Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Review -- Dark Intelligence

Today we have a recent release by Neal Asher: Dark Intelligence.

The story takes place in the distant future. Mankind is governed by a government called the Polity which is ruled by AIs. A century ago, the Polity went to war with a crab-like alien race called the prador. Thorvald Spear was a soldier in that war, and he witnessed his squad get wiped out in an attack by a rogue AI named Penny Royal aboard a Polity destroyer. Spear eventually dies and, a century later, his memories and personality are downloaded into a new body. Now free to do whatever he wants, and with a century of back pay in his bank account, he sets off to get revenge on Penny Royal. 

Spear approaches a powerful crime boss named Isobel Satomi and hires her ship to take him to where an abandoned Polity destroyer is--a ship he plans to use to attack Penny Royal. Isobel has had previous dealings with the AI; she had it make her into the ultimate weapon, and, unfortunately for her, the changes are horrifying and possibly permanent. Spear says he can cure her, but is he telling the truth?

Meanwhile, Captain Blight and his crew aboard the Rose find themselves hijacked by Penny Royal. The rogue AI has been pardoned by the Polity for unknown reasons and is intent on taking the Rose to an unknown destination for an unknown purpose.

And on a planet where humans worship the prador, crab patriarch Sverl finds his rule challenged by young upstarts. Penny Royal has plans for him as well, but just what are those plans?

Spear and Isobel soon have a falling out, and the former leaves with the abandoned destroyer which he rechristens the Lance. Isobel vows revenge for what transpired between them, and Penny Royal is happy to assist. Spear, Isobel, Blight, Sverl and their respective crews soon find themselves headed for a confrontation orchestrated by Penny Royal, but what is the AI's true goal? And are Spear's memories really his own? Furthermore, does Isobel's terrifying power know no bounds?

It took me a while to warm up to Dark Intelligence. The book has an intriguing plot and interesting characters, but it also has several flaws. For one, Thorvald Spear is a rather bland protagonist. You don't really get much insights into him other than he's a former soldier consumed with revenge and questioning his past. 

Also, the narrative gets bogged down with technobabble. I was never really sure what a USER is or how it works, and that goes for several other terms in the book. 

And finally, the story doesn't really get good until the last part of the novel. Up until then, I found it to be a slog. 

However, when it does eventually get going, it's a page-turner. By the end, I had a hard time putting it down and kept reading to see what would happen next. Isobel's horrifying transformation into a Jabba the Hutt/zerg from Starcraft creature was particularly compelling to witness because you really don't know just how monstrous and powerful she's going to get.

Bottom line: If you can get through the bulk of the book, you'll find a worthwhile story. I just wish the meat of it came sooner.

No comments:

Post a Comment