Neal Asher's Infinity Engine was published by Night Shade Books in the US in March 2017.
Information about Neal Asher:
Neal Asher was born 1961 in Billericay, Essex, the son of a school teacher and a lecturer in applied mathematics who were also SF aficionados.
Prior to 2000 the Asher had stories accepted by British small press SF and fantasy magazines but post 2000 his writing career took flight. Pan Macmillan offered him a three-book contract and have now published many more UK, America, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Japan Czechoslovakia and Romania. The majority of his novels are set within one future history, known as the Polity universe. The Polity encompasses many classic science fiction tropes including world-ruling artificial intelligences, androids, hive minds and aliens.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Infinity Engine:
The rogue AI Penny Royal makes a final stand in the explosive conclusion to Neal Asher’s hard-hitting and high-tech Polity space opera trilogy.
In the outskirts of space, and the far corners of the Polity, complex dealings are in play.
Several forces continue to pursue the deadly and enigmatic Penny Royal, none more dangerous than the Brockle, a psychopathic forensics AI and criminal who has escaped the Polity’s confinements and is upgrading itself in anticipation of a deadly showdown, becoming ever more powerful and intelligent.
Aboard Factory Station Room 101, the behemoth war factory that birthed Penny Royal, groups of humans, alien prador, and AI war drones grapple for control. The stability of the ship is complicated by the arrival of a gabbleduck known as the Weaver, the last living member of the ancient and powerful Atheter alien race.
What would an Atheter want with the complicated dealings of Penny Royal? Are the Polity and prador forces playing right into the dark AI’s hand, or is it the other way around? Set pieces align in the final book of Neal Asher’s action-packed Transformation trilogy, pointing to a showdown on the cusp of the Layden’s Sink black hole, inside of which lies a powerful secret, one that could destroy the entire Polity.
A REVIEW OF NEAL ASHER'S INFINITY ENGINE
Before I begin to analyse and review this novel, I'll mention that I hadn't read much fiction by Neal Asher prior to reading this novel. It took a bit of time for me to get used to the author's complex and well-created Polity universe, because I had to do research about the previous novels and their happenings, but boy, am I glad I took the opportunity to acquaint myself with them, because the Polity universe is simply amazing!
I admit that this reading experience was a bit overwhelming, because there was a lot of information to take in. Although it took a bit of time for me to explore the Polity universe, I enjoyed every minute of it and liked what I found out about the characters, the aliens and the technology. I'm soon going to read more novels by the author, because I want to find out what exactly has happened in the previous novels.
Infinity Engine is the third and final novel in the Transformation trilogy (the previous novels are Dark Intelligence and War Factory). It's an intricate and brilliantly created novel, which is filled with complex and layered characters ranging from AIs and humans to aliens. What separates it from many other science fiction novels is the diverse cast of characters, the detailed worldbuilding and the amount of subplots. It's the best and most satisfying space opera novel I've read in ages.
Because I feel that the less you know about this novel and its climax, the more you'll love the unfolding story, I'll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but I aim to be informative. (Trust me when I say that you don't want to be spoiled by too many revelations about the story and its climax, because the climax is worth waiting for.)
Here's a bit of information about how the story begins:
Haiman Crowther studies and analyses the unique black hole, Layden's Sink. The Hawking radiation coming from the black hole isn't always a simple chaotic output, but occasionally radiation exits in organised form, as data. Crowther is near the location where Penny Royal, an artifical intelligence that changed into something dark, was created and wonders why it has done certain things... The Brockle, an artificial intelligence who has once interrogated people, has a discussion with a woman who is auged. It kills the woman and leaves the scenes, because it has already breached its confinement and killed nominally innocent human beings and is committed to a grander aim. It changes its appearance and finds a way to escape.... Riss is slowly recovering from the combined EM pulse and viral attack, because her internal systems are yet to heal the damage... Trent discusses things with Sepia, the catadapt woman, and Cole, the mid-tech. They explore places and soon face a surgical robot that informs them that the place they've entered is not allowed for trespassers... And Penny Royal is making its own machinations...
This is the beginning of a story, which develops nicely towards a thrilling climax. I found the unfolding story interesting and was totally hooked by it, because it was intricately complex.
I like the author's storytelling style, because he concentrates on writing about various characters and their deeds. I find the author's way of following different plot threads masterful. The characters, their motivations and their deeds are all handled in a satisfying way. The characterisation is good and will please many readers.
The artificial intelligences are among the most impressive I've ever encountered in science fiction novels. Penny Royal and the Brockle are interesting and complex AIs, because they seem to be driven by their own agendas and have their own goals. The author's vision of them and their actions feels fresh and exciting.
Penny Royal is an artificial intelligence constructed in Factory Station Room 101, during the Polity war against the prador. Its crystal mind was faulty and it changed and did vicious things. Now it has its own machinations and readers are being kept at guessing whether they're good or evil until the ending. The Brockle is a powerful artificial intelligence, a swarm robot consisting of worm-like units that it can pull together into human form. It chases Penny Royal, because it considers Penny Royal to be a threat and aims to do what it must do regardless of what may happen while doing so and how many lives may be lost. I'm aware that there's no shortage of stories featuring AIs doing whatever they want to do, but there's something about the Brockle that makes it different. For instance, there's a thrillingly deranged feel to it that intrigued me.
When I began to read this novel and searched for information about the Polity novels, the xenophobic prador, who are giant crablike creatures, fascinated me a lot, because hostility is part of their biology. Among many other things, I also found the assassin drones and their deeds intriguing.
What makes this novel stand out in the field of science fiction is the author's fluent way of writing about technology and everything related to it. He's one of the few authors who excel in it. Despite the fact that almost everything about the story and technical information is fully fictional, details concerning technology feel suprisingly plausible.
If there are those out there who are not familiar with the Polity universe, Polity is a human/AI dominion extending across many star systems, occupying a spherical space spanning the thickness of the galaxy and centred on Earth. It is ruled by AIs and is a highly techinical civilization. There are many well-known science fiction tropes in the Polity universe, but the author uses them in an original and entertaining way.
I consider Neal Asher's Infinity Engine to be one of the crowning achievements in the space opera genre. It's satisfyingly original, wonderfully complex and above all else very entertaining. It's great that the author has managed to come up with such a distinct vision of space opera, because he doesn't struggle with worldbuilding and science fiction tropes, but blends and merges many elements with ease.
I found it interesting that the author touches upon such themes and issues as morality, politics, redemption, transformation and intelligence in an excellent way, but doesn't dwell on them. I also like the author's ability to keep things on the move and his way of delivering intense action scenes, because he does everything on purpose and avoids easy resolutions.
It's great that this novel has a well-made list of characters and a glossary, because it helps readers - especially newcomers to the Polity universe - to understand certain things better. I found these appendixes useful and informative, because I didn't know much about the Polity universe.
I highly recommend Neal Asher's Infinity Engine to readers who enjoy reading space opera novels with good characterisation. If you want to read quality science fiction and excellent space opera, don't look any further, because this novel has everything you could ever hope to find in a good space opera story. I have a feeling that this novel will be difficult to surpass on many levels, because it's a stunning achievement and may well be the author's best novel to date.
An outstanding and satisfyingly complex space opera novel!