I would like to introduce my pick for Best Book of 2010.
The Technician is about an intriguing alien mystery explored through the life of a few colorful characters. It is also a return to old familiar premises on the planet Masada for us old Asher fans.
Visiting Masada again for me was a bit like coming home and I got to enjoy some of the characters from previous books (You can read my review of them, links are below. The Line of the Polity is the one with most Masada in it).
As usual with Neal's books this one also has an intriguing and well developed back story that tightly fits together with what happened before. I can understand why he went back to Masada. It is such a wonderful quirky place with its weird ecology. There are huge Hooder predators that can swallow a man or a minor car and Gabbleducks (the novel is based on a short story about them) walking around copying human talk but not making any sense; the whole world is wrapped in the mystery of a disappeared alien civilization called the Atheter. On top of this an oppressive theocracy was toppled by rebellion a few decades ago facilitated by the mysterious Dragon's destruction of their orbital lasers. The Dragon was the mysterious being behind much of the intrigue in the Cormac series but it only figures here through its descendants the Dracomen created when the Dragons crashed on the planet.
One of my favorite characters Amistad the war drone from Shadow of the Scorpion is back in charge of Atheter research as events set in motion by the Dragon once again threatens humanity. With him we get to follow a bit of personal growth and development, AI style.
I might be the only one but I thought it was hilarious when Blue, the only colored Dracowoman was introduced, I immediately thought; Neal your rascal, you sneaked in a Na'vi on us. The next explanation that came to mind was the blue pill from Matrix in reverse.
The plot centers on Jeremiah Tombs of the original religious leadership and his journey back to sanity. A theme Neal also used successfully with Mr Crane/The Brass Man. Tombs is not the only point of view or main character in this novel but I enjoyed him most because he changes the most. The characters are well developed with much more 'meat' than in his early novels something I as a character person like and appreciate.
The Dragon's hidden agenda goes like a chain from Grindlinked to this one. That is a nice touch even if there is not much Dragon action in this one. It is more like a heritage.
The Technician is no doubt one of the best new novels I have read this year. It got a fantastic inner journey with fast-paced alien-world action. I am in awe of Neal Asher for this amazing feat of original writing. If you haven't read Neal before you might as well start with this one, you will not be sorry but you will get a bit more out of it if you read the Cormac novels first. Maybe I should add that Mr Asher is very fond of gigantic insects and might get a bit graphic in his descriptions.
Reviewer: Ove Jansson
Copy: bought by me
Copy: bought by me
Title: The Technician
Universe: The Polity
Author: Neal Asher
Genre: Space Opera
Jacket art: Jon Sullivan
Hardback: 512 pages
Publisher: Tor UK, August 2010
Order from: PanMacmillan | Amazon US | UK | sfbok
The Theocracy has been dead for twenty years, and the Polity rules on Masada. But the Tidy Squad consists of rebels who cannot accept the new order. Their hate for surviving theocrats is undiminished, and the iconic Jeremiah Tombs is at the top of their hitlist. Escaping his sanatorium Tombs is pushed into painful confrontation with reality he has avoided since the rebellion. His insanity has been left uncured, because the near mythical hooder called the Technician that attacked him all those years ago, did something to his mind even the AIs fail to understand. Tombs might possess information about the suicide of an entire alien race. The war drone Amistad, whose job it is to bring this information to light, recruits Lief Grant, an ex-rebel Commander, to protect Tombs, along with the black AI Penny Royal, who everyone thought was dead. The amphidapt Chanter, who has studied the bone sculptures the Technician makes with the remains of its prey, might be useful too. Meanwhile, in deep space, the mechanism the Atheter used to reduce themselves to animals, stirs from slumber and begins to power-up its weapons.
Agent Cormac Series
0. Shadow of the Scorpion
2. The Line of the Polity
3. Brass Man
4. Polity Agent
5. Line War