Sunday, February 08, 2009

Neal Asher's Ian Cormac series

At some point, Amazon started recommending Neal Asher books for me to read. I am not sure which other science fiction book I had read pointed me towards it, but I just kept holding off on buying the books. I was really hoping I could find them in the local used book store to at least try them before paying retail if need be, but I could never find them. Eventually I was out of books at home and needed to order some more so I thought it was about time to give these a whirl.

Currently the Ian Cormac series is at 4 books in the US and one more to come out shortly. This series takes place in a couple hundred years in the future in Asher's Polity universe. The basic concept here is that humans were able to create artificial intelligence and over time these AIs started ruling the humans. This worked out best of humanity as there were much less war occurring because of politics. That isn't to say that everyone happy. This is where Cormac comes in as one of Earth Central's government agents who takes care of little uprising and rogue elements.

These books are spy books. There are plenty of combat situations. There is violence. There are bizarre planets with bizarre life-forms. There is future technology. It has the makings of entertaining reading. The writing is very good and keeps one tied in especially near the end as Mr. Asher has a great way of really building up to a climax.

Gridlinked (Ian Cormac, Book 1) is the first book in the series. The basic story is Ian is an agent that has been in service for a long time and his neural interface has been in too long making him a bit too mechanical to be an agent. The only solution is to turn it off and send him out on another mission, one he is specially equipped for as he was one of the first to deal with the entity known as Dragon and Dragon is back. This book is able to stand on its own, so if you wanted to try out his writing without getting involved in a long series, this is a great way to take it. The remaining books are partly tied together so you are left wanting more once the books are done.

The Line of Polity (Ian Cormac, Book 2) is the second book and looks at another reappearance of a piece of Dragon sending Ian out again. This time you are introduced to a new world ruled by a Theology and a rogue scientist who is intent on resurrecting 5 million year old alien technology that has the potential to make his invincible. In his previous book, the intro to a chapter was like a dictionary telling you more of the world, but in this one you get a super graphic children's book where the soldiers of light are shredded by the local fauna.

Brass Man (Ian Cormac, Book 3) has Mr. Asher returning to one of the villians from the first book in Mr. Crane. Mr. Crane is brought back and you are given a more indepth look at what makes him tick as you explore a world populated by pre-Polity tech humans and a handful of different crazy killer creatures. Once more you find another piece of the Dragon which send Cormac out to hunt again.

Polity Agent (Ian Cormac, Book 4) looks at what happens as this alien technology poses a threat to human and AI alike. I found this book to have the best writing so far as you watch Ian and his regular crew deal with Dragon and Jain technology and how it interacts. This one really left me wanting more though and book 5 isn't available to me yet.

Speaking of wanting more, Mr. Asher has the amazing ability to end every chapter with a segment where you desperately want to know what is going to happen. Every chapter feels this way. Sometimes, I would like to put the book down for the night and it feels like I never ever get the chapter that says you can go take a break now. Another item that I felt a bit put off by is the strange fauna his places on his world. They are always deadly like way more deadly than anything you have seen in a nature show. And the planets seem to only have a handful of species, but that really isn't what the books are about.

Even with these problems, these books tend to fall in the Scalzi or Heinlein camp for me as they tend to be more focused on characters instead of on the technology. Some of the tech is cool and interesting, some feels light and fluffy with little substance behind it. It also only lightly looks at some of the social pressures of the new technology. There is some talk of how AIs are very similar to the humans that initially gave them rise with their individuality, but these seem to be light interludes between the action sequences.

No comments: