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Neal Asher - The TechnicianNeal Asher is a British SF writer with a long list of predominantly Space Opera Novels (and Novellas, and Short stories, and…) to his name. He has been nominated for the Philip K Dick and the British Fantasy Award. Most of his books are action based, sometimes overly so to their detriment in my opinion. The Technician is one which focuses much more on characters, story, and developments. Not that it is devoid of conflict, not at all, but the conflict is part of the story arc, and not an end in itself as it can feel in some of his other stories.

 

The Technician is the 4th book in the Polity series (I go with the Fantastic Fiction count, feel free to structure the series in an other way which works for you!); there are also 2 further series (Agent Cormac, Spatterjay) which are set in the same universe, and provide loosely intersecting story lines.

The Technician also is the logical step into a new series (tentatively named Dark AI) with the first book (Dark Intelligence) scheduled to be published in 2015. I don’t know if it’s the linchpin for the new series, or a planned connecting step - either way, it’s fun, and I’ll let you know about the new books once I got my hands on a copy!

 

The story plays, near exclusively, on Masada, after the intervention by the Polity and the fall of the Theocracy. The key character around whom things crystallise is Jeremiah “Jem” Tombs, a former Proctor in the Theocracy, and thus a target for hate (and assassination attempts) from those who cannot let the past rest, and don’t give a fig about the Polity amnesty.

Tombs is special, though - he was attacked by a Hooder, but not killed. This is, as a rule, unheard of. But his attacker was no ordinary Hooder, but the Technician, a huge, 2 million years old (as we learn) albino Hooder. Instead of getting killed he had something inserted into his head, something which even the Polity AIs don’t understand. Too bad that the attack (in which he lost his face, besides other bits and bobs) has driven him entirely insane, which also cannot be dealt with for fear of interfering with what is in his head.

But there is much more at stake, because you see, Masada is not just home to humans. It also is the birthplace of the Dracomen (created from one sphere of the Alien construct calling itself Dragon when it crashed into the surface, on purpose); and it is rumoured to be the homeworld of the extinct (?) alien race called the Aetheter, which seem to have committed racial suicide to escape the threat of Jain technology.

Enough already? Does this sound convoluted and complicated? Yes it is, and there’s more. On the one hand this is a story set in events discussed in a number of books in this series, and other ones playing in the same universe. But this is also a new story, with new protagonists (a Masada story without Agent Cormac! Well I never!) and some minor ones elevated into leading roles, like the War Drone Amistad, or the Dark AI Penny Royal.

There are quite some historical explanations to bring the reader up to speed; and I would expect this to work as a stand-alone story. I would also expect that knowing more of the background to the setting and some of the protagonists would/does enhance the reader's understanding and appreciation of the story. 

 

And don’t get me wrong, this is, especially for Neal Asher, a complex story, with multiple threads, with interesting characters, with character development, and with new light shed on old questions. The chapters start, in classic Asher fashion, with explanatory (if sometimes misleading) quotes and excerpts from a variety of fictional sources. Info dumps, essentially, which introduce the reader to new topics and provide background.

 

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot - it’s clever for a Neal Asher novel, it’s well paced, and the characters are interesting, believable (within the bounds of SF/Space Opera), and have a tendency to grab you and make you root for them. Well, most of them, at least...

As indicated above - this can be read as a stand-alone, but is much better enjoyed as part of the series, and as lead-in to the new books. Recommended.

 

More Neal Asher

 

 

Title: The Technician

Series:Polity

Series Number: 4 (Fantastic Fiction count)

Author: Neal Asher

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net

Publisher: Tor/Pan MacMillan

Publisher URL: http://www.panmacmillan.com

Publication Date: 2010

Review Date: 140611

ISBN: 9780330457620

Price: UKP 7.99

Pages: 503

Format: Large Format PB

Topic: Space Opera

Topic: Racial Suicide

 

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