***///***///***///Welcome, Polity Citizen***///***///***
Please enter runcible facility and select your destination;
Thank you for your patience.
-Choros, planetary AI warden of Marques III
The Worlds of Polity
(or why Neal Asher books rock)
Part the First
Reviewed by Raul M. Chapa
The best escape I can think of is to get lost in a good book, and when a writer is creating great books, I want to participate in absolute immersion and lose hours and even days. The science fiction that Neal Asher is producing has to be some of the most exciting in recent years. An already established author across the pond, his works have hit the states and if you are looking for thrilling action that will keep you hooked from page one, weird technology that will make you scratch your head and think, “Wow”, and unique monsters that will haunt your dreams, you need not look further than his Polity novels.
What is the Polity exactly? It is a conglomeration of human and artificial intelligences that have established homes on thousands of worlds. Asher’s AIs help control interplanetary travel with the use of runcible gates (yeah, I know, a nonsense word, but apparently applicable to the bizarre upper dimensional mathematics involved in faster than light travel) that reach across the galaxy instantaneously. They also have a hand in controlling everything a planet can produce, create, and supply for its people. They take care of everyday crime, and the majority of Polity worlds function productively in complete peace. The AIs of the Polity are the ones who make policy–whether to accept a world into the Polity or to wage a war against an alien species. That Asher makes them have human quirks at times reminds us that they are a true reflection of ourselves.
Several of the technological aspects of his stories have to do with “augs,” or devices that humans attach to themselves to make them better able to process reams of information. While that helps somewhat, other humans, such as those working for Earth Central Security, are “gridlinked,” meaning technology is surgically placed in the skull to help them think on the level and speed of an AI. In this case, a person can know everything about another person, place or thing instantaneously. Along with this skill comes an enhanced speed and reaction time, so for secret agents of the Polity, this is a good thing.
Ian Cormac is Asher’s main character in many books. Though he is introduced in Shadow of the Scorpion, he really comes to his own in Gridlinked where he is a sort of Jack Bauer or 007 working for ECS. Like the best secret agents, Cormac has a weapon that is unique – it is called Shuriken and like the ninja weapon, it is a throwing star, but also part AI. It is larger than what we think as a throwing star and has chain-glass blades that sweep in and out to expand its cutting diameter. Cormac can control what it does, but sometimes the weapon seems to truly have a mind of its own and has saved his life on many occasions. Sadly, this book is out of print (hopefully not for long), but you can follow his adventures in titles like Line of Polity, Polity Agent, Brass Man, and Line War. He is an interesting character because he was linked to the AIs for far longer than is considered healthy; he loses the gridlink and has to relearn what it means to be human.