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 Wrecking Crew (Matt Helm #2) ★☆☆☆½

wreckingcrew (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 Wrecking Crew
Series: Matt Helm #2
Author: Donald Hamilton
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 272
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Matt Helm is back working as part of the Wrecking Crew, that shadowy blacker than black government organization that carries out assassinations against targets around the world who are enemies of the United States.

Helm’s wife served him separation papers after finding out about his secret past during World War II and with nothing else to occupy him, Matt returns to the only thing he really knows. This time he is sent after a shadowing agent working for Russia that took out a valuable double agent for the United States. Hooking up with the dead man’s wife, Helm uses her to find his way to the Mastermind. With lots of twists and turns (who is working for who, are the good guys actually the good guys?), Helm bulls through it all in Norway. Using women like sanitizer soap, Helm eventually gets his man.

The book ends with his wife sending him signed divorce papers and a note that she and the boys are now with another man, a “good” man.

 

My Thoughts:

I liked the story. The twisty turny Cold War aspect was great. It was fun, it was thrilling and it kept the suspense up right until the end when Matt shoots the Mastermind.

Sadly, that just wasn’t enough. Helm’s sleeping with multiple women while still married is not something that I want to give countenance too. Someone as controlled as Helm CAN control himself in the area of sex. He simply chooses not to and I consider that a fatal flaw in a book character.

Throw in that he’s pretty “Awww, whatever” about his wife leaving him and the fate of his 3 children and he just sickened me. When he found out they were all with another man they liked, he was like “Oh good, now I don’t have to worry”.

Very disappointed with how this turned out. Matt Helm is no hero and characters like him, with an empty moral framework, do more to destroy this country than any hardline communist ever could. So I’m done with this series and will be moving on.

★☆☆☆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 Empire’s Corps (The Empire’s Corps #1) ★★★☆☆

theempirescorps (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 Empire’s Corps
Series: The Empire’s Corps #1
Author: Christopher Nuttal
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 505
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Stalker leads a disastrous rescue attempt on a slum on Earth and ends up with thousands of civilians dead. When he speaks “Truth to Power” (so help me my eyes almost rolled out of my head at the bloody cliched phrase) he and all 80+ of his marines are exiled to a planet on the rim of the Empire, Avalon. He is given a huge budget by the Marine Commander and very vague instructions.

The Empire is tottering and the rim planets will soon be on their own. Marine Commander hopes that Stalker and his marines can keep Avalon from falling into barbarity.

Once on the planet, Stalker is faced with the problems of an entrenched political/economic elite who want to keep thing the way they are even while that path is leading straight to revolution. Stalker deals with the bandits, then deals with the Opposition forces and the Council all in one fell swoop.

The book ends with a Space Navy ship dropping off a note telling Avalon that the Empire will be sending no more ships to them for the foreseeable future.

 

My Thoughts:

PG’s Rambling has been reviewing this series on and off even though he’s more of a spaceship kind of guy while I prefer the ground pounder action. And that is exactly what this book, and series I assume, is all about: Space Marines during the decline of a galactic empire.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

“Truth to Power”. For fracks sake, responsible people don’t use that hackneyed phrase, only people like the Occupy movement, ie, those with too much time on their hands and no drive to actually support themselves. Thankfully, it was only used 2-3 times but that was just 2-3 times too much. Nuttal also writes about homosexuality enough that I won’t be surprised if I end up dnf’ing this series in another book or two. Thankfully here it was not “PC homosexual character spewing modern liberal cant, CHECKMARK”. He also writes about brothel’s and prostitution and they are both legal in this book universe. One of the characters opines “It’s ok as long as they “want” to get into that business”. It never works that way and always ends up as a legal sex slave trafficking. I was more concerned about the attitude behind it than that it was included. There was also one sex scene that was used as a plot device, so I can’t accuse it of being completely gratuitous, but another one like it in any future books will push this out of bounds for me.

Now on to what I did like.

80 highly trained marines on a backwoods world. Nuttal makes as much hay with this as he can and I loved every second of it. They are like wolves going through a pack of puppies.The fighting was awesome and Nuttal doesn’t make the mistake of writing the bandits or Opposition as complete chowderheads. They are clever and when they have armaments equal to the Marines, a real threat. One thing I was kind of edgy about was how the bandits raped a lot and it was definitely used as a device to make them “Despicable”. It was never described in detail but I just found it bordering on the tasteless with how it was written.

The politics side of things felt a little too pat and easy but considering that Captain Stalker has had to deal with Earth Politics, whatever Avalon throws at him isn’t nearly at the same level. I do appreciate that Nuttal doesn’t try to make his badguy characters to be grey, ambiguous “oh, those poor misunderstood” type of badguys. They are bad, period. Thank goodness for that.

Nuttal is an indie, as far as I can tell, but besides the repeated misspelling of “deport” and its various forms, nothing stood out (depot and depoted were the main culprits). At 500 pages, I was expecting a lot more than that in all honesty. I enjoyed his writing style and his characters had enough depth so they were unique and not just the same character with a different name.

I do look forward to reading more in this series (there are 14 books and it appears that book 14 is the final book) and if it works out, I’ll probably be trying other series by the author.

★★★☆☆

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Gods of the Mountain (Cycle of Blades #1) ★☆☆☆½

godsofthemountain (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:
Gods of the Mountain
Series: Cycle of Blades #1
Author: Christopher Keene
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 307
Format: Digital Edition

 

Background Info:

The author of this indie book convinced me to review it with a rather humorous comment on my “Review Policy” page. Asking for a bad review, that I can handle. He seemed like a nice enough guy when we emailed, so I thought “Sure, why not take a chance.” And if you read the reviews over on GR, it DOES sound like a bunch of paid shills. And he has a BA in English Lit (I believe), so it couldn’t be THAT bad, right?

First hiccup was him emailing me a second version. This was supposedly released in 2017, so I was expecting a finished product. When an author keeps tweaking a book, well, that doesn’t bode well in my eyes.

Second hiccup was him letting me know, in Mid-April, that it was going into audio production and had I had a chance to “look it over” yet . I only got the book in the beginning of March and needed to work it into my rotation.

So, legal schmegal crap: The author gave me a copy of this book for an honest review and boy howdy, is that what he’s going to get. Remember, he ASKED for this.

 

Synopsis:

The Kingdom of Tyrania was conquered by the Kingdom of Aavaria because the Aavarians wanted control of the only supply of a special kind of wood that could be turned into swords that would suck the life out of anyone receiving even a small wound.

Faulk watched as his Commander died in a duel to the Aavarian General and as his homeland fell. Now, 3 years later, he’s a mercenary for hire, drowning his despair with drink. He meets up with a former fellow soldier who specialized in assassination. This Kessler shows Faulk some magic that only a specific tribe in the mountains are supposed to be able to use. This tribe, the Lunarians, are dedicated to pacifism. Kessler was taught by an exiled Lunarian and he begins passing on his knowledge.

3 Lunarians are sent to Tyrania to stop outsiders from using the symbol magic. This will involve taking one of the users before the Lunarian’s gods and those gods severing all connections which will stop that user and all users associated with the initial user.

Faulk goes with them to ostensibly learn more magic, as he’s unaware of the gods true purpose. He ends up being stripped by the gods and then someone reconnecting back to the magic using another form.

While this is happening to Faulk, the Lunarian Exile has set in motion a chain of events that leads to his ascension as Ruler of Tyrania. He makes one of the magic trees grow using all of the stolen life force from the magic blades.

The book ends with Faulk and his Lunarian girlfriend, along with her ex, heading out to explore Aavaria and the Lunarian Exile planning on worldwide conquest.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, the writing. In my recent “Quote” post, I posted just a tiny bit of the book. There were a handful of instances of like awkwardness that had me guessing just what the author meant. I’m not talking about story plots, but plain old grammar use. You can find Editors who will look for and show you how to fix those type of things. Sure, they cost money, but do you want your book to be good? I talked to someone I know, who also has a BA in English Lit, and she said the instances I showed her were what she experiences when reading chinese novels translated by highschool students.Dinged off a ½ star for those instances.

Second, the magic system. The way it was really introduced had me going “That’s a Brandon Sanderson Mistborn knockoff!” Pushing and pulling against magic swords and daggers to move objects or yourself? Vin!checkbox

Thankfully, it does go on to be a “little” more original, but the way it was introduced really wasn’t handled well. Problem is, later things get messy again when Faulk gets cut off from the magic but “magically” is able to reconnect using some other way. Terms are thrown around but it made no sense to me. This happened near the end of the book though so I was pretty much past caring if I had missed something. Ding. There goes another ½ star.

The characters. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be rooting for anyone, or just against the Aavarian overlords and then the Exiled Lunarian. Faulk was this uber-sceptic with the philosophy of a 2nd grader. The love interest, Yuweh, was this magical powerhouse but then would turn around and be this incredibly naive and simple “girl”. Purposeful or not, I didn’t like either of them. At the end, there is this semi-sex scene between them. Up to that point Keene had kept things clean. But they are at a pool bathing together and he describes their foreplay like an awkward 14 year old and then ends with something like “and they laid down and made love”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to read erotica, or even semi-graphic sex scenes. But it offends my completist sensibilities that you’d clumsily yet graphically describe their foreplay but not the actual act? Considering that nothing like this is described earlier, its obviously put in to titillate the reader. But the only people going to be titillated by such amateur descriptions are 14 year old boys. The rest of us are just going to roll our eyes. Ding, another ½ star.

There is a bunch of other stuff too, but really, isn’t that enough? I’m not getting paid as an Editor here.

So lets do the math, because nothing is sexier than a man in suspenders and a flannel shirt doing “math”.

3 Stars is my starting point.

Add 1 for getting me to read the book in the first place.

Subtract ½ for mucking around it with it AFTER it is already published.

Subtract ½ for acting like an anxious man whose wife is pregnant with their first child.

Subtract ½ for Awkwardness.

Subtract ½ for the magic system and Sandersonitis.

Subtract ½ for the terrible and just plain embarrassing foreplay scene.

The grand total should be…..* calculator noises *

0.5!!!! Oh wait, no. Hold on. Carry the five, divide the 2, add the 1/2’s. Dang this “new math”.

1.5 STARS FOR THE WIN!!! (Where is Vanna when you really need her?)

All kidding aside, this wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, not even close. But it was barely adequate with enough issues that I certainly won’t be reading any more by Keene. Between this and Algorithm of Power, I have also reaffirmed my decision about indies in general.

★☆☆☆½

 

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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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Light (Kefahuchi Tract #1) ★☆☆☆☆

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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 & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Light
Series: Kefahuchi Tract #1
Author: M. John Harrison
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 432
Format: Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

So much purposeful distortion that I’m not even going to bother to try to put up a synopsis. Trash like this isn’t worth it.

 

My Thoughts:

I wasted my time reading this bloody piece of bolluxy crap.

The author is a clever fellow. You can tell because he’s always having his characters do drugs, have sex and vomit. Nothing speaks more cleverly than multiple times of vomiting. Even as I’m typing I’m vomiting, on the floor, so that this review will be so much more cleverer.

I was expecting a real SF story. What I got was some pretentious wanker’s drug induced hallucinogenic anal excretions.

This is the kind of writing that I would expect a brainless Oscar/Emmy/Whatever Winner to nod sagely about and say something along the lines of * insert typical hollywood soundbyte blather * or some Literati to talk about its 77 different layered meanings to each of us. In other words, total bs.

To close, this book brought me near to Patrick Rothfuss levels of rage.

★☆☆☆☆

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