THE ELECTRIC HARVEST by Tom Davies (David & Charles: $15.95). British author Tom Davies offers a bitterly satiric view of the news media and life in the big city--in this case London--at some indeterminate time just before the turn of the next century. The city is brutalized by street gangs. Public services have broken down. Society is ruled, depersonalized and victimized by the perversion of technology. Pornography, in some of its most sadistic manifestations, flourishes in the form of video cassettes as competing gangs battle for control of the lucrative market. Sex is stimulated by electronic aphrodisiacs and private affairs have become a spectator sport presented through hidden cameras and viewed on barroom video screens. With gross hypocrisy masquerading as "public service," television news crews pour one urban atrocity after another into home screens in an effort to titillate increasingly jaded viewers. Newspapers struggle to match the gore score on TV. Davies' vehicle for his grim portrayal is the last "quality" weekly newspaper left in London. He also focuses on the follies of an aging reprobate gossip columnist who sees his job mainly as avoiding his creditors and people who want their names in the paper and in dunning the business office for imaginary expenses. In his boozy wanderings he is confronted by a weird assortment of cynics, his betrayed, neglected wife and a "scruffy turnip of a son" who pickles his brains in drugs and junky music. Meanwhile, his colleagues, none any more admirable then he, grapple with the violence around them. Like all such works, "Electric Harvest" deals in exaggeration. But Davies' angry portrayals, marred by overemphasis on sexual rompings, and his magnification of today's urban ills, do not venture far beyond the realm of plausibility. And that's what makes this book so frightening.