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)

Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel #3) ★★★★☆

beyond (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: Beyond the Shadows
Series: Night Angel #3
Author: Brent Weeks
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 699
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The kingdom is safe now that the Godking is dead. Ha. The godking’s various sons are duking it out to see who will rule in his stead and once that is determined, the winner is coming back for some real vengeance. At the same time another kingdom is taking advantage of the chaos to annex a large of chunk and they’ve brought troops to back up their claims.

Logan won’t take the kingship since he pledged his oath to Terah Graesin but she is the worst possible thing to happen. Kylar must kill her to allow Logan to ascend the throne. He must do it in such a way though that it doesn’t look like Logan asked him to do it.

Kylar is still linked to Vi and both Elene and Vi are in the Sisterhood. Who want to use Kylar, somehow. Superpowerful magical swords are involved, as are near immortal creatures and a host of millions of undead. Elene gets possessed by Khali but for the purpose of containing it [as it is a fallen angel] so Kylar can kill her with the magic swords and thus truly destroy Khali.

It all comes together in one HUGE battle is so stupendous that I’m not going to even try to describe it. Kylar saves the world at great cost and everyone is sad at Elene’s sacrifice and Vi still wants to jump Kylar’s bones.

The End.

 

My Thoughts:

Good stuff!

My only complaints are as follows. The profanity still sticks out. Seeing the F word is just jarring. It doesn’t fit. Second, the amount of history we’re deluged with from Durzo Blint is a bit much for one book. I’d really liked to have seen a prequel trilogy following his adventures in his various personas.

Other than that? Rock’em Sock’em Robot success!

True love. Magic swords. Magical killer creatures that are unstoppable. Hordes of undead that aren’t all human sized shamblers. 2000 women who can control magic? Aes Sedai anyone? That really stood out to me this time. It just seemed a very blatant ripoff where as back in ’09 I didn’t even make the connection. Either way, I enjoyed it this time around.

The storyline dealing with Dorian Ursuul, the prophet and son of the Godking, was wicked hard to deal with. He sees the future, gives up his gift because of what he sees and then ends up becoming something just as bad as his father ever was. Since he was introduced as a character who wanted to only do good since the beginning, that fall from grace was just brutal! Weeks really digs into what it could cost to see the future.

The violence is not ratcheted down any either. There was one scene where I just put my kindle down and had to catch my emotional breathe. Kylar was bound on a water wheel to kill him for him killing the queen. His own friend Logan, who became king of that action, was the one who had to pass sentence. Logan also knows that Kylar heals super quick, so the water wheel will take days. He breaks a table leg off and just smashes Kylar’s arms and legs so that he’ll die. A friend having to execute his best friend, having to physically destroy him, it was intense. I had ALL the manly feelz.

While the writing definitely shows that this trilogy was Weeks’ first go, it is in no way sub-par. It just isn’t as nuanced as experience will make him. Heck, comparing this to the latest Light Bringer Novel, Blood Mirror is a good exercise in watching someone grow their literary wings.

It would be cool if at some point Weeks returned to this universe, but at the rate the Light Bringer novels are coming out, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Beyond the Shadows (2009 Review)
  2. Way of Shadows (Book 1)
  3. Shadow’s Edge (Book 2)

Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3) ★★★★☆

memoriesofice

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: Memories of Ice
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #3
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 945
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Pannion Domin is a threat both martial and magical and it will take the combined forces of the outlawed army of Dujek Onearm, former High Fist of the Malazan Empire, and their former enemies in the guise of the combined might of Caladan Brood’s army and the sorcerous might of Anomander Rake and his floating city of Moonspawn.

At the same time, Silverfox [the fully grown woman encompassing the souls of 3 other mages] has called the T’lan Imass together again for the first time in over 300,000 years. She is the physical embodiment of an Imass magician and has the power to reverse the oath the Imass took in their war against the Jhagut. She refuses and this has fallout for her personally and for the forces of Dujek and Brood who were counting on the Imass to counter the undead forces of a race thought to be extinct, the K’chain Ch’maile.

All through this, the gods continue their own war. The fallen/broken god has declared war on the pantheon and he wants to destroy them all for bringing him to this world. Fenner, the god of war, has fallen and a new risen god, Treach the Tiger, has ascended. Old lost gods are finding their thrones and each god is choosing for or against the broken god. And amid the total destruction and war on the souls of the men themselves, it is revealed that this part of the story is but a small part of the overall narrative.

Now THAT is depressing.

 

My Thoughts:

First thing I noticed was that with this 3rd read, I was able to not focus on all the shiny little bits and put the story together as a whole. In previous reads I found a huge disconnect from the leadup to the battle of Capustan to the final showdown at Corel. This time around there was no disconnect and the story naturally flowed without any jarring. It was really nice to UNDERSTAND the slightly bigger picture.

Erikson shows once again that he is a freaking master of writing. The battle scenes were incredible. Vivid, intense and brutal. You can feel the slippery blood, the complete exhaustion, the fear and the adrenaline rush. The interactions between characters was excellently done as well. There was NO cardboard, only flesh and blood come to life on paper. What’s more, everyone was “distinct”. They weren’t archtypes, or ideas, or variations on a theme. They Were People.

And that leads into the start of my issues. With the characters being so real, the hearbreak and despair and utter desolation that they one and all suffer is wrong. In previous reads, I was taken up with the story, trying to figure out how everything fit together. In being focused on that, the emotional side of things were glossed over. Not this time. The death of main characters hit hard. They weren’t alone but had made connections, so when those threads were cut, it was like a spiderweb quivering all over. No on person was ever alone in their anguish or loss. It hurt to read as it was so real to me.

The second, and far bigger issue for me, was the wholesale injection of existential philosophy in a huge way. Existentialism is one of the most depressing philosophies, in my opinion. In small doses, it provides a way for men to show their true grit against completely overwhelming odds. However, in larger doses, it can overwhelm the reader with utter despair and destroy your psyche.

It is probably apparent which happened to me.

By the end of the book I was dreading every instance where I saw italicized walls of text. That meant that some character was thinking and every thought of every character was nothing but despair and hopeless angst. It wore me down.

On my first read through of the whole series, it took me until Book 8 to feel this way. Since then, I’ve had some “experience” with the hard side of life and reading about despair and suffering isn’t theoretical anymore. Reading about suffering isn’t so fun once you’ve had a taste of it yourself. I think I’m going to be taking an extra cycle before dipping my toes into this series again.

More specifics about the story itself can be found in my Memories of Ice Readalong Updates.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Memories of Ice (2008 & 2010 Reviews)
  2. Gardens of the Moon (Book 1)
  3. Deadhouse Gates (Book 2)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Movie)

jw2 (Small)I don’t usually review movies that I watch. I don’t make time to watch many movies and what you put in a movie review is going to be different than a book review. I am just not comfortable.

But City of Mirrors isn’t grabbing my attention and I was by a redbox this afternoon and I really liked John Wick. But much like many books and series, I’ve been burned by buying before watching. So instead of shelling out a good chunk of change, I just paid $2 for a rental. I can deal with that. So this evening has been an exercise in watching violence while doing household chores like laundry and stuff.  Anyway, this won’t be a real review, more like stream of consciousness.

First thing I noticed was that the profanity level dropped by about 50-70%. Those &^%$! Russian mobsters weren’t around to despoil my virgin ears.  I wouldn’t ask my mother to listen to this movie, but I’d watch it with my dad. In comparison, I’d have to have him watch John Wick by himself so he knew what was coming aurally if we watched it in a tender father/son bonding moment. Nothing ruins that moment of father/son’ness like some bloody Russian dropping the f-bomb every 5 words. Even when they were talking Russian!

The violence level definitely escalated. It had to. To stay in place in hollywood people have to act like the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Run as fast as you can just to stay in place. In the case of movie based on violence, each successive chapter has to be more violent just to keep pace. In the extras on the bluray was a short section entitled “Kill Count”. It follows Wick with a counter at the bottom and shows every kill. I stopped paying attention when it passed 75. A lot of head shots with blood spatters.

In John Wick, I was emotionally involved from the puppy scene onward. I was rooting for Wick as he took out the despicable bastards who could club a puppy to death. In Chapter 2, there wasn’t that emotional connection for me. In this movie, instead of being the one to determine his actions, he is being yanked around and simply reacting. He is not in control and it changed how I viewed the movie.

Characters. Wick is Wick. If you liked him in John Wick, you’ll like him here. The villain of the movie, who helped Wick carry out his Impossible Deed, isn’t bad but he came across as kind of greasy and polished instead of the bare handed brutality of the Russians from the first film.

Two changes really stood out to me. In movie 1, Wick had a “friend” in the business played by Willem Dafoe. It worked. This time around there is a man in the business [Cassius] who is his enemy due to Wick’s killing his ward. He is a big muscle bound guy who’s just about as good as Wick. But Wick has plenty of enemies, so one more doesn’t stand out. What he needs is a friend watching his back and we don’t get that here. The second change was in the female assassin. I really liked the idea of a small, mute female killer. She was calm, cool and the whole sign language fit right in with the sub-title idea. But she was simply over powered. She gets tossed around like a doll. I also didn’t even realize she had a name [Ares] until the credits. Compare that to Perkins from the first film.  Perkins was pure kick butt. I almost wish they had combined the characters of Cassius with Ares.  Well, maybe when I do my own movie, “Jan Wihk: Tulip Planter Extraordinaire”.

The best part of the movie? For me it was in the Extras. One of the extra’s was titled “Dog Wick”. John Wick’s Dog’s human [yeah, best of luck with that] is killed and so Daisy goes on the rampage. And the best part? At the end, the police are on the scene and the detective is looking through a stack of papers and says something like “Yeah, no laws against dogs shooting people to death.” I just about died from laughing.

So, overall. I enjoyed this a lot. I will probably hold off on buying Chapter 2 though until I see if there is a John Wick 3 and how that is. John Wick ended on a pretty good note and I’m willing to let it be a standalone if necessary.

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)

Shadow’s Edge (Night Angel #2) ★★★★ ½

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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: Shadow’s Edge
Series: Night Angel #2
Author: Brent Weeks
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 645
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Kylar has sworn to give up killing to live in peace with Elene. They move to another city and Kylar begins life as an apothecary. But his hunger for justice causes him to go out each night, and while not killing, he does distribute justice to lowlifes and criminals.

All of that changes when his best friend Jarl, now the Shinga of Kylar’s former city-home, comes begging for him to do one last job: Kill the godking. Unfortunately, another wetboy, Viv (who’s a girl) is on the job to kill Jarl for the godking. Kylar watches his best friend die before his eyes. To make matters worse, Kylar must leave Elene (who he was going to ask to marry him the next day), for good. Because killing the godking is a one way job. He won’t be returning from it.

He ends up hooking up with Viv through an incredible amount of circumstance twisting and they decide to work together to kill the godking. Turns out Viv is the godking’s daughter and he has a magical hold of her. Kylar and Viv overcome through the magic of love (or at least, bonding magic) and everything is hunky dory.

Except Elene is kidnapped, Kylar can never be with her, he is magically bonded to a woman who killed his best friend, most of Kylar’s friends and acquaintances are dead by the godking’s hands and yet another city-state is waiting on the border to take over. And Kylar still doesn’t know the cost of him coming back to life each time. He should really find out, you know?

 

My Thoughts:

Man, I plowed through this in 2 days, or just a little less really. I started Friday evening (hence my post A Small Selection) and was done by 10am Sunday morning. It was not a “I have to get through this, so man up, soldier and start marching” kind of drive. I just couldn’t stop reading, even while I knew roughly what was going to happen because this was a re-read.

The main downside to this book was that I had just read Return of the Crimson Guard and that book, while leaving me somewhat frustrated, also awed me with its depth, amount of plot threads being woven simultaneously and the battle scenes. Sadly, Weeks did not, really could not, compare. His writing was not bad, it was good in fact but it just wasn’t AS GOOD. When you read two Epic Fantasy Books almost back to back, comparisons are going to happen whether you want them to or not. So read this after reading something by Michael Crichton or Modesitt and everything will be just fine.

For the record, I rated this higher than Crimson Guard. I enjoyed it more.

The biggest upside was a scene where Weeks totally riffs on Star Wars. As I stated, Viv is the godking’s daughter. She’s been developing feelings for Kylar during their stint together. Then, during one of the climactic clashes between the 2 wetboys and the godking, the godking lets it out that he’s also Kylar’s father. So a total Leia and Luke scenario. But it gets better. The godking then hollers out, “Just kidding!” I just about died laughing. Even now, while I’m typing this up, it still makes me laugh. And if you don’t get the Star Wars reference, you’ll lose nothing from the story. It just won’t be as rich.

Like I mentioned in my Small Selection post, the violence here is pretty intense. Thankfully, it is not glamourized, but Weeks doesn’t hold back in the slightest. Also the profanity is at the same level and of the same style as in Book 1. It’s very anachronistic, besides being unnecessary.

There is another whole storyline revolving around Logan, the rightful King, that I’m not going to touch on.This is a 2 weave story and his is the second. It’s pretty much about what a good man will do to survive and not cross the line into becoming a villain.

This book was just as good as when I read it in ’09 and the trilogy as a whole is holding up as well.

*double thumbs up*

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

  1. Shadow’s Edge (2009 Review)
  2. Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1)

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