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on 19 July 2017
This is the first Neal Asher I have read. In fact not read Science Fiction for many years - probably way back in late '60s. Found it entertaining and well written. Very much a Science Fiction adventure novel with enough explanation of the various equipment/methodologies to assist the reader. Worth a try.
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on 17 November 2015
This is the first of a series (which we like as it saves us having to remember stuff next time - and the Polity universe and associated AIs and FTL travel are well done, and there is an engaging mad robot, "Mr Crane" He plays with rubber toys when he isn't tearing things to bits. Can be a little light on character but plot development is excellent and you always want to know what happens next. Completely satisfying as a space opera and it all forms part of a wider series, so Neal Asher is always worth a try. Read them in order - this is the first. Avoid "Cowl" but the rest are excellent.

I have no connection with Neal Asher!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 June 2012
Ian Cormac, almost legendary agent of Earth Central Security is sent on a mission by the all knowing Earth Central AI to investigate the destruction of an interplanetary gateway that caused the death of tens of thousands of people. However he is being pursued by the leader of a Separatist movement who wants him dead for killing his sister - and who has a criminally psychotic android for company. Meanwhile an ancient alien creature that calls itself Dragon and who has its own agenda makes a reappearance. Someone is being manipulated, but just who is manipulating who is not always easy to tell.

I really enjoyed the science fiction environment in which the story was set. A vast network of planets interlinked by instantaneous "Runcible" gateways; Artificial Intelligences almost beyond understanding in their abilities; faster than light space ships; high tech self aware weaponry; and set against this is Ian Cormac who voluntarily has himself disconnected from the Information Grid and who then has to rely solely on his on human instincts.

The plot is fast moving, easy to follow and has some terrific set piece battles. I liked pretty much everything about this book right up until last few pages.. when I just lost the plot completely. Even after reading the final chapter again I still am not sure what happened or why - It all looked nicely wrapped up until then.

Kindle presentation was fine with no noticeable typographical or formatting errors at all.

Overall: 4 stars - Ninety nine percent of this book is great science fiction set in a highly believable and well created universe, but I really don't feel I understood the last few pages. I hope that it will all be revealed in the subsequent books in this series and I am certainly going to read the next book to try and find out.
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on 9 January 2012
Asher kicks off his Polity series in rollicking style with this opening story. Take a deep breath, because within a few pages we are assaulted by wormhole technology, godlike AIs, alien species and a semi-sentient shuriken. And that's just for starters...

We are introduced to Ian Cormac, badass agent of Earth's digital ruler, as he completes one mission and is assigned another. Someone has commited a terrorist atrocity on a distant planet, and it's up to Cormac to investigate. Only he hasn't counted on his last target, a ruthless separatist, and his insane quest for revenge...

An early reference compares Cormac to James Bond, and the simile is apt. Cormac is a driven agent, a ruthless killer and a humourless presence. He makes for quite an unsympathetic protagonist, to be honest, but the plot actually points this out. You see, Cormac has spent too long 'gridlinked', or hooked up to a computer implant, and has lost much of his humanity. His attempts to overcome this, while not entirely succesful, do hint of a character development arc in future books.

Where the novel shines is its facility with the action scene. Asher keeps tight hold of the plot even as he throws in colossal and delphic aliens, hardened mercenaries and exotic weaponry, making for a breathlessly thrilling read. The psychotic android Mr. Crane, in particular, is a fabulous creation.

The novel certainly has flaws, a slightly rushed ending among them, but the space opera world Asher conjures is an intriguing one, and on this basis I am eager to see what he can do with it next. If you like your science-fiction in the action thriller mould, I suggest you do likewise.
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on 17 June 2018
Tedious. James Bond in space but not nearly as good as Ian Fleming. The sci-fi setting is almost entirely irrelevant. A photon-thingy instead of a gun, lasers instead of missiles, sabotaged runcibles instead of sabotaged planes, M is an AI .... it just goes on like that. For far too long.
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on 7 March 2004
In Asher’s glittering future galaxy, Earth is at the centre of a ‘Polity’ of AI-governed worlds, connected by various ‘runcibles’ (portals which instantly transport matter to another portal elsewhere in the galaxy) so called because the interface adopts the shape of a reflective spoon.
Asher’s ‘Polity’, which is in effect a benign AI dictatorship, is seen in the novel as a safe, happy place to live, although the ‘quotation’ chapter prefaces gradually make us aware that AIs are capable of the manipulation of data and have, in effect, rewritten history to suit their own purposes. No system is perfect, as Asher subtly and cleverly points out.
Outside the Polity are other human-colonised worlds which have been supplying Separatists with arms and explosives. Ian Cormac a ‘gridlinked’ ECS (Earth Central Security) Agent, has infiltrated a Separatist cell and is forced to kill Angelina Pelter when his cover is blown, leaving her vain and psychopathic brother Arian vowing vengeance.
Meanwhile, on the planet Samarkand the unthinkable has happened. A runcible has exploded, destroying most of the AI controlling it and ten thousand people.
Cormac is recalled and advised by Horace Blegg (a strange Japanese and apparently immortal human) to relinquish the augments and AI links which he has been relying on for the last thirty years; to regain his human responses and investigate the disaster.
It’s an extraordinarily impressive debut novel, one of those you wish was longer. Most novels of 500+ pages tend to be inflated with extraneous fluff. This however, is dense, tight and wastes not a word.
Asher handles the multi-character viewpoint well and makes excellent use of pre-chapter ‘quotations’ from publications of the future which tell their own story and shed some light on the background to the action.
It seems clear however that the story will have to continue in another novel, since several questions are left unanswered.
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on 19 February 2011
A good strong story and typical of Asher. A cast of fascinating chacters made more interesting by how they are changed and influenced by the nature of their environment, some good believeable aliens and a strong sense of danger and the malicious intent of others. I enjoyed the implications of the high tech world and how people could develop in it and i actualy cared about the good guys and was interesrested in their storeys. The bad guys were a bit cartoonish in their nastiness but that was part of the fun.
The plot had nice twists and I found I became emotionaly involved with the polity and rather cared that they survive this and many other challenges they face. Moments of humour, sometimes black and an occasional sense of something else out there, watching, testing but not revealing. Top class SF
A great SF world and long may Neal Asher keep it developing
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on 29 September 2014
I have become addicted to this author! I very much enjoyed this first book I read by Neal Asher. However, since reading it I discovered that the third book in the Polity series is actually the first Agent Cormac book - not this one - as it introduces Cormac and includes details of his childhood. I therefore put the Agent Cormac series on hold and read the Polity series first.
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on 15 January 2005
A fast paced science fiction novel. Cormac is our slightly tarnished hero from the James Bond school of agents. Having killed Pelter's sister on the first page, it is no surprise that the psychopath and his henchmen are out for revenge. They pursue Cormac across the universe until they meet in a final, bloody encounter.
Meanwhile Dragon and the Maker have their own agenda, but just who or what these two aliens are is not really explained and neither is the reason for their mutual antagonism. As the synopsis says, "Deep beneath Samarkand's surface there are buried mysteries" and these mysteries remain. This makes the ending somewhat unsatisfactory.
But having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more of Neal Asher's work.
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on 8 April 2015
I jumped into the Polity series in the middle (post Cormac) and enjoyed my first venture, so now I have gone back to the beginning to put myself more in the picture. This was great fun, as expected. Cormac is a sort of SuperBond anti-terrorist operative, and the book does have some of the humour of the Connery era films. I’ll certainly carry on with the Cormac series
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