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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brass Man by Neal Asher

This is book three in the Ian Cormac universe. 

Premise of the book:
From Publishers Weekly

A satisfyingly baroque plot and strong action sequences make up for a lack of character development and moral complexity in this gory space opera from British SF author Asher. Human beings have considerable freedom in Polity Space, a mostly civilized place, but enormously powerful AIs make all the important decisions. Three monstrous creatures threaten the Polity: Dragon, a gigantic being of unknown origin; Skellor, an evil, once human scientist transformed by the nanotechnology of the extinct Jain race; and Mr. Crane, the monstrous killing machine who does Skellor's bidding. Aided by several AIs, supercompetent Earth Central Security agent Ian Cormac must deal with all these dangers before civilization is plunged into chaos. Unbeknownst to him, however, several powerful AIs are plotting to gain Jain technology, even if it means the destruction of the human race. This violent, fast-moving novel is lots of fun, but makes no concessions to readers unfamiliar with Gridlinked and Line of Polity, the earlier books in the series. (Jan.)

From Booklist:

Asher's latest foray into the Polity universe--a far-future world ruled by AIs and connected by runcible technology, which allows faster-than-light travel and communication--is a hunt for Dragon, an entity abandoned by a previous civilization. Ian Cormac wants Dragon to get to Skellor, a particularly nasty kind of killer. Skellor is looking for Dragon to answer questions about Jain technology, left behind by another, long-vanished civilization. Skellor has resurrected the mysterious Mr. Crane, who has been given the personality of a serial killer but has become schizophrenic to give himself a chance of regaining his own mind. Foremost at issue is the Jain technology, used by Skellor to take over ships and human minds alike. Some believe it can be put to positive ends; others, that it's far too dangerous. No one understands what it really does or precisely how it works. All paths cross on an out-of-the-way planet on which the fight over Jain technology will finally erupt. Asher's way with space opera makes this hunt across space a spectacular adventure.

The thing with Neal's books are, they bounce along in this fantastic universe with really cool concepts, ships, worlds, aliens, then the plot comes and smacks you upside the head leaving one a bit breathless as the reader realizes that "da-yum, now I have to read the next book."

The downside of Neal's books, in my humble opinion, is I have a dreadful time keeping the characters straight.  Just as I get comfortable with one set, we've switched to someone from about twenty-five action filled pages ago and it always takes me a few moments to recall, "oh, yeah, that's who you are!".  Then it switches again.  Repeat.  I find that I get annoyed being pulled out of the story so many times, but... see my former statement.

I also found myself thinking that Brass Man had  flavors reminiscent of Excession by Ian McDonald, particularly with the AI ships.  In Brass Man we have - to name a couple - Grim Reaper, King of Hearts, and Jack Ketch, who has a fondness for ancient methods of execution, hence the name.  Ship personalities amuse me to no end and I find myself rooting for them more so than some of the main human characters. 

And, as noted in one of the blurbs above, you do have to read the previous books to fully understand what is evolving in book three.  Not a stand alone book.  Meanwhile, off to find book four...

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