Book Review: “Prador Moon” by Neal Asher

Prador Moon cover art

I’ve previously read and reviewed Neal Asher’s “Polity series” novels Dark Intelligence (2015) and War Factory (2016), both part of the “Transformation” trilogy.

Frankly, Asher has written so many novels, just within this one series, that I was stumbling blind when I read those two, and although I enjoyed them, I couldn’t figure out how everything fit together.

I needed some sort of context to make sense of the universe I was experiencing. Although it’s not the first “Polity” book Asher (metaphorically) penned, Prador Moon records the first encounter between humans and AIs in the Polity and the Prador.

It’s not a complex novel, but it does introduce some of the key elements presented in all of these stories, including “Augs,” “AIs,” “Golems,” “runcibles” (basically stargates), and of course, the utterly ruthless, crab-like Prador.

The novel originally came out in 2008, and having read some of Asher’s later work, I can see how he’s grown as a writer since then.

The basic faults I found was that scene shifting seemed rather abrupt. I was lost a few times as to who characters were and where the action was taking place.

There were also so many characters in play that I occasionally felt disconnected from who was who.

Speaking of, the characterization wasn’t the best, at least as far as me feeling any sort of affinity for the players. Even Jebel Krong, who had the role of main protagonist, didn’t make me want to cheer for him. Of course, he had experienced terrible things in war, but even toward the end of the novel, I didn’t really care if he lived or died. Come to think of it, his death wouldn’t have changed much.

I had more of an attachment to Urbanus than Krong, and he’s a Golem or an humanoid AI. If anyone, in a battle, I’d have chosen him to have my back.

As I mentioned, although sometimes confusing, the story was pretty elemental. Humanity meets the vicious, hyper-violent Prador race and then all hell breaks loose. Although the first battle occurs on a Polity space platform and between Prador and Polity ships, some of the fighting happens on planets, although there’s no real explanation for why this is so.

Besides experimenting on and eating human captives (described in brutal detail), the Prador want to capture Polity runcible technology. This is obvious to humans and the AIs they’re dependent upon, but also baffles them since such tech requires AI control, and the Prador have no AIs.

Nevertheless, the Prador attempt to capture a runcible or part of one is the crux of the novel. While the humans had a distinct technological and emotional disadvantage at the book’s beginning, it was the character Moira who provided the crucial defense. She was fitted with a sort of “rogue” Aug (a device that allows a person to plug into networked information centers…kind of like hooking your brain up to the internet) by a “mad scientist” type named Sylac which allowed her to manipulate orbiting runcibles. It gave her a weapon that would finally destroy the all but invulnerable (by Polity standards) Prador dreadnought, handing the enemy its first real defeat.

This book has been compared unfavorably to Robert E. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959) (which I’m having delivered to my house from my local public library). It’s been decades since I read that book, so I don’t remember it well enough to judge. However, I can say that Prador Moon is an action-packed, adrenaline-fueled science fiction saga possessing liberal doses of sheer and at times disgusting horror.

Not Asher’s best novel by far, but a fair introduction into a universe that only becomes more complex and intricate as it advances.

Since this novel series is exceptionally involved, here are a few resources to help you keep track:

Polity Encyclopaedia

Introduction to Neal Asher’s Polity Universe

The Polity Universe in Chronological Order.

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