Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: The Line of Polity

Title: The Line of Polity
Author: Neal Asher
Series: Agent Cormac #2
Pages: 663
ISBN: 9780330512565

Outlink station Miranda has been destroyed by a nanomycelium and the very nature of this sabotage suggests that the alien bioconstruct, Dragon, is somehow involved.

Agent Cormac must investigate this, and also navigate the difficulties of Masada, a world about to be subsumed as the Line of Polity is drawn across it.

The wilderness of Masada is without breathable air and full of dangers. Roaming out there is the rogue biophysicist, Skellor, who controls something so potent the Polity AIs will stop at nothing to prevent him from using it...

In The Line of Polity, the second novel in the Cormac series, Agent Ian Cormac is back with his ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach to solving problems. He is joined by most of the cast from the first novel, Gridlinked. Surprisingly the focus this time round is not on Ian Cormac but rather on these returning characters. It’s refreshing to see how the characters have matured and how they continue to develop.

While Asher’s novels are known for their fast pace and focus on action it doesn’t mean that he neglects characterisation. The myriad of characters are all well fleshed out and engaging. There are a lot of things happening at once and, initially, it can be slightly confusing trying to keep track of what’s happening to whom. It soon becomes second nature though and once you are drawn into the storyline you don’t notice it at all.

Most of the action takes place on the planet of Masada, a brutal wilderness planet populated by creatures straight out of nightmare. Asher has an immense imagination that brings forth an intricate ecosystem teaming with horrifying creatures like the hooder, siluroyne and nonsense spouting gabbleduck. The world he creates is both fascinatingly believable and astoundingly hostile to human life – a perfect setting for a rebellion.

The main plot revolves around the population of Masada rising up against the religious Theocracy that rules their world. Religion is used as a tool to enslave the general population while those in the upper echelons enrich themselves and feast on the spoils bought by the lives of the workers. This dim view on religion might irk some people, but I found it thought provoking and in some instances quite eye-opening.

As if a rebellion isn’t enough there’s also a rogue biophysicist on the loose. Skellor, makes for a truly terrifying villain, especially after he makes use of the Jain technology. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s one poignant scene onboard the Occam’s Razor that really stood out for me and underscored how inhuman Skellor had become.

For those who like a tad of romance mixed in with their sci-fi there’s even a minor ‘boy meets girl’ story arc between two teenaged characters from very different worlds. Eldene is a orphaned girl forced into labour as a pond worker on Masada and Apis Coolant is a Outlinker boy genetically engineered to live in low-gravity. How do their paths cross? Well you’ll need to read the book to find out!

The corrupted versions of fairytales at the start of each chapter are also a nice touch. I’ll never be able to look at Goldilocks or any of the other classics in quite the same way again. I’ll always be expecting a gabbleduck or hooder to be lurking somewhere, waiting for the just the right moment to pounce.

The Verdict:
A bloody good read! I enjoyed this far more than Gridlinked, but I think it is due to now being more familiar with the characters and the technology of the Polity universe. The Line of Polity has it all – high tech weapons, AI and golems, terrifying monsters, brutal battles and huge spaceships. It makes for very engaging reading. Near the end I literally couldn’t put it down and was surprised to discover that I had read till way past midnight.

I can't wait to read the third novel, Brassman, to see what happens next.

If you enjoy fast paced, action-packed sci-fi then this is definitely a must!

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. Great to hear you enjoyed this one, more than I did too - I must admit the religious aspect got a little too heavy handed for me. I think that this us probably the weakest Cormac book so you're in for a treat with the rest of the series! Oh, and once you're done with Line War you have to read The Technician! :)

  2. Thanks Mark. I've got them all lined up and waiting to be read. I can definitely see how the religious aspect can seem too heavy handed.

    If this is the weakest Cormac book then I definitely can't wait to get to the rest. Personally I found Gridlinked weaker than this one.

  3. It was quite a while between me reading Gridlinked and Line of Polity, so that may be why I thought LoP was weaker. However, I read Line of Polity, Brass Man, Polity Agent and Line War in the space of a month and they get better with each volume. One thing I must say: Mr Crane is by far my favourite character of the lot!

  4. I've read both Gridlinked and Line of Polity this year, and I really enjoyed them both. I think Gridlinked was marginally better, but they're both brilliant. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.