Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Book-A-Day #72 (9/27): Brass Man by Neal Asher

Another big space adventure from Asher, whose books I find strangely compelling.

Why strangely? Hm, that's hard to say... Asher writes serviceable prose, and writes about a lot of big explosions, and my tastes usually go the other way in both areas. (In fact, I read bits of a big fat SF book with lots of fighting last week, and didn't finish it.) But I find I look forward to an Asher novel (I read Prador Moon just a couple of months ago), and I read that book all the way through (even when I think I really should be moving on to something else for work), and it's always been quite enjoyable.

I think he tickles the same part of my brain as Steven Erikson does, but in a SFnal way. So, if there's anyone out there who likes Erikson, Asher might just be a SF equivalent.

Brass Man is a sequel to Gridlinked (which I did read) and The Line of Polity (I assume, because I didn't read it), and, because of that, the beginning is a bit confusing. Asher sets up a lot of parallel plotlines, and backfills the stories of the previous two novels, and he's not quite as good at doing either of those things as would be preferable. (Though he gets the job done, and he seems to be getting better book-by-book.) In a way, an Asher novel (at least the long ones) is like some large and fantastically complicated piece of earthmoving machinery: it takes a while to get going, and it snorts smoke and fire as it gathers momentum, but once you get through all of the gear changes it just keeps picking up speed and is unstoppable until it slams into the last page.

This isn't publishing in the States until January, and I always say I don't do reviews in the first place, so I'll leave my plot description to a bare minimum: the guy who I think was the villain of Line of Polity has survived, and heads off to do nefarious acts, which may include destroying all of human civilization. Ian Cormac, our series hero, is trying to stop him. They collide on a low-tech backwater planet, where the enigmatic alien AI Dragon (or one piece of it) is hiding out for its own purposes. Other people circle around them, including some locals and a number of interesting AIs. Oh, and the psychotic android Mr. Crane (the "Brass Man" of the title, who was the big baddie in Gridlinked) has been recreated, though his story doesn't go the way readers of Gridlinked would expect.

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