on 10 November 2003
My first Neal Asher novel (and his too, I subsequently found). It was a good read - full of nice ideas, good tech, good settings and nice plot twists (though I did guess some bits in advance of reading them). It got me involved in the characters to the extent that I cared if they lived or died, even causing a stir of emotion when one or the other occured. It even made my me laugh out loud a couple of times (at genuine humour, rather than in ridicule)
I liked the settings of the novel, and the future that Asher describes; I like the hero, Cormac, and his companions the Sparkind soldiers, the golem androids, and his shuriken; I liked the lead villain Pelter and HIS companions, Mr Crane, Stanton and the mercenaries; Hell, I even liked the runcible AI's.
But did I like Dragon or The Maker? No way - I found them a bit "unbelieveable", even in this future context, and a bit too "comic book". And did I like the ending of the book? Even more "no way". In fact, did I even understand the ending of the book?
I read the last few pages again and again to try to figure it out. When I started reading the sequel "The Line Of Polity" I had to read the end of "Gridlinked" yet again, because I still didn't get what happened with the Dracomen! And I'm happy (I guess) to read other reviewers here who were equally confused.
Well, I think it's with some dismay that I find Dragon and a Dracoman in "The Line Of Polity", but hey, onwards and upwards and lets see how the plot develops.
on 7 March 2004
In Asher’s glittering future galaxy, Earth is at the centre of a ‘Polity’ of AI-governed worlds, connected by various ‘runcibles’ (portals which instantly transport matter to another portal elsewhere in the galaxy) so called because the interface adopts the shape of a reflective spoon.
Asher’s ‘Polity’, which is in effect a benign AI dictatorship, is seen in the novel as a safe, happy place to live, although the ‘quotation’ chapter prefaces gradually make us aware that AIs are capable of the manipulation of data and have, in effect, rewritten history to suit their own purposes. No system is perfect, as Asher subtly and cleverly points out.
Outside the Polity are other human-colonised worlds which have been supplying Separatists with arms and explosives. Ian Cormac a ‘gridlinked’ ECS (Earth Central Security) Agent, has infiltrated a Separatist cell and is forced to kill Angelina Pelter when his cover is blown, leaving her vain and psychopathic brother Arian vowing vengeance.
Meanwhile, on the planet Samarkand the unthinkable has happened. A runcible has exploded, destroying most of the AI controlling it and ten thousand people.
Cormac is recalled and advised by Horace Blegg (a strange Japanese and apparently immortal human) to relinquish the augments and AI links which he has been relying on for the last thirty years; to regain his human responses and investigate the disaster.
It’s an extraordinarily impressive debut novel, one of those you wish was longer. Most novels of 500+ pages tend to be inflated with extraneous fluff. This however, is dense, tight and wastes not a word.
Asher handles the multi-character viewpoint well and makes excellent use of pre-chapter ‘quotations’ from publications of the future which tell their own story and shed some light on the background to the action.
It seems clear however that the story will have to continue in another novel, since several questions are left unanswered.
on 25 September 2006
I really enjoyed this book from the start even though I thought the ending was a little too obvious. I'm looking forward to the next in the series (on order) and will "make do" with another of his books - "The Skinner" which I have only just started.
Some of the other reviewers have said that Asher's writing falls short of the mark, but I found the book fine and it stands on my shelf next to Iain M Banks and Peter F Hamilton, and just one shelf up from Elizabeth Moon.
on 12 June 2001
This book I just grabbed at a bookstore, while I was in Copenhagen. Didn't know what to expect. The result however was quite convincing. Great scope, thrilling storyline and a nice crop of characters. And it all flows through at a breathtaking pace. I allmost thought of Banks ... So why not 5 stars: Well, would someone please explain to me, how it all ads up. Asher either ran out of battery on his laptop or just decided, that two and a half page would be quite enough to explain 400 pages of complicated and intruiging storytelling. I read the ending again - and again. And I still don't quite get it (very annoying). But other than that I'll have to say: what a ride!
on 17 February 2005
Take a large dollop of Dan Simmons Hyperion cantos, a couple of spoonfuls of Alastair Reynolds Space Operas, a dash of Richard Morgan and some Peter F Hamilton style cyber-punk. Mix with some sparkle and hey presto you have Neal Asher's 'Gridlinked'
The plot is fast and the background is detailed, but there is a degree of simplification in the characterisation that undermines the overall quality of the book without harming the dramatic tension too much.
That said, there are sympathetic supporting characters and a nice sub-plot which rounds out a couple of the villains accomplices.
Many fine authors have tried (and often failed) to convey the 'alien-ness' of non human consciousness and though Neal Asher tries hard initially, the Dragon at the heart of the plot comes across as little more than a spoiled and vengeful child.
None the less, this is a feel good action thriller with a high tech space opera setting and a lightness of tone that I would liken to the 'Lethal Weapon' or 'Die Hard' type movies.
While it is not in the same literary league as the likes of Iain M Banks it is a creditable and highly enjoyable read.
on 22 April 2005
An excellent debut novel. Seemed a bit fussy in certain areas and the ending is rather confusing. Hopefully it will become clearer in future books. I have to agree with some other reviewers comments on Dragon though - It started out as an intersting alien creature and turned into one of the kids from Little Angels. All in all a good read, if not as technically fascinating as Iain M Banks et. al.
on 15 January 2005
A fast paced science fiction novel. Cormac is our slightly tarnished hero from the James Bond school of agents. Having killed Pelter's sister on the first page, it is no surprise that the psychopath and his henchmen are out for revenge. They pursue Cormac across the universe until they meet in a final, bloody encounter.
Meanwhile Dragon and the Maker have their own agenda, but just who or what these two aliens are is not really explained and neither is the reason for their mutual antagonism. As the synopsis says, "Deep beneath Samarkand's surface there are buried mysteries" and these mysteries remain. This makes the ending somewhat unsatisfactory.
But having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more of Neal Asher's work.
on 16 January 2008
Ian Cormac is an Earth Central Security agent undercover with a resistance faction led by Arian Pelter with the help of freelance mercenary John Stanton. All is going well, but they discover his true identity and he kills Arian's sister and injures both Stanton and Pelter as he makes his escape. After being gridlinked for 30 years, ten above recommended maximum, Cormac has started to lose his humanity. It is this that caused the operation to be discovered by the resistance and the reason why he must stop grindlinking, the only way to get his humanity back.
The runcible on Samarkand has been destroyed purposely, with it destroying the current terraforming operation and killing all humans. The evidence points to a creature known as Dragon, an alien consisting of four 1-kilometer wide spheres of flesh. Cormac has met with Dragon many years ago, and although everyone thought he had been destroyed, it is not the case. After arriving at Samarkand a discovery is made, two beings created by Dragon, Dracomen, are found. Along with this there is an unknown object discovered by the scanners buried underground. This object turns out to be an adamantium egg, a prison which held Maker, apparently one of the race that created Dragon. Dragon knew of Maker's escape and tried to destroy it by using the runcible as a devastating bomb.
Cormac must now get to the bottom of Dragon's reappearance, finding out what Maker is and if Dragon can be trusted. Along the way he is pursued by Pelter and Stanton, along with Pelter's psychopathic Golem, Mr Crane.
I found this book to be highly enjoyable, one of the better novels I've read in quite a while. I'm no stranger to Neal's work, having already read The Skinner, Voyage of the Sable Keech and Hilldiggers, all of which are set in the same brilliant universe. As this is Neal's first major novel some of the writing does give away this fact, although it never feels clunky and does flow smoothly enough to enjoy.
The characters are well developed and each have their own feel, especially Pelter and his deranged android, Mr Crane. The character of Mr Crane is an unusual one, an android that is controlled by Pelter but has an underlying personality that is hinted at strongly, but never quite explored enough. Cormac is a typical agent, and after the gridlinking is removed you can almost feel a sympathy with him, not quite knowing what to say or how to behave in some situations. His growth in this story is quite substantial and the character we find at the end of the book is one I look forward to reading more about.
One of Neal's strongest points as a writer is just how well he develops this universe and all its inhabitants, from modified humans to Golem super-androids and then to the AI's that are the obvious ruling power in the human Polity, everything just fits nicely into place as if years were spent inventing and refining this future. I've loved the richness of Spatterjay when I read The Skinner and Voyage of the Sable Keech, and Hilldiggers showed a different side of the coin with political storylines dominating the novel, but now that I've started Neals major piece of work, the Cormac series, I can truly see how talented an author he is and just how widely his imagination reaches. I can only hope that I enjoy the following four Cormac novels as much as this, because action sf on a huge canvas doesn't get much better.
'Gridlinked' is a promising yet ultimately rather frustrating science fiction debut, in that Neal Asher introduces plenty of intriguing concepts here, but due to the slightly ham-fisted execution never really develops them to any satisfying degree. While the novel features some interesting cyberpunk technology and space opera-style alien worlds and creatures ultimately this turns out to be a fairly basic 'James Bond in space' thriller, with the emphasis on lengthy fight scenes, hard-bitten mercenaries and weapons tech. Most of Asher's characters are a fairly one-dimensional, and while we are given a story-reason for Bond-substitute hero Ian Cormac being utterly devoid of character (too many years spent 'gridlinked' to A.I.s) the novels initial arc of rehabilitating Cormac's humanity is never really followed through. The novel spends most of its length contrasting the exploits of Cormac with a villain seeking revenge, and while thematically this could have made a nice counterpoint in reality the villains motivation is unbelievable in the extreme and when they finally meet for the final showdown it's a bit of an anti-climax. Worst of all is the garbled ending, which frustratingly chooses to neglect to explain the novels climax to the reader (thankfully the author himself has published the cut final chapter on his own website).
Of course the novel has it's plus points too, and despite the clumsy writing Asher's universe is interesting enough that I intend to check out the following novels in the series, but this frankly has too many faults to read like anything other than a debut novel. Hopefully Asher's work improves over time, but taken alone this novel falls some distance short of similar work by the likes of Richard Morgan, Ian M Banks and co.
on 10 July 2006
Neal Asher certainly won't be winning any awards for descriptive prose or deep characterisation, but all of the novels in this series - starting with Gridlinked - are worth reading if you enjoy undemanding, plot-driven sci-fi.
Ian Cormac, the 'hero', is pretty two-dimensional, but it doesn't really matter in the context of a book like this. The characters are mainly shallow and obvious, but with a bit of imagination, the gaps are soon filled in. They serve their purpose, which is to prop up the constant stream of action, and they do it well. If you've got a good imagination, Asher makes for quite a compelling author, within limits.
However, it's a real shame that the more interesting ideas and characters aren't developed more fully. Superhuman 'Golem' androids walk around everywhere, but the question of whether they are self-aware or just good emulations of human behaviour is only touched on once or twice, with no real depth. For example, in the next book, Line of Polity, a solider who dies in Gridlinked is resurrected by means of retrieving his 'memplant' and putting it in a Golem body - but this potentially fascinating character's thoughts about his situation are seemingly non-existent, and the issue of whether or not he is the same person, self-aware or not, is left completely untouched. Asher also doesn't describe physical appearances at all, beyond a couple of cursory lines when characters are introduced, so a lot of the male soldier characters in particular end up blending into one another.
So, overall, this is a great book for killing time with, a bit like the literary equivalent of the Terminator films - but it's a real shame that Asher doesn't have the skill to take it to the next level.