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Title: Jack Four
Series: Polity #21
Authors: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
From the Inside Cover
Created to die – determined to live . . .
Jack Four – one of twenty human clones – has been created to be sold. His purchasers are the alien prador and they only want him for their experimentation program. But there is something different about Jack. No clone should possess the knowledge that’s been loaded into his mind. And no normal citizen of humanity’s Polity worlds would have this information.
The prador’s king has been mutated by the Spatterjay virus into a creature even more monstrous than the prador themselves. And his children, the King’s Guard, have undergone similar changes. They were infected by the virus during the last humans-versus-prador war, now lapsed into an uneasy truce. But the prador are always looking for new weapons – and their experimentation program might give them the edge they seek.
Suzeal trades human slaves out of the Stratogaster Space Station, re-engineering them to serve the prador. She thinks the rewards are worth the risks, but all that is about to change. The Station was once a zoo, containing monsters from across known space. All the monsters now dwell on the planet below, but they aren’t as contained as they seem. And a vengeful clone may be the worst danger of all.
Asher has never been shy about biological functions in his stories, what with jain tech invading like a cancer or the spatterjay turning someones tongue into a leech that wants to eat you to giant crabs mating. But in this book he seems to have an obsession with poop and the main character, Jack Four, is constantly voiding his bowels and Asher lets us know about it more than is necessary. Maybe Asher was having issues of his own and so it was on his mind? I don’t know but if you do read this book, be prepared for bowel voiding like it is some sort of contest, hahahaha!
In this story, Asher brings most of his most dangerous creations (Jay Hoop level of hoopers, hooders and other monsters from his various books) altogether and has a prador scientist messing around with them trying to make them even more dangerous. The biggest scary was the prador trying to re-weaponize the hooders as war machines and thralled under prador control. It is scary as all get out but also immensely satisfying when the hooders overcome the thralling and turn on everybody.
It is pretty obvious (at least to me) who Jack Four was based on once you meet the template early on. I was wracking my brains to see if we’d been introduced to any Jacks who were ECS agents in earlier books but there my mind fails. I could probably go find some sort of Polity character list but I don’t care THAT much.
By the end of the book I was exhausted. This felt like it was a non-stop ultra violent sprint. From Jack Four’s awakening to the very end, the pace is relentless and Jack is on the run. With the runs a lot of the time (if you know what I mean) BA DUM TISH!
While I am pretty sure this is supposed to be a standalone Polity story, it is possible that this will turn into a trilogy. I hope it doesn’t though. Asher is pretty good about telling one book stories and this is just fine the way it is.