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A novella that doesn't mess around
on 11 February 2008
The human Polity, a society run by AI's with technology allowing them to travel instantaneously throughout the galaxy through the use of Runcibles, planet based systems that are run by the AI's. The Polity lives in relative peace, but now the Prador, a species of huge crab-like creatures with technology equal to that of the Polity is discovered. The first meeting between the two has now been arranged and it is with this meeting that the true intentions of the Prador become apparent. Peace is not an option that they consider, they require the immediate surrender of humanity, starting with the station on which the meeting takes place.
Following on from this first meeting, the Prador are attacking planets in Polity space that border their kingdom. Agents from ECS (Earth Central Security) are among those fighting the Prador on the front line, with Jabel 'U-cap' Krong being the most prominent of these, his nickname saying it all: Up Close And Personal. Present on the Avalon Station during the first meeting, he now fights the Prador successfully with many kills to his name, something difficult enough to do to a species that doesn't die easily.
Events are now bringing all the players to one system: Trajeen. It is here that tests are being carried out on a new space based cargo Runcible. Moria is helping the AI with the work, seemingly able to compute far beyond what is normally known thanks to her privately fitted aug designed by a fugitive. The Prador, finally showing an interest in the Runcible technology that they don't possess, are heading to the system with contacts in the human separatist movement that they hope will help them achieve their goals. Jebel Krong is also there, knowing that the Prador are on their way and planning to stop them getting their hands on Runcible technology.
Prador Moon delivers everything that you should have come to expect from a Neal Asher story: wonderfully realised aliens, AI's with attitude and page after page of action that is delivered in so many different ways. Clearly, Neal has written a story set to specifics here, there's no going off into too much detail and the action focuses on the events at hand from a few perspectives. This is typically Neal and the story he is telling suits the format it's told in. I could well imagine this story told in over double the size - there is more than enough opportuniy to expand - but it's the compactness that makes it such an enjoyable and quick read.
Perhaps some of the drawbacks will only appear if you've yet to venture into Neal's Polity books. The story is set at a very specific time and although it should really be the beginning of the human-Prador experience, it does need expansion and back-story to fully explore this situation. Although this is done in both The Skinner and Voyage of the Sable Keech, it really is a book for those that know at least some other aspects of Neal's Polity universe. Although the positive to the above could be to put this novella at the starting point of Neal's work and continue to his other stories from there.
Bottom line, if you like fast-paced action and are looking for something to read over the weekend, this should be high up in the running, regardless of whether you're new to Neal or not.