the Last Word in
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Macmillan paperback £10.00
review by Tony Lee
Ian Cormac is an Earth Central security agent in a distant future where the advanced teleportation system of 'runcible' technology has opened up our galaxy to colonisation, run by a benign dictatorship of the AI-backed Polity. Not everyone's happy with this, however, and one particular separatist warmonger named Arian Pelter embarks on a campaign of terrorism against the authority of Earth. In revenge for the killing of his sister, Pelter targets Cormac who, having just had his brain-link to the galactic 'Internet' unplugged, finds himself at a disadvantage in the enemy's murderous plans. The struggle between these two men is almost overshadowed by investigations into a mysterious disaster involving Dragon, a monstrous alien creature capable of destroying planets.
There's a vengeful and psychotic cyborg, a truly vicious killer android, some physically boosted mercenaries and lots of battles employing hi-tech weapons. Neal Asher writes muscular SF adventure with passion and integrity, yet his descriptive flair is always grounded in the everyday so the reader has an instant mental picture of the scene or object. Gridlinked never gets bogged down in exposition, as characters on both sides of the conflict become defined by what they do in the story without having their life stories inserted into the text to interrupt the flow of action. This is space opera with a rush.
However, that's not to say Asher's writing lacks subtlety. The naming of his invented tech after Edward Lear's nonsense verse is proof of an engaging wit and, in the novel's entertainingly ironic twist, the top villain becomes progressively inhuman while the heroic Cormac struggles to regain his own faded humanity. If you are a fan of Iain M. Banks' Culture series, and have enjoyed Peter F. Hamilton's recent space novels, this one's definitely for you.
tZ - a top 10 favourite SF books by Neal Asher
tZ - short fiction by Neal Asher in The ZONE #4 and #9
tZ - more of Neal Asher's short stories published in Premonitions #1 and #2
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