film, and you have to work out which one is which should keep some of the surprise here. Suffice to say, the mission is to get and kill his old boss, Dick Marin, whose entire police force are avatars based on Marin's personality profile. Getting rid of any of these that gets in the way is one thing, finding the original quite another.
This Earth reality is becoming more a battleground than a place people might want to live and it certainly wouldn't be on your regular tourist guide. Cates also has a lot of problems attracting people to help him, which doesn't exactly contribute to the dry humour of the previous two books. In fact, to call this book violent and gloomy wouldn't be too far off the mark.
With these books still written in first person, there's a limitation in what information you're given and it's definitely one-sided. It's a shame that author Jeff Somers didn't throw caution to the wind and switch to third person or even clearly define whom we're dealing with, especially when they meet up. At least that way we'd be left with a better idea of who is who later. Experience changes everyone, including clones and avatars. When even that is established, to ignore the narrative of the avatar, let alone the differences between it and the original's perspective doesn't how the personalities start to differ. A wasted opportunity.
It's a little difficult to give too much about the story here because I've already given away one spoiler in a vague way and the entire novel is based on that. I do think the novel is taking the easy way here and hope they get their act together if there's any more books in this series.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA