Review: The Line of Polity by Neal Asher (2003)


Neal Asher has to be one of my favourite authors, notice I didn’t say SF authors (why add an unneeded label), but I’ve been reading his Polity series in a bit of an odd order.

Here is the internal chronological order:

  1. Prador Moon
  2. The Shadow of the Scorpion
  3. Gridlinked
  4. The Line of Polity
  5. Brass Man
  6. Polity Agent
  7. Line War
  8. The Technician
  9. The Skinner
  10. The Voyage of the Sable Keech
  11. Orbus
  12. Hilldiggers

Plus a collection of Polity-focused short stories

The Gabble and Other Stories

And here is the order I’ve read them in so far:

  1. The Gabble and Other Stories 
  2. Prador Moon
  3. The Shadow of the Scorpion
  4. The Skinner (audiobook)
  5. The Voyage of the Sable Keech (audiobook)
  6. Hilldiggers
  7. Orbus (audiobook)
  8. The Technician
  9. Gridlinked
  10. The Line of Polity

The reason that I mention my reading history is that I’ve already seen the aftermath of some of the events in The Line of Polity from reading The Technician but probably not realised their significance. The same can probably said of Agent Cormac as The Shadow of the Scorpion explores the Cormac as he’s manipulated (or should I say shaped) into Agent Cormac.

I’m not unhappy with my reading order though as The Skinner, The Voyage of Sable Keech and Orbus make up their own trilogy and Hilldiggers and The Technician are stand-alones. And The Gabble is a great introduction and if you like short stories they really hooked me into flavour of the Polity.

What it has done is make me want to re-read The Technician again, in fact I want to re-read all Neal’s Polity books. There is something about the continual exploration/evolution/enjoyment of Asher’s Polity that makes it fascinating to read – though also makes me read his books slowly (when I’m not listening to the audiobooks) so I can digest everything.

The plots themselves, like The Line of Polity, are pacy, and the details that are absorbing. And in this one we have Agent Cormac again called on to deal with the alien known as Dragon (though not the same aspect as found in Gridlinked) at the same time as the planet Masada is going through a slow rebellion in the hope that the Polity will intervene.

Neal weaves three main threads, which really start off as the two mentioned above, before Cormac underestimates the skills and knowledge of a biophysicist called Skellor who brings a whole new danger with him.

What I like about Asher’s stories is that he has a passion for biology and uses that to inject new variations of life on to the worlds he presents. This time we have deadly creatures, who have said mostly away from the human inhabitants of Masada until chaos unfolds drawing their attention.

He also shows a love of technology and layers different levels of advancements with the Theoracy having low worn out tech, there is an outline station, Miranda, that is old by Polity standards but above Theocracy, and then we have Dragon whose is able to construct creatures with advanced DNA and then we have what Skellor initiates.

The level of thought and details always makes Asher, for me, slow reading as the plot wants to zip but I want to enjoy the ideas and the settings. It’s quite a skill I think to give you a pacy plot that you want to slow down so you can take everything in.

The current paperback is 660 pages and towards the end you come to realise that it’s not going to be a neat ending. And that the next one, Brass Man, has to pick up certain bits left behind, as does The Line of Polity in some respects.

The danger of intertextual conversions is that the author cannibalises their own ideas so much they end up as skin and bones, but from experience of the Splatterjay trilogy Asher digs deeper, which is why I said earlier that I really want to get round to rereading but first I think I need to catch up with the canon.

One thing I haven’t really mentioned is there is an underlying anger with religion (or so it seems to me) as the echelons of the Theocracy literally live above the people that prepress in the name of God and are deluded that their belief their faith will one day make the Polity crumble.

Asher cover a lot. Highly recommended for SF fans who like explosions, technology, biology, and knowing that the author is a fun.

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