Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: The Soldier by Neal Asher

Title: The Soldier
Author: Neal Asher
Pages: 448
ISBN: 9781509862368 / 9781597809610
Series: Rise of the Jain #1
Publisher: Macmillan / Night Shade Books (US)
Published: 17 May 2018
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

A hidden corner of space is swarming with lethal alien technology, a danger to all sentient life. It’s guarded by Orlandine, who must keep it contained at any cost – as it has the power to destroy entire civilizations. She schemes from her state-of-the-art weapons station, with only an alien intelligence to share her vigil. But she doesn’t share everything with Dragon . . .

Orlandine is hatching a plan to obliterate this technology, removing its threat forever. For some will do anything to exploit this ancient weaponry, created by a long-dead race called the Jain. This includes activating a Jain super-soldier, which may breach even Orlandine’s defences.

Meanwhile, humanity and the alien prador empire keep a careful watch over this sector of space, as neither can allow the other to claim its power. However, things are about to change. The Jain might not be as dead as they seemed – and interstellar war is just a heartbeat away.

The Soldier by Neal Asher is a mind-blowing start to the Rise of the Jain trilogy. Set in the expansive Polity universe many familiar characters make a welcome return. The focus this time around is on Orlandine and the enigmatic alien entity called Dragon as they stand guard against a threat that might very well destroy all sentient life. Long time readers know that wherever Dragon is involved things are bound to get interesting in the most chaotic of ways. And boy does it ever!

Neal Asher takes all the best elements from the Polity universe and weaves them together into a narrative that makes it feel as if everything that came before was only meant to set up the groundwork for this moment. Fans of the Polity universe will find everything they adore - incredible technology, weird alien creatures, sarcastic AI drones, gigantic space battles and the fate of the entire universe hanging in the balance. Asher even manages to expand on the back-story of the Polity in some truly surprising ways, with far-reaching implications in the current conflict, making it hard to believe that everything wasn't meticulously planned from the very start. While newcomers will be able to follow most of what happens thanks to an extensive glossary and ample recounting of prior events, The Soldier is best experienced if you are familiar with the previous novels set in the universe otherwise you will deprive yourself from seeing how masterfully all the threads laid down throughout the prior series are brought to fruition.

The characters are engaging and you can't help but feel sympathy for them as they each struggle to reconcile with their own unique nature and identity. The addition of some snarky battle drones provide a lighter touch and The Client introduces a whole new element to the story as it goes in search of its own forbidden history.
'You stir the still pool of history,' said the Librarian. 'Terror you cannot comprehend will come up from the depths.' (p 232)
The last third of the novel sent my adrenaline levels through the roof. I devoured the pages at a blistering pace as beloved characters faced dire peril and unexpected revelations changed the entire dynamic of events up to the very last page. This is one heck of a start to the trilogy, I'm not even sure how the rest of the books will be able to top this, but I can't wait to find out!

The Verdict:
Just when you thought the Polity couldn't get more interesting Neal Asher manages to weave the most awe-inspiring elements of his universe together into an amazing narrative brimming with awesome technology, vast space battles, gigantic explosions and intricate machinations that are terrifying in their scope. This simply tops everything that has come before. Like a true master Asher hits this one out of the galactic plane and it's difficult to believe everything in the Polity universe wasn't plotted out from the very start to bring us to this very point. The Soldier is a truly mind-blowing start to a new trilogy and I definitely can't wait to see what happens next. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)

Thanks to Pan Macmillan S.A. for providing the review copy.


  1. well thats me 20 quid down :) his last trilogy was a tad hard going/weird but he had just lost the love of his life :( looking forward to the start

    1. I really enjoyed it. Especially how it brings so many threads together from previous Polity books.