War Factory (Polity: Transformation #2) ★★★★☆

d256c6276aa7e43ce7408d202cdf0f95This 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: War Factory
Series: Polity: Transformation #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 472
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

There are viewpoints from: Captain Blight and Crew, who Penny Royal the Black AI hitches rides with; Sverl the Prador who is turning into a human, prador and AI, Thorvald Spear who started out hunting down Penny Royal and now carries out its wishes; Cvorn the Prador who is trying to re-start the war between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom; Oberon the King of the Prador who seems to be a Spatterjay virus infected Prador who is trying to change his subjects so they can survive long term; and finally The Brockle, a forensic AI who pretty much tortures people and other AI who have committed crimes until the Polity gets what they want from the criminals, the Brockle considers Penny Royal to be the biggest criminal in the Polity to date.

Penny Royal seems to be trying to figure something out but nobody is sure exactly what that is. In the process it is fixing many of its past mistakes, most of which are included in the list of POV’s above.

The End Point is Room 101, a War Factory (hence the name of the book) from the war and the journey is getting everyone there at the proper time.

 

My Thoughts:

It has only been 3 years since I last read this but really, aside from from a couple of overall things, it was like reading a brand new book. It probably doesn’t help that the synopsis is so vague because of how many viewpoints there are that are interweaving for the whole book.

Speaking of viewpoints, Asher handled them like a champ. Unlike that rat custard Gwynne, I never got annoyed reading them during this book. When a view point would change, I never felt like I was leaving something undone and wanted to stay. Asher wove his story adroitly and expertly and I for one appreciated that.

The only real downside was that Asher once again delves into crustacean sex, like he did in one of his spatterjay books. I don’t know why he finds giant crabs doing it exciting, but he sure does. Doesn’t matter if it is used as a device to kill Cvorn later on, but having Cvorn cut off a younger crabs genitals, stitch them on himself and then use them to have sex for again for the first time in decades is just not something I really want to read about. However, it is unique. So if you are looking for a unique reading experience, you’ll get that here!

I did like how Asher delves into what is murder. Being an atheist, he approaches it from the complete cessation of existence. So a society that can recreate an entity if they’ve recorded themselves onto crystal has to decide what is murder. Asher, like many technologists of today, simply assumes that the brain and every biological part, CAN be recorded and that we are nothing but a collection of data. It doesn’t bother me because this is a universe in which AI exist. Throw in some dragons and the probability factor doesn’t actually change, if you know what I mean.

Half of the action was spaceship oriented, which isn’t my thing, but thankfully the other half was all groundpounder action. Now THAT is my thing.

★★★★☆

 

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Dark Intelligence (Polity: Transformation #1) ★★★★½

f5c20b1147913d15c73b181229ed7c8cThis 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: Dark Intelligence
Series: Polity: Transformation #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Thorvald Spear wakes up in a hospital. Which is odd, because he remembers being killed by a Polity AI named Penny Royal, almost 100 years ago, an AI that was supposed to be rescuing him and his men on a Prador occupied world. With his memory still a bit glitchy, Spear does know one thing for certain, Penny Royal must die.

Spear tracks down Penny Royal’s old spaceship. With the help of a powerful gangster named Isabel Satomi, who made a deal of her own with Penny Royal and is now regretting it, Spear plans on tracking Penny Royal down to whatever hidden lair it’s hiding in. With Satomi’s transformation having gone a bit further than anticipated (she’s turning into a hooder), Spear abandons her and sets out on his own.

Satomi wanted revenge on Penny Royal for the changes it started in her. But with Spear’s betrayal, she’ll happily kill him too. She heads to a world in the Graveyard (an area of space between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom where neither has an official presence) where she can gather her forces and pursue Spear and then Penny Royal. While on The Rock Pool, a world ruled by a prador named Sverl who also made a deal with Penny Royal, the other Prador revolt against Sverl and he is forced to help Satomi if either of them want to survive.

All during this time Penny Royal has been dancing around and through everything, apparently orchestrating “something”. It shows up at Masada, an apparent guest of the newly sentient Atheter. Both Spear and Satomi also show up at Masada. Satomi is now a complete biomech warmachine, like the Technician before its demise. With such a weapon, the Atheter can now claim full control of Masada and kick the Polity out.

Satomi’s consciousness is pulled from the hooder into a crystal memplant. Spear realizes he has been manipulated this whole time so Penny Royal can begin making good on all the bad things it did while a Black AI.

 

My Thoughts:

The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars this time around was because there was a very awkward, unnecessary and completely gratuitous sex scene ¾ of the way through the book. Other than that, I loved this book, again.

It has only been about 4 years since I initially read this but that is something like 600 books ago, so this was a good refresher. I remembered some of the larger details but that didn’t in anyway detract from my enjoyment.

The first time I read this Penny Royal kind of came out of leftfield because I hadn’t been paying any attention to mentions of it in previous Polity books. On my re-read of the Polity, I paid more attention to that and now it is paying dividends.

Asher is not telling disconnected stories all set in his Polity universe. Each series builds on the previous ones but without turning into a Never Ending Series. Each series has a definite beginning and a definite end, as does each book. You have no idea how much I appreciate an author that still writes that way.

I would not recommend starting Asher’s Polity with this book. While you could, I guess, there is just too much in the background that you need to have read in his previous book for this to make sense.

★★★★½

 

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The Engineer Reconditioned (Polity #13) ★★★★☆

engineerreconditioned (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 Engineer Reconditioned
Series: Polity #13
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 260
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories from Asher’s Polity Universe, his Owner universe and some general SF shorts.

 

My Thoughts:

Really, my previous review still stands. Asher just unloads several times on anything “religious” and even in one of his intro’s to a story admits that’s exactly what he is doing. Makes me wonder why the vitriol. His wife hadn’t died yet, so it wasn’t like he was blaming God for that. In fact, now that his wife has passed on, I’ve noticed LESS bashing of religion in his books. Thankfully, I knew this was an element in this book so it didn’t shock me like it did the first time around. Scyenze is Asher’s god, he just won’t admit it.

I enjoyed the Owner stories a lot this time around as I now had the Owner trilogy under my literary belt. Did make me want to add them to my tbr. Once I finish up my Polity re-read, I’ll probably re-read the Owner books to tide me over until Asher’s Jain trilogy wraps up.

There was a story about the Hive (turns out Wasps are sentient creatures) and I have to admit I would like a trilogy about them at some point. I doubt it will happen and I’d be ok with just some more short stories, but since I’m wishing, a trilogy is what I want.

★★★★☆

 

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The Gabble and Other Stories (Polity #12) ★★★★★

gabble (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 Gabble and Other Stories
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 384
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories ranging all throughout Asher’s Polity Universe.

 

My Thoughts:

Several stories deal with the Gabbleducks, which we know are the deliberately devolved descendants of the Atheter. We also get one story about the Csorians, the 2nd alien lifeform wiped out by the jaintech; from how the story goes it appears that they won’t be making any reappearances in Asher’s writings any time soon. Another story has Penny Royal involved. Since Penny Royal got its own trilogy, I’ve been paying a lot more attention any time it is mentioned.

In my last review, The Technician, I mistakenly claimed that this book explained how the Atheter mem-crystal was found. That is not so. Instead, a bit of the original is used as bait in one story and that is how I got things messed up. The Technician should be #11 in the Polity series and this one the 12th.

I gave this 5stars this time around because of several reasons. One, I really do enjoy the short story format when there is a bunch of them all by one author. It really works for me. Two, I enjoyed this just as much as I did back in ’12, if not more. Third, I plan on enjoying this just as much when I re-read it yet again in another decade or so. Finally, I enjoyed this a ton of a lot more than I have the previous 3 SF books I’ve posted on the previous Fridays.

★★★★★

 

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The Technician (Polity #12) ★★★★☆

technician (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 Technician
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 512
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

We the readers are returned to the world of Masada, introduced in the Agent Cormac books. Now that the Polity has “been invited in”, things are changing. One of the few surviving Proctors from the old regime was attacked by a hooder but not killed. This Hooder, known as the Technician, left something in the proctors head and the Polity wants to know what. The proctor goes on a crazy trip for about 20 years where he just sits as an invalid on a prison island until an AI decides that it has had enough. Things are orchestrated to start a chain of events to give the proctor back his memories and for the Polity to find out what was in his head.

The gabbleducks, the native life of Masada, are shown to be the devolved descendants of the space faring race the Atheter that went extinct millions of years ago. They commited race extinction after being exposed to Jain tech and left behind a machine whose sole job was to prevent them from ever regaining sapience again.

Now that the Polity has an Atheter AI, the gabbleducks and some unknown something inside the proctors head, all on the same planet, this machine awakens. There is a climactic showdown between it and the Technician and some top of the line Polity vessels. The proctor transfers his memories (or, the last living Atheter’s) memories to a gabbleduck and the AI wakes up. The Atheter appear to be on the rise.

We are also introduced to Penny Royal, a black AI. It was split into 8 parts and the 8th was excised, as it contained the psychotic bits. However, the AI Amistad kept that 8th part for study and during all of this Penny Royal gets its hands on the 8th part. It apparently destroys it.

 

My Thoughts:

I somehow messed up and read this before reading The Gabble and Other Stories, which introduces how the Polity found the Atheter AI and does a bit of setup for this book. However, Asher does enough fill in for the reader that it isn’t strictly necessary to have read that book first. It just would have been nicer.

Ok, first. Asher is in fine form with his bashing of religion and returning to the world of Masada allows him free reign to setup strawmen that he not only knocks down, but pretty much uses a flamethrower on. I’ve stated it before, but Asher’s god is Scyenze and he’s as vitriolic and mocking as any old high priest you could think of. That was pretty much why this stayed at a 4star rating like the last time I read it. If it wasn’t for that, this would have been approaching 5star easily.

This was AWESOME. Splatterpunk space opera at its finest. The proctor gets his face eaten off by the Technician and then gets a prosthetic from the Polity medical team later. On his journey he CUTS HIS OWN FACE OFF AGAIN because he hates the Polity so much. I’m sorry, but how can you not love that?!?

The introduction of Penny Royal was good on this re-read. It is a side character and so when I read this the first time it didn’t even register when Asher ended up writing a whole trilogy about it. Now that I’ve read that trilogy, seeing its introduction is pretty cool.

The human side was done just as well. The proctor, with his mix of literary attendants both for and against, makes for a great survival story. Between the planet and the wildlife and the Tidy Squad (a group that hunts down the former regime) and then the Polity forces, you get a full range of interaction.

Asher does good work on single novels. I won’t call this a standalone because knowledge of the Polity and Masada is pretty vital to really understand it but I think someone “could” read this and figure out what they needed. I’m pretty pleased with this read through.

★★★★☆

 

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Hilldiggers (Polity #10) ★★★★☆

hilldiggers (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: Hilldiggers
Series: Polity #10
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 564
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Back before the AI’s took over the Polity in the Quiet War, a group of humans had left to follow their own dreams. Unfortunately, there was a violent split in the group and one group went to one world and the other group to the other world. Both performed lots and lots of gene-splicing and mucking about to stay alive on their respective planets. Once their civilizations reached a certain point they became aware of the other planet and war ensued. The war ended when one side used gravity weapons, the eponymous Hilldiggers, to totally wipe out the underground cities of the other.

The winning side had gotten a hold of an “Object” and learned a lot from it. They held this Object in various cylanders on a space station. A woman conceives at the moment that the object tries to get loose and 9 months later gives birth to quadruplets. These quads are the brightest humans on the planet and seem driven to succeed at whatever task they want.

The Polity has been monitoring this system for quite some time and is now sending in a Consul to see if the system would like to join the Polity. They send in an Old Captain, a man of Spatterjay who is more virus than man. But this man has a countervirus working in him as an experiment.

When one of the Quads leads a military coup, the Consul must navigate between 2 worlds, the Polity and the mysterious Object, which seems to have its own agenda.

In the end, the coup, which was instigated by the Object, fails but ends up freeing the Object, which continues its travels and recon. The 2 worlds make peace once it is realized the victorious world started the war for profit and both worlds decide to slowly look into entering the Polity.

 

My Thoughts:

Even though I read this back in 2011, I didn’t remember anything besides the Object so this was like reading it ♪for the very♪ first♪ time♪. I have to say, I enjoyed this a lot and reading my review, I enjoyed it a lot more than last time.

I know last time I was convinced that the Object was the Dragon that we are introduced to in the Agent Cormac series. This time around, I’m not really sure and actually rather doubt it. It just didn’t fit the description. It would be nice to know for sure one way or the other though.

There was a lot of fighting in this book and having an Old Captain, with a twist, made for a good character to represent the Polity. We also get viewpoints from each of the quadruplets and a Polity Drone. While Asher seems quite able to handle so many viewpoints and to tell one cohesive whole of a story through them, trying to summarize it all is a real pain in the butt.

I am trying to think WHY I enjoyed this so much more than last time. Part of it is that I’ve read enough of his newer books to realize that he’s not going to be writing a Spatterjay trilogy ever again and so I don’t expect his books to be that. I think that it didn’t help that I simply gorged on these back in ’11. I read 5 of his books within a month and that can really detract.

I was able to sit back, take in the various viewpoints and just let the story roll on. I have found that I’ve been doing that a lot more recently and it helps me to enjoy the book.Instead of trying to guess or predict, I just let the author guide me along. I don’t try to fight the current of the book. I am The Tai-Chi Master of Book Reading, hahahahaa!

Another greatly enjoyable book by Asher in the Polity universe.

★★★★☆

 

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Prador Moon (Polity #9) ★★★★☆

pradormoon (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: Prador Moon
Series: Polity #9
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 353
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Chronicling the beginning of the war between the Polity and the Prador Second Kingdom. We see how the Prador exotic metal ships are so incredibly tough and how the war factories of the Polity came into being.

A renegade scientist, on the run from the Polity for experimenting with humans and augs, manages to sneak past the Polity’s oversight and installs a bunch of new augs on several people. One of them is a Separatist and one of them is a scientist working on the Runcible project. The separatist uses his to coordinate an attack on a Polity world to destroy the AI and to open it up to the Prador. The scientist is using her expanded sensory apparatus, under the watchful eye of an AI, to begin using the Runcible system for ships in space and not just planet bound travellers.

We also follow Jebel “Ucap” (Up close and personal) Krong, one of the few survivors of the initial contact with the Prador. They killed his woman, so now he leads the survivors of the world of Avalon in fighting the Prador on the ground. By planting mines on their shells. It doesn’t get much more Up Close And Personal than that!

One of the Prador has been tasked with capturing the Space Runcible and we get a real look at the Prador and their culture. Everything comes together when the Prador tries to capture the runcible and the scientist uses it to send a small moon through to destroy the Prador ship.

 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy the stories about the Prador, mainly because Asher can go full bore violent without offending my sensibilities. I mean, how can I be turned off when he’s writing about giant crabs eating each other and experimenting on humans and whatnot? They’re the perfect villains.

When I read this back in ’11 I noted that it was only 173 pages. This time around the page count was listed as 353. The only difference immediately noticeable was the 173page version was from TOR back in ’08 and this version was from Nightshade Books in ’13. But even then, there are various publications from both companies with wildly varying counts. Whatever, I do wish it had been longer, as it really worked for me.

The thing that kept this from getting bumped up a half star (most times when I re-read something and enjoy it just as much as last time I bump it up) was the lack of a single focused main character. The focus was split between the Separatist, the Scientist, Jebel Krong and the Prador Captain. It was fine, as their stories all were converging stories but I have to admit, I do really prefer a single character that ties it all together.

I’m listing this as Number 9 in the Polity universe just because I feel anyone reading Asher’s Polity books would be best served to have read the Agent Cormac quintet and the Spatterjay trilogy. I believe this is Number 1 chronologically but a lot of what you’ll read here won’t be explained here and is explained in the aforementioned series.

If worlds getting nuked and tech and awesome fighting and giant sentient man-eating space faring crabs are your thing, this book gives it in spades.

★★★★☆

 

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