Good fun despite a little too much religion bashing,
This review is from: The Line of Polity (Agent Cormac 2) (Paperback)The Line of Polity is the second novel in Neal Asher's Cormac series, following on from events in Gridlinked. I read Gridlinked quite a while back and enjoyed it and I've also read plenty of other works by Asher that I've thoroughly enjoyed. I picked up the complete series some time ago but, for some reason that eludes me at present, never got around to reading the sequels. Well, despite the long gap between reading the first and second I jumped straight in wondering what exactly I'd be getting here - and boy did it not disappoint!
The action in The Line of Polity opens with Ian Cormac, Earth central Security agent, chasing down Skellor, a skilled yet rather evil scientist who is a dab hand at genetic manipulation to create some truly awful creatures. As Cormac and his team descend on the compound Skellor disappears leaving some very interesting things for ECS to discover. Meanwhile the outlink station of Miranda is destroyed by nanomycelium, a product all too familiar to Cormac, for it is Dragon that introduced this to the Polity during the events of Gridlinked. We've also got Masada, a strictly controlled Theocracy world on the edge of the Polity where the inhabitants are ruled with an iron fist by those in power in their orbital stations. Not only that, but Masada is a dangerous world where a human can't even breath without the aid of gear, where the local wildlife is as dangerous as anything you'd find, and where certain death awaits the workers should they step out of line. But the underground on Masada is trying to gain Polity intervention, something they can only do with a majority vote, and which is slowly being carried out by certain individuals and the underground movement that is desperately trying to push this through.
The returning characters that lead us through the story are all interesting and well developed from the previous novel, while the new ones don't suffer either as Asher takes time to build them well. Cormac is the main character, the centre point of the story that brings many things together, but John Stanton is also up there in this respect. The story follows each of these to Masada, with Skellor and Dragon in tow, for some rather exciting scenes. Enter monsters that are scary as hell, a Theocracy that is hell bent on keeping order on the planet and eliminating the underground movement - literally! - and an ancient technology that is proving to be deadly in the hands of the wrong person.
Some of the big plus sides for me in The Line of Polity are the technologies that Asher creates - golems, AI, intelligent weapons and, well, pretty much everything he throws at the story - they just work so well in context. These things really do help the worldbuilding of the Polity, showing us much more than is needed for the story, yet keeping it relevant. The Masadan environment is brutal and the native creatures deadly, all of which builds a place you seriously would not want to visit - but reading about it is huge amounts of fun. Bottom line: Neal Asher can craft a great setting for a story to take place.
Now, I enjoyed Line of Polity quite a lot, but did have one issue with it: the religion bashing that seems to come through every time that the theocracy is mentioned. Yes, they are the evil bad guys in the story and their culture and ruling system is vile, no doubt, but rather than let that speak for itself their are times when I felt a little uncomfortable with the preaching I felt was coming across. I'm no religious person and can take anything like this with great big dollops of salt, but sometimes things can be said too many times, and that's how I felt with this book. If only the religious aspect was toned down a little it would have made for a much tighter, and ultimately better, story. Nobody likes being preached to, so this could be a factor that turns many off this book.
Overall I enjoyed The Line of Polity enough not to let that one issue effect my feelings about the book too much. I'm scratching my head why it's taken me this long to get to this book, but now I'm here I plan on following the story to its ultimate conclusion with the sequels. If you like your sci-fi hard hitting, full of action and great worldbuilding, then I seriously recommend checking out Neal Asher's work - but start at the beginning and pick up Gridlinked!