Line War (Polity: Agent Cormac #5) ★★★☆ ½

Linewar (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Line War
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #5
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Erebus, the rogue AI that has been corrupted by Jain nodes, is on the path to destroying the solar system. With fake attacks and whatnot, he manages to clear the way to Earth itself. Standing in his way is the haiman who committed murder for a jain node and Ian Cormac.

Cormac has been running all over the Polity, ostensibly chasing down Erebus but in reality picking up clues that lead him to only one conclusion. ECS, the Head Honcho AI, colluded with Erebus right when Erebus first found jain nodes. Its justification was that humanity was stagnating,but with millions and possibly billions dead, Cormac puts the smack down on that particular AI and kills it. A submind takes over but with the spectre of Cormac haunting it should it ever decide to go so outside of bounds.

The Dragon Sphere takes Mika and allows her access to Jain AI, which in turn allows her to deal with the gabbleduck/Atheter AI, possibly.

 

My Thoughts:

Nothing from my original review from 2010 has changed. This was a particularly wordy story and there were a lot of details that just didn’t need to be there. It really bogged the story down. Instead of an adrenaline filled gorefest of robots and monsters I got an indepth tour of things I didn’t care one whit about. That’s why I knocked half a star off this time.

There is still a lot of action but sometimes it felt like it was really hidden away. Also, Cormac played a MUCH smaller part. The biggest thing he did was at the end when he killed ECS. I guess this just didn’t stand up to a re-read as well as some of the previous books. The ideas were really cool the first time around and covered up all the weak points. This time around, I was seeing the weakpoints.

I had forgotten that the Atheter memcrystal came into play so early in the Polity books. I just read a big part of it’s conclusion in the Polity: Transformation trilogy last year. That is one nice thing about re-reads, seeing various threads that you’d forgotten about being more deeply woven into the story.

I do wonder if we’ll ever see Agent Cormac again. He hasn’t shown up, that I’m aware of, in later Polity books. But if we don’t, I’m completely satisfied with how this 5 books sub-series ended.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. Line War (2010 Review)
  2. Polity Agent (Book 4)
  3. Brass Man (Book 3)
  4. The Line of Polity (Book 2)
  5. Gridlinked (Book 1)
  6. Polity: Transformation Trilogy

 

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Polity Agent (Polity: Agent Cormac #4) ★★★★☆

polityagent (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Polity Agent
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #4
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another jain node is experimented upon, this time by a haiman. But she’s a bit smarter than Skellor and doesn’t allow it access to her, thus putting off its growth and takeover.

At the same time, it turns out that the Maker civilization, which created the Dragon, was also using jain tech and planned on seeding the Polity with the nodes and thus allowing the Polity to destroy itself. Well, the Makers ended up destroying themselves first, but Cormac must track down the remaining nodes that they sent with the Dragon.

And if that wasn’t enough, it appears that a rogue AI, that left the Polity after the Prador Wars, has succumbed to jain tech and is actively trying to destroy the Polity as well.

Bloody jain tech, it just wants to kill everything…

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first book in the Agent Cormac series where things weren’t wrapped up by the end. The Haiman’s [a human who is aug’ing themselves until they can handle AI level of data] storyline was the slowest and the least completed. In many ways her plot line almost felt unnecessary except for when she propelled the other plot lines forward. I can’t remember enough about the next book to know if she plays a big part or not. I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cormac tracking down the other nodes and the Rogue AI lines were pretty closely intertwined. The rogue AI, named Cerberus, kept laying traps for Polity ships and they kept falling for it. Not sure if that was deliberate or if the Polity AI’s really were that stupid? Considering how long range Earth Central plans, I’m betting on “deliberate”.

I had forgotten how many people died. Almost everyone we’ve met so far, except for Cormac [of course!], the biologist Mika, the Dracoman Scar and AI’s, die. Subsumed by jain tech, destroyed in battles, tortured and killed by bad guys, etc. Even the revelations about Horace Blegg means he is out of the picture, his usefulness at an end. By his own side too, ouch!

This is fun to read and I enjoy the violence and blazing guns and super weapons and smarty pants AI’s. I don’t feel that this book lost anything upon re-read. Things might not be as “new”, but it was just as exciting as before. If you’re looking for some bloody good science fiction, try this sub-series of Asher’s Polity Universe.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Polity Agent (2010 Review)
  2. Brass Man (Book 3)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)
  4. Gridlinked (Book 1)

Brass Man (Polity: Agent Cormac #3) ★★★★☆

brass (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Brass Man
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 505
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

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.

 

My Thoughts:

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.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Brass Man (2010 Review)
  2. Gridlinked (Book 1)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)

Infinity Engine (Transformation #3) (Polity) ★★★★☆

infinity (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

 
Title:      The Infinity Engine
Series:   Polity: Transformation #3
Author:  Neal Asher
Rating:   4 of 5 Stars
Genre:    SF
Pages:    575
Format:  Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The End Game is in sight. Penny Royal, that black AI that nobody can seem to predict, control or even understand, continues to move the players like chess pieces.

Prador and Humanity move together as the Atheter makes it clear that it won’t be kept on Masada. The Brockle is convinced that it is destined to take Penny Royal’s place. There are a lot of players, a lot of threads and Penny Royal weaves them altogether with a Black Hole.

And pretty much becomes a god and watches the end of the universe and it’s beginning and it tries to figure out how to stop the loop.

 

My Thoughts:

I thought this was the best of the trilogy. With various threads coming together, it is easier to understand what is actually going on. And the ending is the wry humor I expect from Asher.

The one thing I didn’t care for was Asher’s continued needling of religion. In several cases anyone who is religious is compared to a mentally ill person who obviously can’t think straight. I’ve also realized that Asher always makes any Separatists idiotic douchebags just to show how awesome it is to always bow to a greater central authority. I spit on that. He continually makes his point [with battle axe bluntness sometimes] about how powerful the Polity AI’s are and how much the humans really NEED them to run things. But this whole trilogy was about how poorly the AI’s DO handle things. They are not omniscient, all powerful beings. They’re just as flawed as their creators and even “self” improvement leads to problems half the time. So Asher pretty much argues against the case he makes in the first place. So phrack Central Authority. It’s called Responsibility.

The character that I liked the most this time around was Sverl, the prador turned AI with a golem body. How weird is that? But Sverl does a fantastic job of showing multiple points of view from one character, as he has aspects of Prador, AI and humanity, all rolled into one. I don’t know what it is, but something about him just appealed to me.

I think that for whatever Asher writes next, I am going to wait to read the whole thing instead of reading them as they come out. There was too much going on for me to remember everything from book to book and I know that lessened my overall enjoyment.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Dark Intelligence
  2. War Factory

The Line of Polity (Polity: Agent Cormac #2) ★★★★☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

 
Title:        The Line of Polity
Series:     Polity: Agent Cormac #2
Author:    Neal Asher
Rating:     4 of 5 Stars
Genre:      SF
Pages:      676
Format:    Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A rogue scientist begins working for the Separatists that Cormac had a runin with in the previous book. Skellor, said rogue scientist, has discovered a stash of Jain technology. Jain tech is forbidden by the Polity and as the book goes on, we learn why. Cormac is sent out after Skellor before he can become catastrophically dangerous.

At the same time, a rebellion is brewing on the planet Masada. Under the control of rigid belief system that is against A.I. Rule, the theocrats have been in communication with the dragon. With predictable results. The Polity gets involved, the dragon gets pissed off and a lot of people are going to die.

When Skellor takes over the Masada system, it appears that things have indeed gone “Catastrophic”. With a whole planet to loot and play with, Skellor has grown into something beyond human and his abilities are just beginning. It is up to Agent Cormac to deal with Skellor, deal with the theocrats and deal with the offspring of the dead dragon: thousands or millions of dracomen.

Thankfully, Cormac is a Prime Agent indeed.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this just as much as my previous read in ’10. I kept the 4star rating, instead of raising it, because it is evident that Asher is as much a fundamental zealot as I am, but his god is Science and he hates any other belief system. The main difference is that he writes books and interjects that zealotry into his books while I just interject my fundamentalism into small blog posts. So that might not even cross your radar at all.

This is what I like about Asher’s Polity books. Monstrous inhumanity preying upon everything. In later books we found out how terrifying Jain tech truly is. Whole stellar civilizations destroyed by it. Here we see it gaining a foothold in humanity’s playground. It might not be sentient, but it has a Directive. We are also introduced to some alien species, namely, Gabbleducks and Hooders. Gabbleducks roam the surface of Masada eating whatever and babbling words. Hooders eat everything, are impervious to most weaponry and eat their victims alive and by slowly dissecting them with a whole arsenal of claws, blades, etc.

Another thing I like about the Polity books is the exploration of the bounds of what it means to be alive. One character who died in the last book comes back as a golem, ie, a recording of the brainwaves put into a near-indestructable metal body. He thinks about what it means for him to have gone from human to golem and how that affects things. Even if I disagree with Asher’s conclusions, I am fascinated by the questions and how the questions even come about.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this and have no problems recommending this series to anyone looking for a bloody good time. Emphasis on bloody.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Review of Book 1
  2. Previous 2010 Review

Gridlinked (Polity: Agent Cormac #1)

f2b208bce78706c15c3978ba6b1567be

This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

Title: Gridlinked
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 433
Format: Kindle Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

Ian Cormac has been gridlinked for 30 years where 20 years is supposed to be the maximum. Ian’s effectiveness in the service of Earth’s AI is what caused the continued link. Recently though, Ian has started exhibiting signs of gridlink addiction, an inability to interact with other humans and unable to think for himself.

When a planetwide accident happens on the remote world of Samarkand and an extraterrestial alien known as Dragon reappears, Earth Central sends in Agent Cormac. However, the AI always has games within games within games and having unplugged Ian, allows his enemies to know where he is going. Why solve 1 problem when you can solve 5?

 

My Thoughts

Another home run of a read.  Having read Asher starting in 2010, with this book and continuing on his Polity series, it was good to re-read this and see how his writing has been polished up. Make no mistake, this was rough writing; not bad, but without some of the polish you see in later books.

If I had to choose one word to describe this all, Ultra-violence would be that word. Entrails, brain matter, dismembered limbs, broken, burst, or burnt body parts, alien flesh or fluid spattered across the landscape. Guns, garrottes, bombs, knives, lasers, bare hands [or golem hands as the case may be], alien teeth, cars, spaceships, all are used as weapons. It is phracking awesome!

This is a novel, and series, about Humanity and Post Humanity. If a human can live for 200 years, upload his mind to a golem body if he so chooses all the while living in a society run by A.I.’s of godlike intelligence, what kind of society will emerge? Asher doesn’t get sidetracked from his story to show us the nitty-gritty but we do get little peeks here and there. And those little glimpses are fascinating.

To the plotmobile! Space-gates connect planets. One explodes and destroys a worlds’ population. Ian must investigate and figure out what is going on. At the same time, some of Ian’s old enemies are tracking him down to kill him. Add in an alien and my goodness, you have so many chainsaws in the air that any guess might kill you if wrong.

The whole idea of aug’s and messing around with your mind to expand it intrigues me to no end. The idea of A.I.’s ruling humanity in the background while letting humanity grow mentally is also fascinating. Of course,the whole thing is predicated on the idea that something better can come from something lesser. A machine intelligence that is greater than humanity and without humanity’s flaws. Great idea, but I can’t buy it for real and so it kicks me out of the story occasionally.

Overall, I loved this book, was just as intrigued this time around as I was in ’10, loved the violence, love the mystery of the plot and am looking forward to the rest of the series. These rereads have been good so far and so I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let’s see if I can put that off for a bit, shall we?

Here’s some alternate covers, because some of these are just plain awesome. I’m usually not a big fan of putting pictures into reviews, but in this case, I feel some of these represent the book better than the cover here, especially the last one.

star45full-custom

 

 

 

neal-asher_2001_gridlinked

 

20120813-184242

 

9780330512541gridlinked

War Factory (Transformation #2) (Polity) 4….

d256c6276aa7e43ce7408d202cdf0f95This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

 

 

Title: War Factory

Series: Transformation

Author: Neal Asher

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Genre: SFF

Pages: 472

Format: Kindle Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Penny Royal is now taking a more active approach. His next goal is the War Factory where he was created. Room 101. However, in getting there, he drags along a host of his past mistakes which he appears to be trying to fix.

One of those mistakes is Sverl, a prador who is turning into a prador/human/ai combo. Spear, from the previous book, is still along. Also tagging along is Captain Blite, who seems to be more of an observer than a mistake.

 

My Thoughts:

Sverl seemed to be the biggest character portrayed this time around. Satomi from the previous book is mentioned but that is it. Spear, Blite and some other humans all kind of blend into the “human” faction. We are also introduced to another AI, the Brockle, who seems to be heading towards the same path that Penny Royal once trod.

Convoluted is the term that comes to mind when I think of my time reading this book. Other Asher books have been complex and multilayered, but Penny Royal seems totally inscrutable and so a lot of what happens just seem random.  And speaking of convoluted, it helps your understanding of this book if you’ve read Asher’s book Cowl, in which he describes some the drawbacks of time travel. If you’ve not read it, you’ll just nod and accept.

It did not enhance my enjoyment of this book that at the same time I was reading this, all the chaos about Booklikes being sold [potentially] came out. I was distracted and not focusing on reading nearly so much. I KNOW that made this not as enjoyable as it could have been. It kind of pisses me off that a booksite related issue had a deleterious effect on my reading enjoyment. Kind of like a chef screaming in your face while you’re trying to enjoy a good dinner.

Dark Intelligence (Transformation #1) (Polity)

f5c20b1147913d15c73b181229ed7c8cThis review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot.wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: Dark Intelligence

Series: Transformation, Polity

Author: Neal Asher

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Genre: SFF

Pages: 416

 

 

Synopsis:

Penny Royal, a rogue A.I. that went black after the Human/Prador war, is back. It should be dead.

One man and one woman, working with and against each other and Penny Royal, seek it out to find out what has happened.

But how do you fight an A.I. that can turn you into another creature or change your very memories?

That is what Spear and Satomi must figure out if they want answers to their questions and an end to their quest for vengeance against Penny Royal.

 

My Thoughts:

I love Neal Asher’s Polity books. Hard Technology [as opposed to High Fantasy] and ultra-violence all wrapped into a thrill ride where you don’t know which way is sideways or how you’ll get there.

I always know I’ll enjoy these books and hence tend to save them. But at some point I just have to start eating and then I enjoy every minute of it.

Even though the book is ostensibly about Penny Royal, everything is through the eyes of Spear and Satomi, both whom have been wacked by Penny in one way or another. So it starts out as a Quest for Vengeance type story but as you read along, both Spear and Satomi realize that things don’t quite add up. By the end of this book [it is supposed to be a trilogy] it appears that this story is a story of Redemption and making things right.  However, my experience with Asher leads me to believe that the convolutedness of this story is JUST beginning and that I still don’t have a clue as to the End Game.

I did knock off half a star for the 2 unnecessary sex scenes. They weren’t “explicit” but were graphic enough that I thought noting them was necessary.   I also added the “Ultra-Violent” tag, but to be honest, I had to stop and think about it. So I’m either getting jaded or Asher is getting mellow.

To end, a really fun book that continues my love affair with Asher’s Polity Universe.

 

Snow in the Desert (Short Story) (Polity)

646b91d55a75224b31d83af25b28b9c8I started reading this and it sounded VERY familiar. And it turns out it was in a book of short stories by Asher, The Gabble: And Other Stories, and I wasn’t going crazy.

So this short story is about a man who has regenerative powers and who Earth Central wants, along with unscrupulous bounty hunters who want his powers for themselves.

And a sexy cyborg.

Neal Asher just writes enjoyable stories.

 

Snow in the Desert

Neal Asher

3 Stars

Jupiter War (Owner #3) (Polity)

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Jupiter War

Owner #3

Author: Neal Asher

4 of 5 Stars (1 extra star for ultra-awesome violence)

 

Synopsis

Saul must turn “his” space station into a spaceship capable of interstellar flight to escape the powers of earth. All the while fending off those same powers who desperately want him back on earth for vengeance and the data and tech he now owns.

 

My Thoughts

This was really a 3star book. We get Saul transforming the station into the ship, chipped humans on the ship rebelling, Saul debating the true meaning of freewill, responsibility and freedom, Galahad having her delusions of grandeur even while the whole structure on earth is falling to pieces, and finally, we get fighting. And that is why I gave it 4 stars.

Asher knows how to write a gritty, awesome, massively bloody fight, in space and with ground troops. That is the main thing I read his books for, awesome ideas about humanity/tech and violence. He does them both so well.

I didn’t like Saul in the first book, and I still don’t like him here in the third, as a person. As the Owner, however, he makes a kickbutt demi-god.

While it appears obvious that Asher has more to write in the Owner series, I really hope he returns to the main Polity Universe soon and gives us new stuff there.