on 25 May 2012
I bought the first book in this trilogy on the strength of reading the author's "The Trilisk Ruins", and am reviewing them all together, as they are just three strands of the same story. If you read only one you won't fully appreciate it - indeed, the individual volumes don't work as well on their own, either not being properly resolved or not having a proper beginning. Thankfully, as with The Trilisk Ruins they're dirt cheap.
They appear to be set earlier in the same universe as The Trilisk Ruins - the authoritarian government is present here too in a somewhat less overbearing form, and personal and military technology is similar too. While these books appear to be set earlier, I believe that they were written later. The writing is definitely more mature, with less hammy dialogue and more time taken to make the characters into people, and there were no immediately obvious plot holes.
The three books largely run in parallel, with each one finishing a little later than its predecessor, each telling the story from a different point of view. It's a surprising device, but one that I found worked very well. It leaves the reader wondering at the end of the first and second volumes, but with good solid conclusions in later books to fill in the gaps that were left. Obviously this means you should read them in order: Insidious first, then Industrious, and finally Ingenious.
While I have rated the series as a whole with four stars out of five, there are large differences between the volumes. The first is by far the worst, consisting too much of rather repetitive action sequences, but it is rescued by the second and third volumes which are much better. The third is particularly good: the antagonist (whose viewpoint we have in this volume) is unlike any I've seen before (McCloskey seems to do aliens well, the one in The Trilisk Ruins was good too) while still being something that humans can empathise with; and the final conclusion comes as a surprise, but is also consistent with everything that has gone before.
Finally, McCloskey deals well with his over-arching themes of the dangers of AI and virtual reality. Never mind whether you agree with that or not, he still addresses them thoughtfully and humanely.