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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
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She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 159/448 pages
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
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The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
Jane Austen
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Dark Intelligence, Neal Asher

Dark Intelligence - Neal Asher

Major spoilers not only for this book but for Asher's Polity books in general, particularly the Agent Cormac series.


I was gallivanting through this, well entertained by the space opera but grumbling to myself about the lack of subtext and rather too obvious fact that the major protagonists were all being manipulated by a superior intelligence to the extent of being near enough puppets, until fairly near the end. It seems like a lot of SF writers do this in one or more books - oh, look! The people you've been tagging along with and got to care about? They may as well have been robots controlled by this AI! It always comes as a let down, not an exciting revelation, at least for me and it usually isn't even all that well disguised a surprise. Certainly not here.


I began to question the lack of subtext towards the end, when the motivations of said AI that's controlling events start becoming clear, though. In earlier Polity books it's made clear that the AIs in charge hold a strict policy of capital punishment for murder and when the in-chargest-of-them-all AI is found to be untrustworthy and itself a murderer it gets it's own punishment. At the time I took the views espoused on criminality and punishment for Asher's own but in this book we have strong themes of atonement for crimes past, redemption and belief in second chances.


Has Asher changed his views? Were the views of the Polity AIs never his in the first place? Was the real point of Agent Cormac's career simply that it should be the same rule for everybody, including the power elite and if they get caught out doing what they condemn with death when others do it, they shouldn't expect any mercy? This and Jupiter War have provided much more food for thought than I would typically expect from Asher. This one also reminded me of what he's best at; alien ecologies and nefarious politics. It also avoids egregious scientific errors sometimes present in his other books. I think if you've never read any other Polity books it's a bad place to start, however, as it takes few prisoners regarding knowledge of previous events.