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Title: The Soldier
Series: Polity: Rise of the Jain #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
In a far corner of space, on the very borders between humanity’s Polity worlds and the kingdom of the vicious crab-like prador, is an immediate threat to all sentient life: an accretion disc, a solar system designed by the long-dead Jain race and swarming with living technology powerful enough to destroy entire civilizations.
Neither the Polity or the prador want the other in full control of the disc, so they’ve placed an impartial third party in charge of the weapons platform guarding the technology from escaping into the galaxy: Orlandine, a part-human, part-AI haiman. She’s assisted by Dragon, a mysterious, spaceship-sized alien entity who has long been suspicious of Jain technology and who suspects the disc is a trap lying-in-wait.
Meanwhile, the android Angel is planning an attack on the Polity, and is searching for a terrible weapon to carry out his plans?a Jain super-soldier. But what exactly the super-soldier is, and what it could be used for if it fell into the wrong hands, will bring Angel and Orlandine’s missions to a head in a way that could forever change the balance of power in the Polity universe.
In The Soldier, British science fiction writer Neal Asher kicks off another Polity-based trilogy in signature fashion, concocting a mind-melting plot filled with far-future technology, lethal weaponry, and bizarre alien creations.
Whoowhee, another Polity trilogy to dig into!
I like that we’re getting another storyline from Orlandine. She is a character from the Agent Cormac series and was under-utilized? Well, a side character, so not under-utilized so much as just not the main presence, which makes sense. We also get a couple of Hooper Old Captains from Spatterjay, so the Spatterjay trilogy, while not 100% necessary to understand this, would make this a much better read. Cormac himself is mentioned, so once again, Asher is really tying this into his previous books.
I “think” my only complaint is the lack of what Asher calls a baseline humans, ie, you and me. If you can be bothered to track down a timeline of the Polity, which I can’t as I simply don’t care, I think this is several hundred years after even the Transformation trilogy with the rogue Black AI Penny Royal? Asher seems to deliberately not introduce a hard timeline, even though I’m sure he’s got one. 1 year, 1 decade, 1 century, eh, it is all the same. Anyway, by that time, I wonder if there are even such things as baseline humans. I wouldn’t think so, as they simply couldn’t live in a world with everyone else who is amped up in one way or another. The Separatists aren’t even heard from in this book, and they seemed to be the last sizable holdout against the improvement of humanity in terms of adding machineware to enhance everything.
I do feel like the title is a bit misleading. I was imagining a lone super Jane-soldier taking on the entire Polity and giving them a run for their money. While it does start out small, it quickly turns into a mile long ship size entity that is more intent on fulfilling its secret mission than on taking on the Polity. This trilogy is appearing to be more about revealing secrets of the Jain (and a possible schism that destroyed them) than anything. Whatever, I’m along for the ride!
We also get another alien introduced to us, the Client. It helped the Polity during the Polity/Prador War as the Prador had wiped out its homeworld and species. Turns out it is Jain based and now, with nudgings from Dragon, has pretty much gone exploring. What we don’t get is anything about the Atheter, who seemed to have a big part in the Transformation series. I figured they would turn into a threat, but I guess not.
I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy as it rotates through my kindle.