Brass Man (Agent Cormac) Paperback – 5 Nov 2010
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Imaginative, energetic and insane. (SFX)
Trademark Asher . . . the links it establishes leave one wanting much, much more. (Starburst)
Compelling reading . . . Asher has become a resounding and distinctive voice in British SF. (SFRevu)
Agent Cormac pursues an old enemy in Brass Man, a broiling, sprawling, witty, hard-SF adventure, filled with the truly alien.See all Product description
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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'.
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.
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