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The Terminal State (Avery Cates) by Jeff…
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The Terminal State (Avery Cates)

by Jeff Somers

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Avery Cates is back in a big way! This is the fourth book in the Avery Cates saga and I'm glad I gave it a chance. I hated the third book. I didn't even finish it. As I recall, while reviewing it last fall, I was put off by Cates always being so damn exhausted, so tired, so fatigued, so desirous of wanting to just lie down and die, so much so that I wanted to lie down and die, so I put the damn book down to die. Thankfully, this book was much better.

In The Terminal State, Cates gets rounded up and forced into the army, where he's given a nano tech upgrade. While he's under, the legendary Cainnic Orel, that hard-to-find foe Cates is dying to kill with his bare hands, buys him from the army and sets him on a mission. How, you might ask? With his new tech upgrade, his head is given a remote control explosive, as well as a pain device, so that the holder of the remote can send shocks of horrific pain through his body or even just blow his head off. So, it's do the mission and hopefully get to kill Orel or die.

The mission seems somewhat straightforward. With two others, Mara and The Poet, make their way into Hong Kong City to kill a techie named Lindholm and steal a "God Augment" he has created, which is a piece of tech that gives someone fantastic abilities and powers. Cates barely tolerates Mara, who he figures out is an avatar (of Orel), but what he doesn't realize is that The Poet is also an avatar of Belling, another old nemesis. It's a fantastic mission and it's amazing to see how the three get into Hong Kong City and get to their target without getting killed. One of my only real complaints with the Cates character is he always gets the hell beaten out of him and gets up and keeps going. I mean, he takes more than any human could possibly take and keeps on going. It's not remotely realistic. But it's sci fi, so leave reality at the door, right?

The ending is awesome, with Cates being recaptured by the army and his old pal Remy leading him away to execute him, only to find Remy goes missing from his unit. Great open ended ending.

I had thought this was a four book series, but I found out it was a five book series, so now I'm going to have to read the fifth book. I hope it's as good as this one. The first two were quite good. As noted previously, the third one sucked. This one got the series back on track. Where will the fifth one take us, Mr. Somers? Recommended. ( )
  scottcholstad | May 10, 2015 |
At the risk of repeating myself, the fourth, and not at all final book in Somers' Avery Cates series finds Avery old and broken and tired and more-or-less alone in the decimated remains of a nameless city among the leftover survivors of the nascent war the previous book.

Humanity and society have broken up more or less along technological lines, and people are more likely to belong to the group that gathered them up than the one they chose. The main factions are the remaining System Police (aka SSF, aka Pigs) now made up entirely of discorporated minds inhabiting artificial avatar bodies and the Army (aka SNFA) which press-gangs anyone they find into augmented cyborg cannon fodder. On the periphery are the techies, the psychics and the huddled masses.

With any semblance of central authority gone most of the world is being steadily reduced to rubble and a Hobbesian state of nature by the running battle between the cops and the army. Cates is residing in a small town acting as the protector and enforcer until an army press-gang sweeps him and most of the rest of the town up.

Since Cates was reduced to a completely broken, barely functional, angry man with a gun at the end of the last novel the army's augmentation is simply a way to get him back into any kind of state to be the leading man in another chase-and-shoot-em-up novel. He is immediately sold off to his old frenimy, Cainnic Orel aka Michaleen Garda, along with a remote-control bomb in his head to keep him from using his renewed vigor to immediately frag his owner.

Garda teams Cates up with another couple of assassins and sets him off from Brussels to the last bastion of unaltered humanity, Hong Kong, to retrieve "The God Augment" from its inventor before the police and the army reduce the entire island to smoking rubble. In theory The God Augment is a cybernetic augmentation that will give anyone the powers of all the known psychic talents combined, plus more. Unlike the MacGuffins in the previous books this one doesn't even put in a cameo appearance.

Cates isn't really sure if he's been engaged to destroy or retrieve The Augment, rescue or kill the inventor, and as usual he doesn't really care. He mutters on about wanting revenge, but not as much as in the past, nor does he swear quite as much. Factions within the army and the cops both seem to want to help him destroy The Augment, even as they oppose him. The psionics consider him a criminal against the evolution of humanity and want him dead. Its hard to tell if they want The Augment destroyed or mass produced, but they pop-up periodically to provide some variation in the obstacles to be overcome. His traveling companions own goals are unclear, and of course they are more than they seem to be (and you don't have to be much smarter than Cates to figure out who they are acting for before the final reveal).

From Brussels to Hong Kong overland in a matter of a few days, with no infrastructure to speak of, time is a concept best ignored as Cates smashes and kills his way to his objective with the destruction and chaos lovingly and ornately described by Somers. If you've read the other books and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this one. But this is definitely not the place to start. What characterization and motivation Cates has is assumed from the back-story and barely sketched in at all. References to characters and events past are reminders rather than explanations. Avery is back on The Rail bearing death and destruction.

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A little postscript on the edition and the cover. I've got the previous three books in the trade format and was a bit disappointed that the fourth book was only released in mass market (messes with the symmetry of the shelf). I was more disappointed that orbit switched cover designers. I really liked the Jae Lee covers (http://www.orbitbooks.net/2008/12/10/art-introductions/ ). They were original, striking and well matched to the tone of the books. The new covers look like a generic spy-adventure-thriller-mystery. That's not inaccurate, and maybe it will draw some people that wouldn't pick up the book otherwise, but I liked the distinction of the previous series better. ( )
1 vote grizzly.anderson | Aug 8, 2010 |
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To my darling wife, whose surplus of good judgment makes up for my near-complete lack of it, for ass-kickings richly deserved, and for love I'm not nearly worthy of.
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"Evry'ting fallen apart," Dingane groused, rubbing his dry, cracked hands against his unshaven chin. "T' whole fuckin' world, yeah?"
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That's why I like 'im. He's fuckin' useful, Wallace. Y'wind 'im up and point 'im at somethin', and he waddles over and does it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Avery Cates is an army man. Between the army's new dental plan and a set of first class augments, he's been given a second chance - albeit a quick one.

When a corrupt officer decides to make some money on the side by selling new recruits, Cates finds himself in uncharted territory. Sold to the highest bidder, his visions of escape and revenge quickly come to an end when he realizes who's bought him - and for what. Because the high bidder is Canny Orel himself. And he wants Cates to do one last job as the System slides into chaos. Cates will have one shot at getting back at Canny - but this time, Canny is holding all the cards.
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Avery Cates is in better shape than ever with the top-class augments the army's fitted him with. Pity he's no more than a puppet then, because they've also got a remote that can fry his brain at any second. And now a corrupt colonel is selling his controls to the highest bidder. Avery has visions of escape and bloody revenge until he realises just who's bought him. Because the highest bidder is Canny Orel himself, Avery's oldest enemy. And as the System slides into chaos, Canny wants Cates to do one last job...… (more)

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