Shadow of the Scorpion: A Novel of the Polity by Neal Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jacket Blurb: Raised to adulthood
during the end of the war between the human Polity and a vicious alien
race, the Prador, Ian Cormac is haunted by childhood memories of a
sinister scorpion-shaped war drone and the burden of losses he doesn’t
remember. Cormac signs up with Earth Central Security and is sent out to
help restore and maintain order on worlds devastated by the war. There
he discovers that though the Prador remain as murderous as ever, they
are not anywhere near as treacherous or dangerous as some of his fellow
humans, some closer to him than he would like. Amidst the ruins left by
wartime genocides, Cormac will discover in himself a cold capacity for
violence and learn some horrible truths about his own past while trying
to stay alive on his course of vengeance.
The best thing about airplane trips is nearly uninterrupted reading, which, for a book like this, is a sheer delight.
This book is listed on Goodreads as Polity #3, but I think it could also be listed as Cormac #1, because we get to see Agent Cormac's formative years. A blending of events, the winding down of the Prador War and Cormac's background information all nicely packaged into one strong book.
I'm usually not a fan of back and forth timelines, where the characters bounce between the past and the present, but I thought Asher did a good job of integrating the timelines and events through the use of younger Cormac's deleted memory cards. That was a deft bit of writing to bring everything together cohesively.
My main complaint with the plot perhaps resided in the conclusion. Without giving away any spoilers, the book followed younger Cormac as he grows into adulthood, as well as the somewhat older Cormac as he trains as a grunt and, later, a Sparkind. As events come to fruition, the nemesis hunted down, and the big reveal at the end, it all rather felt abbreviated, almost too short - rushed perhaps, after the multi-generational build-up. I hit the end and wondered where the rest of the story was.
This is the fifth Asher book I've read, and I haven't been disappointed yet. Recommended.
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