Jupiter War is the third novel in Asher’s Owner series, following on from The Departure and Zero Point. While the series took a while to really find its feet in The Departure, Zero Point managed to continue the story to great effect while adding some rather interesting concepts to the mix. Jupiter War takes all that has gone before and brings us to the end-game of the Owner’s beginnings, taking all aspects laid down in the previous volumes to deliver a satisfying and entertaining conclusion.
As with Zero Point, Asher doesn’t hang around in getting us into the action, with Jupiter War jumping straight into the meat of the story. Alan Saul, the Owner, is on Mars to rescue his sister, Var Delex, and while there he plans on utilising the Antares base to his own ends: turning Argus from asteroid station to interstellar spaceship. On Earth Serene Gallahad is dictator, implementing her justice as and when she sees fit, taking no prisoners in the process. But she still doesn’t possess the gene bank needed to kick start the biosphere into life again, with her dream of rebuilding the planet reliant on getting her hands on it. With events unfolding on Argus and Earth, and both parties focused on what they must do to meet their goals, it is only a matter of time before the final deciding battle takes place.
What works in Jupiter War is the way Asher has pulled together all elements from the previous novels into a coherent whole, answering questions that are raised and continuing the character development nicely and without any unwarranted changes. Saul continues on the path to godhood, combining ever more with technology and moving away from his human side. This is particularly evident in his dealings with those on board Argus, even with his sister, Var. Galahad is truly the villain, and is everything you could ask for in a character. Her conviction that she’s doing what is right for the planet doesn’t waiver, but her confidence and arrogance push her to megalomania. She’s fascinating to read, perhaps more so than the Owner, and seeing her in action often brings a smile even when that’s not the intention. Of course, with two personalities such as these present in the story there is bound to be conflict, and when it comes the outcome never seems to be certain, despite everything we know.
Asher also has a way with technology, as anyone that has read his Polity novels may know. Jupiter War is no different, with the Owner implementing memory back-ups and clone bodies, effectively offering immortality to the humans on Argus, but it’s his advancements in robotics that take the centre stage here. After the introduction of the AI Proctors in Zero Point, as well as the interstellar Rhine Drive, there is a solid foundation ready for the imminent conflict, and with the creation of legions of robots to engineer and build the spaceship, the pieces are slowly moved into place. Asher uses the Owner’s ever-evolving status to show just how efficient this aspect can become, and just how frightening the prospect could really be.
Ultimately, Jupiter War is successful in everything it set out to do. The story is, more or less, good versus bad, though the grey areas start to trickle in more than in the previous novels. He raises many questions about what it is to be human, and just how far down the path of becoming one with machines is possible while still keeping that fundamental humanity. It’s a question that is not entirely answered, but it opens up plenty of room for any (potential) future volumes to investigate.
If you like your sci-fi packed with believable – and often scary – scenarios of the path humanity could walk down, and looking at more than just the surface implications of such a path, all the while jam-packed with action, invention, and just downright, in-your-face, balls-to-the-wall action, then Jupiter War will more than satisfy you. But do yourself a favour: start at the beginning and enjoy the ride that Asher takes you on.