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Title: Brass Man
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
Skellor, that lovable rapscallion who just wants to kill Ian Cormac and destroy the Polity with Jain tech, is back! His personal infestation of jain seems to be out of control, so he digs up Mr Crane (the titular Brass Man) and starts looking for another Dragon sphere. Because sure as shooting, the Dragon knows all about the Jain tech.
Obviously the Polity can’t have this, so they send in Agent Cormac, again. His abilities are growing and it would appear that he’s on the path to becoming Horace Blegg Jr. He tracks down Skellor to a small world that lost their Polity roots hundreds of years ago. Skellor thinks it’s a great place to hide, which is what the Dragon thought too, until Skellor found it. Skellor spreads jain tech willy-nilly to take over a bunch of people and begins killing them. Cormac becomes his hostage and they all head out to space. Where they have an encounter with a brown hole and Skellor gets his and Cormac is rescued by a rogue AI. Another leg of this book is about Rogue AI’s who want the jain tech for themselves and cause problems for everyone, including their daddy, who has to kill some of them. Tough love baby.
Mr Cranes segments are all mixed up memories from his inception to his present state. He was hexed with some schizo software, stolen by rebels and loaded up with a killer’s memories and instincts. All served to break his ego into pieces and he’s been playing at trying to put himself together again. With the help of Dragon, and an AI in the body of a vulture, he succeeds and walks off into the sunset.
Finally, there is a storyline about 2 people from the little planet. One’s a knight who is on a quest to kill a dragon and the other is a young man who was going to rob him until he realized what a badass the knight actually was. A mentor storyline.
Asher likes messed up AI’s and multiple personalities. That was the whole gist of his later Transformation trilogy that ended this year.
Anyway, this was violent. Between jain tech & Skellor invading peoples brains, Mr Crane’s memories, Ian Cormac and monsters on the little world, you run the full gamut of dismemberment to “light mist” splatterification.
That Skellor was a total psyche job. He made for a great villain though, as he was just ruthlessly “bad” and there was no moral grey areas. I like my badguys to be really despicable, the kind of badguy who you can’t help but root for their downfall. Skellor filled that admirably. But with his ending up in a brown hole (I kind of glossed over Asher’s pseudo-science explanation of WHAT a brown hole is) I hope Asher can come up with a suitably good Bad Guy for the final 2 books of the Agent Cormac series. Jain tech and its completely destructive nature goes on, but that type of threat needs a face to make it a villain.
Mr Crane’s storyline, while interesting, just didn’t have the punch you’d expect from being the Title of the Book. He seemed more like the marinade of the story instead of the steak. And speaking of marinade, that knight/mentor storyline. It had nothing to do with this, except it took place on the small world (I am refusing to look up its name because it is too small for me to care about), and they overlapped with the big climactic ending with Skellor, Ian, Dragon and the various AI’s. If this book was an RPG (role playing game), the knight’s story would have been the backstory of a NPC (non player character) who dies 2 minutes after you meet him. It filled up space and allowed us a wider view of the little world, but it didn’t advance the story any.
While I rated this the same as I did back in ’10, I suspect I would have rated it 4.5 back then and dropped it to 4 this time. A lot of my attraction last time was the newness factor and with that gone, blood and guts only gets you so far. Still thoroughly enjoyed it, but I won’t be raving about this book like I might have back then.