Cover art for Neal Asher’s 2015 novel “Dark Intelligence.”
Disclosure: My short story “Joey” will be published in the upcoming Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four which also features the novelette “Monitor Logan” by best-selling author Neal Asher. Watch for the anthology on Amazon starting March 1, 2019.
I must admit that prior to being informed of the above, I had never heard of Asher or his works, though scanning his published novels, I was certainly impressed. Since we’d be “sharing” the inside of an anthology, I felt I should get to know his writing a bit better, and so selected Dark Intelligence: Transformation Book One (2015) as my introductory novel.
There was a superficial resemblance to Alastair Reynolds’ 2008 collection of short stories (all set in the same universe) Galactic North, particularly in the area of “medical atrocities,” but other than that, they’ve both described unique universes.
The novel is an ensemble piece, however the main protagonist, and the only one who speaks in first person, is a man called Thorvald Spear, who was killed in a war a century before by the rogue AI Penny Royal, or so it seems. Spear is revived with a strong desire to revenge himself on the supremely powerful Penny Royal, but as he continues to pursue her, he becomes uncertain if some, or any of his memories are truly his rather than images implanted by the AI in order to manipulate him.
Cover image of Kent Wayne’s “Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony”
I’ve been following Kent Wayne’s (pen name) Echo series for a few years now. Kent is an indie author with a vision for life on and in orbit around a colony world called “Echo” set a thousand years in the future. Being a veteran, he renders military action with a keenly realistic voice, sometimes going over the top. After reviewing Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter over two years ago, and Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes last October, I was anxious to get into the third installment, Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony.
“Agony” takes a very dramatic twist away from the first two novels. In “Shatter,” we are introduced to “Crusader” Kischan Atriya, an elite soldier who is becoming dissatisfied with his role as “Crew” but is unable to articulate why. He gets in deep with members of a despotic religious order who have ordered his death, and after a brief encounter with his mentor, the mysterious Verus, we follow him in a slow descent into what could be the end of his life, engineered by his own supposed allies during a mission into a “Scape.”
Volume 2 picks up right where the first tale leaves off, and the reader is thrust into an adrenaline-fueled power dive with wall-to-wall combat scenarios, the first half of the novel being non-stop action. Atriya manages to survive, thanks to his specialized enhancements, his own wits, and his unimpeachable sense of honor, but at a terrible cost to his body and mind. Having barely survived by the end of the story, he has few options left, all of them leading to tragedy and death.