on 7 August 2005
Good, but incredibly dense. He's obviously wanted to have the Iain M. Banks style multiple plots running, but unlike Banks, he doesn't quite pull it off. Not enough about Cormac, and not enough about Mr Crane to be quite honest.
There was a lot of digression into stuff that never quite seemed important - the fate of the human colonists - I never really cared that much about them, because they were never really developed as characters. Putting them then in peril didn't really grab me that much.
But some excellent technology, and for the first time he explores the motivations of the various AI denizens of his universe, although the Polity is starting to resemble the Culture quite markedly - not bad thing in some ways, but Banks skirts the border of Deus Ex Machine very closely at times, and not many authors could do that without stepping over the line.
This book is at its best when in the hard science mode - some of the technology ideas are excellent and could be explained even further.
Overall an enjoyable read, but not up to the standard of 'Consider Phlebas', or even Asher's early 'Gridlinked'.
on 14 February 2011
Brass Man continues my reading (and catch-up) of Neal Asher's Ian Cormac series. I'm a big fan of Neal's work and my one reading resolution for this year was to get up-to-date on his releases. I'm in the fortunate position of having the whole series sitting on my shelf ready for back-to-back reads so I can fully appreciate the overall story he's telling, and after recently reading both the second in the series, The Line of Polity, and now Brass Man I'm still gobsmacked that I haven't read them sooner. Brass Man is the third book in the series and picks up the characters following the conclusion of the previous book, with all the headaches that entails for Cormac and company!
After the events of The Line of Polity and the apparent destruction of Skellor and the deadly Jain technology he discovered and used, Masada and all those that were in contact with the technology are quarantined. Jerusalem, the vast AI starship whose sole job it is to monitor, study and restrict Jain technology, is now involved in the clean up from the fall out, but not all is back to normal. When a salvage ship discovers the bridge of the Occam Razor it's clear that Skellor and the Jain tech were not destroyed, and this one find leads events to Cull, to Dragon, and the resurecction of a dangerous brass Golem known as Mr Crane.
Brass Man is very much the second half of the story started in The Line of Polity, and while this is part of a five book series, tLoP and BM feel like a self-contained duology. This is good as there were some interesting things left over from the previous book that cried out for further development. The whole idea of the Jain tech is a deep rooted part of the story, and something that is so advanced really needed more exploration on how it works, what it can do and just how much a danger it poses. Asher does a good job of taking these details forward, looking at the possibilities of Jain technology and adding some new and dangerous aspects to it. As not too much has been discussed about the Jain tech in previous novels it works well to further explore it and show just how lethal it is, while also adding more to the worldbuilding of the Polity universe and its history.
The plot threads we follow range from the continuation of Cormac, Mika and Thorn's story from The Line of Polity, and also that of Skellor in his quest to track down Dragon. We also follow Anderson and Tergal on the planet of Cull, new characters who introduce us to the planet that houses one of the two remaining Dragon spheres. Each of the characters, both new and returning, help drive this story forward and allows Asher to dig deeper into the various aspects he's introduced in past novels: Dragon, Jain tech, and the way that AI rule the Polity. While we also meet Jerusalem, the huge AI ship dedicated to Jain tech study (and a really good addition to the story for all the information we learn through these threads), it was the re-introduction of Mr Crane that was my highlight.
Mr Crane is, essentially, a psychotic Golem. Destroyed at the end of Gridlinked, Skellor tracks down his remains and uses Jain tech to brng him back to life stronger than before with the use of Jain technology. Asher adds further depth to this character by showing us flashbacks of how Mr Crane became what he is. He also explores this to great effect, slowly but surely bringing the character from the one-minded killing machine to something.... more.
What is most enjoyable about Brass Man is the sheer feeling of threat that faces the Polity. While we only see this through the events on and around Cull, the implications of these events have far reaching effects. The story unfolds well, not too quickly and not with too much detail at the start, but once various aspects are in place it turns into a rollicking adventure, with action and exposition equally pushing the story forward. I knew Asher could write some of the best action sequences in the genre from all the previous novels I've read, but the building blocks he's put in place in previous novels are now unfolding nicely, adding to a large canvas in ways that I'm thoroughly enjoying.
Bottom line: if you've read anything by Neal Asher before then you're in for a treat with Brass Man, and if you haven't I can't recommend him highly enough. It's worth pushing through the two early novels just to see the pay off that is starting to come into play. For sheer entertainment value you'd be hard pushed to find another author writing in the genre that can match Neal Asher.
on 1 January 2007
Another excellent book from Neal Asher. I'd had it a while and only just got round to reading it over hte holidays, so I've forgotten something of the previous stories it's based upon, but that didn't detract at all. The ideas about AI and VR technology and how it will effect human life in the future are intriguing and, for me at least, philosophically sound even if still science fiction. Asher has some strong characters in the excellent Mr. Crane, on whom the book is based and about which the story finally unfolds, Ian Cormac and his team. But I really enjoyed the more "low tech" stories of Anderson and the fantastically imaginative fauna from his world. Dragon also seemed far more plausible than in the past. Really good stuff. Much better put together and easier to read than Cowl. Highly recommended.
on 28 May 2014
Before I go into the review of this book something has to be said: when choosing a book to read, only an idiot would pick up a later book in a series without having read the earlier ones first. Guess what that makes me?
Keeping the above in mind I think one of the problems that I had with the early part of this novel is the torrent of information I had to absorb. Saying that Asher’s universe is big, does not do it justice it is a masterwork of the imagination - but having to try and come to terms of it was hard going.
This is where not starting at the beginning has an effect. Had I read the first book I am sure everything there would have been a competent lead in to a very well thought out and advanced universe and I would have been able to sail through the books easily. Instead I was thrown in the deep world and had to doggy-paddle as I tried to catch up. Once I had done so though I found myself enjoying the book immensely. Asher has created a universe that is rich in detail and technology that twists the mind with it’s concepts and pure invention. A society ruled my Artificial Intelligences that have as much personality as the humans around them. Humans, if they can be called that, who have the chance to live forever, able to move between bodies, cloned or artificially created things called Golems.
The novel is the home of many characters, but at it’s core there are two characters, Ian Cormac and the titular Brass Man, Mr. Crane. Of course there are others, from some of the incredible AI controlled space ships, characters in their own right Jack Ketch and Jerusalem being two that spring to mind, various living or formally living or artificially living members of the Polity; and I suppose the true villain of the piece Skellor a human now enmeshed with an ancient alien technology.
Crane is fascinating a near unstoppable killing machine apparently made of brass (it’s just his skin really), and unique agent Cormac, someone who appears to be growing into something a lot more than a simple human. The metallic Golem is something that has had his mind broken, turning him into a near unstoppable killing machine. But there is a slim chance that he may be made whole. Again most of the characters have come from earlier books, and perhaps joining the story here diminishes the whole experience.
As a whole the book is a magnificent read, I just wish I had started at the beginning of the series....
on 15 April 2005
This is a superb book. It is fast paced with great characterisation and enough origional ideas for a dozen other books.
There are psycopathic androids, silicon demigods, parasitic biological technologies and horrific indigeonous lifeforms. The action scenes cover battles across solar systems between AI ships down to individuals fighting in ways both physical and mental.
The book contains several plot threads which twist together to form a satisfying ending with just enough loose ends to make me eager for the next one.
This is the third Cormac book, although it could be read alone knowing the backstory makes for a better read.
If you like SF you should give this a go.
on 14 August 2006
I was interested to note in the preface that Neal was inspired to write this book because of people writing asking to know more about Mr Crane. I enjoyed it very much, particularly the development of Ian Cormac's abilities and what is happening with Dragon. I was, however, a bit confused about exactly how Mr Crane's collecting of odd mementoes helped him towards sanity.
The only downside for me, which tended to interfere with my suspension of disbelief, is Neal's compulsion to populate all alien planets with horrific fauna and flora making life a real grind for the struggling human population. As far as I can tell, the only planet is his universe where one can live without being ripped apart by some ghastly alien lifeform is Earth itself.
Nevertheless, I am keen to follow the future developments in Cormac and Dragon's story but would relish a novel set on a more likely planet!
on 1 April 2008
Brilliant! The fantastic murderous android from "Gridlinked" returns amidst shadows of mystery and splashes of blood. Asher is as on form as ever with his to-the-point, indomitable style as he resurrects the fan favourite.
Thankfully this isn't just a piece of mindless action for the fans, like many cash-in sequels. It is a well thought out thriller constructed around the resurgence of an ancient technology, a feature of Asher's Polity world that has been hinted at earlier in the series. Here we see a step away from technological threats toward organic threats, and interesting change in direction for the series that keeps things fresh. The characters have yet to become stale after three novels, particularly the dracomen and the massive, Delphic entity Dragon itself.
Frustratingly, the most mysterious character of the series remains a flat non-entity; Horace Blegg, who is deliberately kept as an enigma, features more as an annoyance now than an intriguing sub-plot. Presumably Asher caught on to this as the fourth book "Polity Agent" finally provides us with some answers to this flagging mystery. Similarly there are problems with additional characters added to the mix, such as the "knight" who is searching for his figurative dragon, who ultimately has little impact on the story. No doubt Asher will tie up this loose end in later novels, but it remains neglected entirely from the fourth book and the character seemed to have little, if nothing at all to do with the overall storyline.
These are small issues though, and the overall enjoyment of the book is left mostly unspoiled. Overall it's another wonderful and entertaining deep-space yarn that had me at least ordering the sequel before I'd even finished it ... 3.5 stars, but since I'm not allowed half measures I'll bump it up to a respectible 4!
on 8 November 2012
Brass Man is a good bok, and part of a great series, but I find the action jumps around from location to location too much - both in time and space - and all the characters operate in such different contexts (policemen, dragon hunters, androids, ghosts and AIs) sometimes it's difficult to keep up. The plot generally is well paced and the characters well developed, so it's still very well worth a read but, to me - as a reader - others in the series are better.
Brass Man, the latest book in Neal Asher's Polity series develops into a rip-roaring action-filled dynamo of an SF novel once you get past the initial flashback sequences. There's plenty here to excite - epic space battles, virulent alien nanotechnology, evil baddies and ever larger and more hideous monsters! The flashbacks near the start can be somewhat confusing, also there is not an awful amount of character development, especially since this is now our third encounter with many of these people. Still, the inventive and fast-paced action sequences do more than enough to compensate for these flaws. I loved it!
on 8 March 2014
It's quite a difficult read, with many flashbacks, I'm sure that if my brain was in better order, with greater powers of concentration I may have found it easier. It usefully fills in a few gaps in the saga of Ian Cormac, Mr Crane, Vulture and the Jack Ketch. I have not always been able to read the stories in timeline order, and I'm still not certain that I've read everything, especially now that my paper library is mostly packed prior to moving.