Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: Line War

Title: Line War
Author: Neal Asher
Series: Agent Cormac #5
Pages: 566
ISBN: 9780330441544

The Polity is under attack from a 'melded' AI entity with control of the lethal Jain technology, yet the attack seems to have no coherence. When one of Erebus' worm ships kills millions on the world of Klurhammon, a high-tech agricultural world of no real tactical significance, agent Ian Cormac is sent to investigate, though he is secretly struggling to control a new ability no human being should possess...and beginning to question the motives of his AI masters.

Further attacks and seemingly indiscriminate slaughter ensue, but only serve to bring some of the most dangerous individuals in the Polity into the war. Mr Crane, the indefatigable brass killing machine sets out for vengeance, while Orlandine, a vastly-augmented haiman who herself controls Jain technology, seeks a weapon of appalling power and finds allies from an ancient war.

Meanwhile Mika, scientist and Dragon expert, is again kidnapped by that unfathomable alien entity and dragged into the heart of things: to wake the makers of Jain technology from their five-million-year slumber. But Erebus' attacks are not so indiscriminate, after all, and could very well herald the end of the Polity itself...

I started reading Line War with mixed feelings. On the one hand I couldn’t wait to see how everything ultimately turns out, but I also felt a sense of dread. Since this is the last Agent Cormac novel you know that with the turn of the last page you’ll have to bid farewell to all the characters you’ve grown to love. Not a happy thought at all.

Line War continues the events set in motion in Polity Agent. Erebus is attacking Polity worlds seemingly at random. Cormac together with Arach, Scar and Hubbert Smith (a golem) are tasked to capture a Legate and find out what Erebus is planning. At the same time Orlandine, Mika, Dragon and Jerusalem are also busy trying to bring an end to Erebus and the Jain threat. Best of all, Mr Crane is back and he is out for vengeance – with all the gratuitous violence that entails.

I’m not going to give away any of the plot twists, but I have to say that things definitely didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. I expected an immense space battle extravaganza, instead things unfolded in a far more stealthy and sinister way. The actual goal and duration of the plan Erebus and his cohorts hatched was astonishing. I didn’t see that one coming at all.

Overall Line War is an excellent ending to the Cormac series. It provides a great sense of closure while still leaving enough room for future novels. I loved how some of the characters changed throughout the series and how some of those thought to be saints actually turned out to be villains and vice versa. Surprisingly I must admit that I actually enjoyed the cast of supporting characters far more than Cormac. Mr Crane and Arach really stole the show for me with their distinct personalities and quirky sense of humour.

I have one huge problem though. When I read I like to completely immerse myself in the world the author creates. I grow attached to the characters and form my own vivid idea of what they are like based on their descriptions, mannerisms and actions. So when an author suddenly decides to change the sex of one of the characters it completely shatters my perception of that character and diminishes my enjoyment of the novel considerably. I’m sad to say that in this final Cormac novel, Neal Asher has done just that.

‘Not a complete ship,’ replied Vulture. The little survey ship’s AI voice was female and silkily sexy.
- Brass Man-
”Vulture himself had once been an artificial intelligence running a ship of the same name.”
- Line War -

As can be seen from the quotes above Vulture, introduced as a decidedly female character in Brass Man, is suddenly a male. Reading the first reference to Vulture in Line War, I had to do a double-take. My first thought was, “That’s just wrong. Herself, it has to be herself. He’s a she! It has to be a typo”. No such luck. Each and every reference to Vulture refers to a male. Unless I missed something major somewhere, I have to chalk it up to a huge continuity error. Since Vulture plays a reasonably large role I couldn’t easily overlook the discrepancy and it bothered me throughout the novel. Why Neal, why?

The verdict:
This was a terrific ending to the Cormac series. Despite the continuity error I still managed to enjoy it immensely. Neal is one of those authors that never fail to please. If you pick up a Neal Asher novel you know you’ll get an action-packed, high octane roller coaster ride with an intricately woven plot. While action is his main focus he also explores some big issues in his work, cunningly working them into the plot or chapter starts. Highly recommended to any space opera fans!

Rating: 7.5/10

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.

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