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.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Orbus (Polity: Spatterjay #3) ★★★★½

orbus (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:
Orbus
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Orbus is now captain of a Space freighter instead of a sailing ship on Spatterjay. He’s trying to reform himself from the masochistic brute he was before. Unfortunately, he’s rather bored, as the ship AI Gurnard, pretty much does everything. Then they are hired by a reif to recover a prador exoskeleton from the Graveyard, an area in space that acts as a buffer between the Polity and the Kingdom of the Prador. Orbus uncovers a lot of dirty dealing and the fact that Oberon, King of the Prador, is actually infected with the Spatterjay virus and has been for centuries. The wardrone Sniper and submind Thirteen hook up with Orbus and Gurnard to get this info to the Polity so the AI’s can use it.

At the same time, Vrell, a prador who survived on Spatterjay and worked his way offplanet, has taken over a Prador warvessel. He too realizes the King is mutated and that this knowledge will kill him. Vrell is faced with fighting and losing to the Prador, running to the Polity and possibly being killed out of hand for his actions in escaping Spatterjay or running away into unknown space. Vrell is also infected and his mutating brain suggests hiding out in the Graveyard. He takes his ship, and reprogrammed Kings Guards, who are also mutated Prador, into the graveyard. This leads him into conflict with the Golgoloth.

The Golgoloth is a Prador that is over 1000 years old and has kept itself alive by growing replacements for itself (as it is both male and female) with its children. It was the kingmaker for the 1st and 2nd Prador Kingdom and fled to the Graveyard when Oberon took power. Through the centuries Oberon has approached the Golgoloth to return to the Kingdom to work for him and the Golgoloth has always refused. Now, with his secret about to be revealed, Oberon forces the issue with the Golgoloth and tells it it is either it or Vrell.

The conflict between Vrell and the Golgoloth suck in the crew of the Gurnard. It also places incredible strain on Vrell’s resources, which reveals a hidden genetic code in the Spatterjay virus. This genetic material turns out to be Jain in nature and is a squad of Jain Soldiers. The Jain are resurrected and it takes everyone, including Oberon and his dreadnaughts, to destroy them. In the end, Oberon sacrifices himself to gain crucial knowledge about the Jain and passes it on to his successor, Vrell.

The Jain are destroyed, the Golgoloth gets its punishment at the hand of King Vrell, Orbus realizes his desire for action isn’t crazy, the Prador Kingdom is in upheaval and the Polity can breathe easier for a few decades.

 

My Thoughts:

In all honesty, my review from 2011 still sums up my thoughts. Awesome violence between super powered beings (whether of mind or body or both) and we get Jain soldiers. I had completely forgotten they were introduced here. It is good to be reminded of them, since Asher’s latest series is called Rise of the Jain and the first book is titled The Soldier. After this book, I’m totally ready for that.

I do have to admit that I don’t understand the reason for the title. Captain Orbus plays as big a part as Sniper but nothing compared to Vrell, the Golgoloth or even Oberon at the end. He’s the human connector between us the readers and the various factions in the book (Polity AI’s, alien Prador, even the world of Spatterjay) but I didn’t find him integral to the story.

The reason for this not getting bumped up to a full five stars is the tech descriptions that is a regular weakness of Asher’s. He just can’t resist writing about gadget X, Y and Z doing A,B and C and then being totally obliterated by O,F and U. It’s like gun porn, but on a larger level. Tech porn maybe? Whatever you want to call it, it bores me, even more than scenary descriptions would.

I think that Orbus is probably the most violent of the whole Spatterjay trilogy and the Spatterjay trilogy is the most violent, to date, of his Polity books. Be aware of that when diving into these books. Mutated Prador are even worse than a Hooder on a ship of reifications!

★★★★½

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

The Voyage of the Sable Keech (Polity: Spatterjay #2) ★★★★☆

voyagesablekeech (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 Voyage of the Sable Keech
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 593
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Taylor Bloc, a reif and new leader of what is left of the Cult of Anubis the Risen, commissions a gigantic ship to be built on Spatterjay. He convinces all of the remaining cult reifs and a lot of those who had left, to pay for a voyage following in the footsteps of Sable Keech and at the end of voyage this will allow them all to undergo the change and get their original bodies back, just like Keech. He hires a bunch of Hoopers, convinces Janers Anders to come along and kidnaps Erlan to get her on board. Throw in that the Hive Mind Janers is working for is now dealing with another hive mind, the fact that Bloc is insane and controlling a hooder with Prador thrawl tech and that some golems show up on board without anyone knowing why and bam, you have a situation.

On top of that, Vrell, the young prador from the previous book survives and makes it to his now dead father’s ship. He is infecteed with the spatterjay virus and doesn’t know what that is going to lead to. A Prador war vessel comes from the Prador Kingdom on direct orders from the King to make sure that Vrell doesn’t get off Spatterjay alive. Somehow the King has mastered the virus himself and doesn’t want any but his descendants to have access to the powers it gives a prador. So it is up to Sniper, a Polity wardrone, to save a prador so said prador can cause chaos in the kingdom. Talk about irony.

The final storyline follows a giant whelk. Think a giant slug with tentacles and a conch shell. It is hunting down Erlan for killing one of it’s offspring but gets sidetracked and ends up going after some other Hooper ships. A lot of carnage happens, a LOT!

In the end the golems are revealed as agents of the other hivemind, which is having an argument with itself and can’t decide if splitting into 2 minds is worse than death or not. It decides to die. Sable Keech is revealed as one of the reifs, as he has been hunting down Blok for crimes in the Polity. Sniper and Polity AI come to an agreement with Vrell. The whelk gives up on her revenge and just has more babies.

 

My Thoughts:

Dropped this a whole star because of the giant whelk rape/sex scene. Yes, you read that right. Asher delivers a gigantic “nature in the raw” sex scene. Including a corkscrew penis. What the frack man!?!?!?!?!?!? And why the heck didn’t I think to warn myself about it back in my review in 2011? I’m wondering if I repressed the whole thing.

Other than that, this was probably just as gory and violence filled as The Skinner. Of course, throwing a hooder into the mix was guaranteed to do that! I think this trilogy is the high tide of Asher’s violence. I don’t remember any of his other books quite reaching the heights scaled here. Some may be sad, some may be happy about that. I for one am in the sad group. Aliens and entrail ripping just go together in my book. Like peanutbutter and pickles on toast.

I liked this book. I liked all the various storylines and how they fleshed out each other even while not necessarily being needed for each other. I liked the few times that we really got to see the Old Captains in action. I thought the prador Vrell’s storyline was the weakest. However, it did really come across to me just how long ago the Prador/Polity war was. It didn’t happen 15 years ago. It’s been long enough that most people aren’t even sure it actually DID take place. Not only does the space continuum of the Polity continue to expand with each book, but so does the time side of things. This is a firmly established universe and little things like that remind us the readers of that fact.

One regret’y type thing is that after this trilogy I don’t think we see the Hive Minds again. I would really like to see a book dedicated to that at some point. Oh well, if it hasn’t happened by now, it probably won’t.

★★★★☆

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The Skinner (Polity: Spatterjay #1) ★★★★★

skinner (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 Skinner
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 433
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Sable Keech, a dead ECS agent, is a member of the Anubis cult. When he died 700 years ago tracking down infamous slavers who sold their product to the Prador during the Prador War, he was reified and continued his hunt for the Eight most prominent members. Jay Hoop was their leader and Sable has accounted for the other seven members. Rumors bring Sable to the world of Spatterjay, named after Jay Hoop. A world where a peculiar virus gives immortality but with the risk of becoming inhuman.

Janer, a human who was indentured and now works for, a Wasp Hivemind, is on Spatterjay on orders from the Hive. He doesn’t know why and in all honesty, he doesn’t want to know why. But the Hive wants to expand and a world outside of the Polity would suit it perfectly. Janers is along for the ride and the promise of ten million new carth shillings, enough to allow him to be free of the Hive forever.

Erlan. Young hooper. A hooper is someone with the virus. A young hooper is anyone infected for less than 200 years. She was infected and then left Spatterjay to explore the galaxies. But now she’s back and she’s not sure she wants to keep on living. Her mission is to find Captain Ambel and either have him kill her or show her how to live, as all the Captains of Spatterjay are over 700 years old.

Throw in a Prador trying to clean up its trail from the Prador War 1000 years ago, one of the Eight who isn’t dead, Jay Hooper who is now a 12foot tall monstrosity that is practically unkillable, some mercenaries and a couple of AI’s and you’ve got yourself quite a story!

Oh, I forgot to mention the sentient Sails, which might just try to take the planet for themselves.

 

My Thoughts:

This was the best Polity book by Asher so far. It had super bloody ultra violent action. It had dead people, it had the Skinner. That thing is surviving even after having its head cut off and kept in a box by Captain Ambel. Hiveminds and Prador and the list goes on and on and on.

While the Prador War was mentioned in passing in the Agent Cormac books, it was more of a blip than anything. Here, while it was 1000 years ago, we get a lot of information about it that helps develop the Polity into a more realistic society. It isn’t all knowing and all powerful and the Prador War showed that. That is a good balance to some of the power we saw in Agent Cormac where it appeared the Polity just rolled over everything.

If I had to recommend a place to start the Polity books, this would be it. It is filled with awesome new ideas and the action and thrillaminute ride never stops. The other thing is that while this is part of a trilogy, it tells a complete story. The Skinner is brought to justice, each of the characters finds closure in one way or another and there are no dangling threads “forcing” you to read the next 2 books. You could read this and see if Asher’s style is for you and if it isn’t, you don’t have that “incomplete” feeling that a lot of series rely on these days.

This is a good sized book. This edition is only 400+ pages, but when I read it back in 2010, it was over 700 I think? Probably those larger numbers were based on a paperback edition. Either way, this is not something you skim through in an afternoon. I spent a day and a half devouring this and “devour” is a good word. Everything on Spatterjay is trying to eat something else, all the time.

I also liked the introduction of the Hive Mind. Sadly, beyond a couple of short stories in some of his later collections, Asher never really delves into this aspect of the Polity. So don’t get too excited about it as it never pans out.

As a re-read, this almost came across as a new book. I remembered the basic details of Spatterjay being a world where everything was eat or be eaten and that there was stuff to do with the Prador and that a dead guy was involved. But honestly, this book and my review from 2010 are part of why I now review the way I do. That review did nothing to help me remember what I had read, while I’m hoping this one does when I decide to re-read it again in another decade or so.

Last time I rated this 4 stars. This time around, with it still being so enjoyable and such a fun read, I’m slamming that up to 5 stars.

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

 

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