Science Fiction Though the Decades

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2003: The Line of Polity (Asher, Neal)

Same old Asher routine, getting old but maturing, too (3/5)
From March 29, 2009

This is the fifth Asher novel I've read, after the two Spatterjay novels (The Skinner and The Voyage of Sable Keech), Prador Moon and Gridlinked. When spaced apart, the novels are a fun read as they typically include wry wit and gruesome battles. The Spatterjay novels also added detailed yet horrific planetary creature, a similar system which Asher employs in Line of Polity: wit, battles and fauna. But after reading the previous novels, the entire system is getting a bit repetitive with the endless battle scenes and homicidal native animals. Line of Polity doesn't stray far at all from Asher's signature plot and is actually quite evident towards the final 20% of the book when there are battles after endless battles all adding very little to the plot itself. A simplification would have been much appreciated to cut down on the amount of superfluous scenes. Asher is the type of battle writer who uses "a short-stock grenade-launcher for more intimate work."

The planet of Masada is where a good chunk of the book takes place, a place "you cannot draw a breath... even if its horrifying wildlife would let you." That's from the back cover of the novel... that's it, meaning not much info to go by before you buy the novel in the bookstore. A better, in book, quote about Masada is a place where "choices are limited to two - fight or die - and they are not mutually exclusive."

One more downside of the book is the villain Skellor. His name reminds me of Skeletor from the fames of He-man, Master of the Universe. Therefore, the name Skellor feels cheesy, as if it was ripped off from He-man. His presence in the novel is straight from the get-go and makes appearances all the way until the end, but what's seriously lacking is Skellor's motivation for being the villain rather than being part of the Polity.

The Polity doesn't play as big of a role in Line of Polity as it did in Gridlinked. There isn't a focus on augmentations or runcibles as it typically found in Polity society. The entire novel takes place on two distant planets and outer space. It lends little the structure of the Polity society but makes up for it by adding to the mystery surrounding the Dragon, which ended in Gridlinked. An apt foreshadowing quote would be, "That was Dragon. And my guess is that things are just about to start getting very complicated - and very deadly."

I'm interested to see how Asher will progress with the Cormac series, whether in the direction of wit and gore, a focus on Polity society or a concentration on the Dragon. The third novel in the series should answer this question--Brass Man (not as good, honestly--a good book or two, but not worth the while).

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