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I have to adLineOfPolitymit that I found The Line of Polity by Neal Asher well and truly entertaining:
Masada, a non-Polity world without breathable atmosphere, is ruled (with an iron fist) by the Theocracy, who live in cylinder worlds orbiting it, and who control the population with a grid of Laser arrays around the planet. You step out of line, and you’re dead. God’s will, obviously.
But the Polity is expanding, and the ‘Line of Polity’ will be drawn across it soon, thus subsuming the world to Polity AI rule. You can see why the Theocracy is unhappy about this. The Underground (Rebels, living literally underground due to the Laser arrays), on the other hand, can’t wait for the Polity to intervene…

One strand of the story follows the pond worker Eldene, as she, with the help of ECS Agent/Undercover Rebel Fethan (a cyborg, nevertheless), escapes from her ‘work supervisors’ and makes the long and dangerous way to the mountains and the Rebel’s cave systems. Under way we are being introduced to Masada’s native flora and fauna – there’s some classic Asher there…
Another strand starts on Cheyne III (yup, the world where Gridlinked starts, too), where Thorn, now an ECS agent since the death of his fellow Sparkind soldier Gant, mucks up an undercover assignment when he runs into Deacon Aberil Dorth of the Theocracy (same one!), and is rescued by John Stanton, of all people. John takes him to the Lyris, his space ship, and after a stop-over on Elysium to load some serious contraband, they descend on Masada to deliver these weapons, drones etc to Lellan Stanton, John’s sister, who leads the rebel force.
ECS Agent Cormack, accompanied by Gant (who had a memplant into a Golem chassis after his death) and Scar the Dracoman is on the tail of Skellor, the rogue genius scientist who has linked himself to a Crystal Matrix AI, and who has working Jain technology linked to himself. Not something ECS will tolerate, not at all. On board of the Polity Dreadnought ‘Occam Razor’ they are called to the aid of some survivors from the Runcible station ‘Miranda’, which was destroyed using a Nano-mycelium, Dragon’s weapon of choice for such attacks. Soon they find Dragon, but are taken over by the Skellor/AI/Jain symbiont, and are rescued by Dragon himself, who takes them, for reasons of his own, to Masada…
Now guess where the action really starts! :-D


This is classic Neal Asher – it starts in space, as fully blown Space Opera, and then descends into the dirt (Masada, this time) and turns bloody and military. It is a survivor story, leaving lots and lots of bodies on the roadside on the way to its conclusion.
The technology in the story is used incidential, and not as main driver (except for the mysterious, millennia-old Jain). We have matter transmitters (‘Runcibles, see the Gridlinked Review for an explanation of those), we have ‘underspace’ travel and communications, augmentations of life forms, seriously advanced bio-sciences and nano-technology, all the usual SF weapons from Lasers and Railguns to Anti-Photon guns and Nukes, memplants as brain-backups, Golems, Cyborgs, Suspended Animation coffins… classic Space Opera fare, used to great effect.
The political side is touched on a few times – the Polity and its expansion (see ance again the Gridlinked Review for details), which is like Bank’s ‘culture’ except that the AIs are in charge here and not just normal citizens (someone explains that humans build machines to carry things, move faster etc, and now they also have build machines that are better at governing than humans). We also get a very graphic demonstrations (cue blood and paranoia) of the foibles of a religious governing class – and they get all they deserve!
Another delightful part of the book concerns the Masadan wildlife – the place has the full complement of carnivorous monsters (Hooders, Heroynes, Siluroynes, Gabbleducks), although one of them, the Hooder, also seems to take metal (I doubt that this is the last we here of these!)

And the moral of the story? Actually, the story is very simple from a moral point of view, the most ambiguous players from a moral perspective are the mysterious Dragon, and the ex-separatist mercenary John Stanton, who is still in the process of redeeming himself in ECS’ eyes.
Despite what several websites claim this ain’t a follow-up to ‘The Skinner’, the original Polity story. In my eyes this is much more of a sequel to Gridlinked, and thus mainly an Agent Cormack Novel, but different strokes to different people and all that...
It is a great adventure story, with an interesting and well executed plot. The book proved to by practically unputdownable (as nu-english has it); you root for (most) protagonists and suffer with them during set-backs. I found this an excellently entertaining read, the action (and a lot of it is Action!) does not let up. Don’t try to re-read this, though – once you know the story you will notice that the book doesn’t have hidden depths (or they are very well hidden indeed).
Well written and entertaining – I can only recommend it, especially for those moments when you don’t feel up to those cranially challenging reads!

Title: The Line of Polity
Series: Agent Cormac
Series Number: 2
Author: Neal Asher
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher: Tor
Publisher URL: http://www.toruk.com
Publication Date: 2003
Review Date: 13 March 2006
ISBN: 0330484354
Price: UKP 7.99
Pages: 663
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Space Opera

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