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Straight to the point...
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.