[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 26 April 2009]
Neal Asher returns to his Polity universe with Shadow of the Scorpion. The novel covers the formative early events of Polity Agent Ian Cormac’s life, and takes place at the end of the Polity’s war against the horrific alien Prador.
If you’re not familiar with Asher’s Polity universe, it’s essentially far-future space opera where artificial intelligences have taken over rulership of humanity, and are doing their best to stamp out the worst excesses of human rule. But with gruesome aliens and terroristic separatists who want nothing more than to overthrow the AIs, it’s a tough row to hoe.
The Polity universe very effectively marries a sense of paradise-within-reach and the terrible results of technological misuse—it’s gritty, often twisted, and above all eminently readable. Asher knows how to cook up page-turners that are filled to bursting with strange, interesting ideas. In the case of Shadow of the Scorpion, there’s more than a shade of Philip K. Dick and his obsession with the question, “What makes us human?”
Highly enjoyable, but it’s best to read the Polity novels in order, so if you haven’t already read it, start out with Gridlinked—here’s my review.
For dark, literate sci-fi, Asher is the guy to beat.
As a minor gripe, there are some terrible typos in the edition I read, including right on page one, which you’d think would have been caught in editing.