11 June 2010

Neal Asher - Gridlinked

I think I may have found a new hero. No, not Superman. This novel by Neal Asher is the first of the Agent Cormac series of Polity Universe books, centering around the activities of ECS agent Ian CormacOMG, he is the second coolest guy in the Universe, following incredibly closely to Captain Mal Reynolds

We're talking about an agent who has a sentient AI shuriken with chainglass blades that can extend to 30cm each. A guy who can take out whole armies of separatist terrorists without blinking, or spilling his coffee. The guy the ECS calls on when they need an agent to do the impossible. He's James Bond without the desperate need for sexual gratification. He's Bond without the need for glory. He is unstoppable. And he has access to weapons that you wouldn't believe. He is cooler than you could ever dream of being, and he doesn't even know it. And he doesn't care. And if he did know and care, he'd be so cool about it that you wouldn't even know that he knew or cared. He's that cool.

Spoilers blah blah blah jump.
This first story deals with Cormac's mission to find out what when wrong when a runcible buffer failed to slow down a person in transit, and he exited at lightspeed, causing a 30 Megaton atomic explosion.  Whoops. Since runcible transport is fairly reliable, some kind of terrorism must be involved. Cormac is deployed to figure it out. But there are a few catches.

Catch One: Cormac has been Gridlinked (permanently connected via his brain to the galactic AI/Computer network) for 30 years, 10 years longer than is considered safe. He has lost his ability to relate to humans. He has to some extent lost his humanity. Earth Central has decided that for his own good, he must disconnect. Suddenly, for the first time in decades, Cormac is without instant access to data. Needless to say, it's gonna take some adjusting. Oh, and he doesn't deal well with people any more. And his team is made up of....people. Duh.

Catch Two: In the course of his previous assignment, Cormac has managed to drive a homicidal maniac completely insane. Said maniac is now after Cormac, armed with a ridiculous array of seeker weapons, ruthless mercenaries and a twisted Golem android named Mr Crane.

Catch Three: A intergalactic alien space meatball thing named Dragon has shown up (or part of it anyway), claiming that the thing that caused the explosion has escaped, although you can't really trust Dragon. Something has gotten loose though. Did it cause the explosion? What does Dragon have to do with it? What the hell is that flea thing that ate Gant? And what are the Dracomen doing here?

Catch Four: ECS isn't telling Cormac all of the things it knows about this case. In fact, they aren't really telling him anything at all. Probably. Maybe.

The result is a furious interstellar romp through snow, sand, mud, forest and guts. One of the best things about Asher's work is how gruesome it is, some truly hilariously sick things happen. For example, the main bad guy looses an eye at one point, only to have it replaced with a poorly designed and badly installed optical augmentation that runs out of his eye socket before turning back and connecting to a neural Aug near his ear. The eye socket is described as crusted and oozing. This is a fairly mild example. Plenty of bodies explode into pink mist. It's all pretty gross. But in a fun way.

I just reread the bit above, and I know it makes ME sound sick, but I'm really not. Look, just read the damn thing and you'll get what I mean. But you will never look at Saturn's rings again without thinking of mince meat. Hahahaha.

I think Asher is my new favourite writer.  Nine million billion stars.