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It’s been three-and-a-half years since I first started this trilogy with Dark Intelligence and almost three years since I read and reviewed part two, War Factory. Now I wrap up Neal Asher’s Transformation trilogy with Infinity Engine.
The hardest part of reading these books is keeping track of all of the characters. In Book One, Thorvald Spear seemed to be the central character and he still receives a lot of the focus, but the Black AI Penny Royal (I love the name) is the intelligence that is manipulating all of the other characters and circumstances to their own ends.
A main component was introduced in the last book, “Room 101,” a former weapons factory orbiting a supergiant star that, according to Penny Royal’s design, is being remade into something radically different.
The Polity, which is basically Earth’s empire, the Prador Kingdom, and the Atheter race all figure prominently, but you have to pay attention to see how all of the threads are woven together in this final chapter.
I suppose it’s a good thing that Asher included Cast of Characters pages and a Glossary. I thought about referring back to them, but in the end, I decided to let the narrative carry me along.
Besides Penny Royal, my favorite AI is Riss, Spear’s companion, incredibly deadly, and got to have watching your back in a firefight.
The action is almost none stop and everyone’s motivation in the book is to find Penny Royal and to kill the AI. That doesn’t work out so well for a number of the characters (I won’t say which ones) who perish in the attempt. But the Dark AI’s motivations remain a mystery almost until the end. They are known as a terrible killer, but also bestow various “gifts” on the characters.
Like the character Mr. Pace, are they seeking death, redemption, or something else entirely. Whatever the answer, they have everyone else dancing on the strings they pull even though those like The Brockle believe they still have a chance to kill them.
For Penny Royal, and ultimately for reality itself, the answers lie beyond the bounds of U-Space and inside the black hole Layden’s Sink. For the AI, it is both an end and a beginning.
My advice to readers is to not wait years to finish the trilogy. There is so much packed into each book, that if too much time passes, you forget a lot of the plot points. Franky, I don’t know how Asher keeps all this straight in his head.
Five stars Amazon style. A total thrill ride from beginning to end.
Oh, my favorite quote from the book, especially since sleep often eludes me:
Inside my cabin I stripped, sprawled back on my bed and shut my eyes. Of course the way I went to sleep bore little similarity to how primitive humans did it. I just started a sleep program in my aug, with the requisite amounts of deep sleep and REM over a period of eight hours, then shut down as if someone had pulled my power supply.