REVIEW SUMMARY: A unique blend of sf sub-genres, fast paced action and unexpected plot twists help this story rise above your average sf cop story.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: ECS agent Ian Cormac investigates a star gate disaster while being pursued by terrorist leader Adrian Pelter.
PROS: Good page-turning action scenes; cool technology; interesting mix of cyberpunk/detective thriller/military action.
CONS: Weaker middle; secondary characters tended to blend together.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthwhile debut.
The hundreds of worlds of the Polity are connected by instantaneous star gates called “runcibles”. When the runcible on the planet Samarkand is destroyed in a multi-megaton explosion, Earth Central Security sends Ian Cormac to investigate. Cormac is a longtime veteran of ECS who has been gridlinked to the net so long, he no longer feels emotion and is therefore ordered to disconnect from the net before the investigation. The investigation on Samarkand leads Cormac to confront the mythical “dragon”, a massive alien being that’s got more than a few screws loose.
As if getting to the bottom of the runcible disaster isn’t enough, Cormac, recently undercover in the Separatist terrorist organization, becomes the target of Separatist leader Adrian Pelter. Pelter pursues Cormac across the stars with the help of a rogue (and lethal) android possessing the unassuming name of Mr. Crane.
This is Asher’s debut novel and it’s a very good one. There are lots of page-turning action scenes and unexpected plot twists that held my interest. Asher creates a really interesting mix of cyberpunk, detective thriller, and military action. Overall the story had an enjoyably gritty feel to it.
As for characterizations, the primary characters (Cormac, Pelter, Mr. Crane, mercanray Stanton) were all very likable. Stanton and his story line in particular, was a great thread. As Pelter’s right-hand man with a conscience, he was somewhat likable…for a killer anyway. Cormac’s recent disconnect from the net was of only limited interest and was thankfully not overplayed. A host of secondary characters (mostly mercenaries and soldiers) all seemed to blend together and therefore did not do much for me.
The story mostly moved along at a quick pace in the early chapters and the later chapters; the middle of the book seemed to move more slowly and was perhaps a bit drawn out. Interestingly, at least from a story construction perspective, the beginning and end chapters (which I enjoyed more) was where the multiple story lines flipped back and forth within a single chapter. The middle chapters (which I enjoyed less, but still enjoyed) were devoted to a single story line.
In the end, the book held my attention and is a fine first novel.