Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Brass Man

Title: Brass Man
Author: Neal Asher
Series: Agent Cormac #3
Pages: 568
ISBN: 9780330521376

On the primitive world Cull, a knight errant called Anderson hunts a dragon, not knowing that elsewhere is a resurrected brass killing machine, Mr Crane, assisting in a similar hunt. Learning that this old enemy still lives, agent Cormac pursues, while scientist Mika begins discovering the horrifying truth about an ancient alien technology.

Meanwhile, Mr Crane himself doggedly seeks to escape a violent past that he can neither forget nor truly remember. So he continues mindlessly in his search for sanity, which he may discover in the next instant or not for a thousand years...

Brass Man, the third novel in the Cormac series, takes place a year after the events in The Line of Polity (review here). Both Masada and Elysium have been quarantined to prevent the spread of the Jain mycelium. Just as the quarantine is about to be lifted a part of the Occam’s Razor is found and Ian Cormac is called in to investigate, setting the scene for yet another rip-roaring adventure.

Most people who have read Gridlinked fell in love with the character of Mr Crane, which is strange since he is a psychotic brass killing machine who enjoys ripping his victims apart. Mr Crane is definitely one of my favourite characters as well. It’s difficult to explain exactly what makes him such an appealing character; perhaps it’s the fact that he is so deadly while at the same time seeming almost childlike and innocent. You just want to cuddle him when he starts playing with his toys. (Obviously that would be a terrible idea. He’ll most likely rip both your arms off and beat you to death with them if you tried it.)

As the title would suggest Brass Man focuses mostly on the enigmatic Mr Crane and he completely steals the show. We finally get to know more about his history and how he became the ruthless killing machine he appears to be. Through various retroacts (flashbacks to his past) it is soon apparent that there is far more to Mr Crane than meets the eye.

The Jain technology unleashed by Skellor poses a huge threat to the Polity and there is a palpable sense of urgency as the AIs pull out all the stops in an effort to contain it. All paths ultimately lead to Cull, a backwater planet populated by survivors of a generation ship launched during the start of human expansion into space. The lifestyle of the people on Cull is reminiscent of the Wild West with people walking around with primitive firearms and trying to scrape out a living by mining metals. Like Masada, Cull is an unforgiving place filled with horrific wildlife. I’m sure a droon will give even a hooder nightmares (or at the very least some severe acid indigestion)!

The Polity AIs play a much larger role this time round. We get introduced to Jerusalem, an almost godlike AI that is in charge of researching the Jain technology, and Jack Ketch, a warship with a penchant for collecting antique execution devices (a fitting hobby since he's named after an infamous executioner). Each AI has a distinctive personality and it becomes apparent that, like humans, they have motives of their own. I really liked Jack Ketch and his sense of humour. During one space battle he bellows “Now I’m shitting laser beams!” which had me laughing out loud, especially since he found himself in dire circumstances. I really hope he makes a return in the rest of the series.

As usual the various storylines are intricately woven and come together seamlessly in an action-packed finale that gets your heart racing and the adrenaline flowing. The ending is just mind-blowing and hints at countless possibilities for what is yet to come.

The Verdict:
A brilliant read which I thoroughly enjoyed! Neal Asher hits all the right spots yet again – great action, engaging characters, magnificent space battles and a fascinating story. If he keeps going like this it looks like I’m going to run out of superlatives before I reach the end of the series.

Rating: 9/10

Disclosure: I won a set of Neal Asher's novels in a competition hosted by the author. This hasn't influenced my review in any way. If I hadn't won the competition I would have purchased the novels myself.


  1. Hey, I can finally access your blog! Thanks for the review. I bought this book at a second-hand store at the recommendation of one of the staff who failed to mention that it was third in a series. Do you have to read the other two or could I enjoy this one on it's own?

  2. You could conceivably start out with the Brass Man, though I'd definitely suggest you start at the beginning of the series with Gridlinked.

    There are lots of small plot points and back history you'd miss out on or not fully understand if you don't start from the first novel.