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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Polity Agent by Neal Asher

Polity AgentPolity Agent by Neal Asher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The jacket blurb:  From eight hundred years in the future, a runcible gate is opened into the Polity and those coming through it have been sent specially to take the alien maker back to its home civilization in the Small Magellanic cloud.

Once these refugees are safely through, the gate itself is rapidly shut downbecause something alien is pursuing them. The gate is then dumped into a nearby sun.

From those refugees who get through, agent Cormac learns that the Maker civilization has been destroyed by pernicious virus known as the Jain technology. This, of course, raises questions: why was Dragon, a massive biocontruct of the Makers, really sent to the Polity; why did a Jain node suddenly end up in the hands of someone who could do the most damage with it?

Meanwhile an entity called the Legate is distributing pernicious Jain nodes...

And a renegade attack ship, The King of Hearts, has encountered something very nasty outside the Polity itself.

I admit, I'm at a bit of a loss how to describe Polity Agent without giving anything of importance away. It's a bit like trying to describe the universe - it is a big story involving numerous AI ships, Earth Central, Earth Central's emissary Horace Blegg, Earth Central's agent Cormac, a rogue AI, technology that will kill all intelligent life, a scientist, the entity known as Dragon, and a human-AI mix from a construction project....I think I have all the key players.

A robot known as the Legate gives a piece of Jain technology to a mob boss on a arcology world, with the promise of wealth and power.  Too late does the mob boss realize he's been duped as the subversive technology subsumes him.  The same Legate gives a piece of the same technology to a construction worker, but she takes it and runs, knowing that one should always look a gift horse in the mouth - or in this case, check out it's molecular structure.

Horace Blegg, our all powerful human emissary on behalf of Earth Central, is slowly having an identity crisis. Cormac, not quite whole from his last mission, is trying to figure out where all this subversive technology is coming from.  And out on the far fringes of space lurks yet another entity with it's own agenda.

Overall, I enjoyed Polity Agent.  I did realize early on that this was not the best book to be reading right before bed or first thing in the morning, so it took me a bit longer to get through.  I'll be honest, there were some sub-plots that I found much more interesting than others, and I did set the book aside at one point just because reading became a bit like a slog.  The universe concepts are a bit reminiscent of Ian Bank's Culture worlds - grandiose, universe encompassing, and a combination of AI's and humans at work.

I highly recommend this series.

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