Orbus is part of Asher's Spatterjay series of books but, although linked to the previous 2 books, it can be read as a standalone novel. Every chapter in Orbus has a brief synopsis at the beginning that 'fills in the gaps' so new readers will be up and running with this new story very quickly.
Once again Asher's imagination runs riot and is a delight to behold, spanning multiple genres such as space opera, hard sci-fi and cyberpunk, plus his usual dose of horror. It's good to see Asher return to the Spatterjay story arc as the whole concept of the Spatterjay virus merits a return visit. This is a 'sentient' virus that, instead of attacking its host, positively enhances it and does everything it can to keep the host alive, resulting in the carrier having both phenomenal strength and amazing powers of self-repair. Obviously there is a flip side to this and that is that the virus can interfere so much with the host's physiology that they can literally mutate into something unrecognisable to what they were, often to monstrous effects.
The story features the Prador, the highly intelligent but very aggressive crab-like aliens who previously fought, and lost to, the Polity. A truce now exists between the Polity and Prador, with their territories separated by a buffer zone known as The Graveyard. Although this zone is strictly de-militarised, it is a haven for pirates and all kinds of criminal activity. The Polity generally turns a blind eye to the criminal goings on but this time there have been some developments that have aroused the suspicion of the Polity and they decide to send the old cargo captain from Spatterjay, Captain Orbus, to weed out what's going on.
Needless to say a great many surprises await Orbus, not least the re-appearance of his old adversary, the wardrone Sniper and his AI sidekick Thirteen, as well as another enemy from the past, the Prador Vrell. But not only does Orbus come face to face with demons from the past, but also has to deal with these demons fighting each other, with him caught in the crossfire. The King of the Prador is intent on killing Vrell, as well as trying to harness the awesome biological power of the Spatterjay virus to his own ends. Added to the mix is the Golgoloth, a horrific Frankenstein's monster of a Prador who has discovered immortality through gruesome 'body harvesting'.
There are no lulls whatsoever in this story, it is full of intense action encompassing an array of the most imaginative weapons that Asher can conjure up. But what adds depth to the proceedings is the fact that it all takes place under the gaze of the omni-present Polity. No matter how chaotic and out of control the fighting gets, it always seems that the Polity is somehow orchestrating it all, and it's this added political intrigue that gives the story an extra edge. Yet, ironically, an astonishing revelation made about the Spatterjay virus threatens even the all powerful Polity and has serious repercussions for the current balance of power.
This book is a fantastic addition to the Spatterjay series and genuinely takes the Spatterjay story arc a big step forward, definitely recommended.