Back in January, I recommended Neal Asher’s The Soldier, the first book of a series called The Rise of the Jain. The series takes place in Asher’s Polity universe, a future interstellar civilization run by AIs (artificial intelligence) and featuring androids, various degrees of posthuman citizens, and lots of aliens, both in AI and organic forms.
Throughout the Polity and surrounding regions of space, the remains of an alien civilization, named the Jain, are often found. Jain technology is far in advance of anything the Polity has, but the technology is never what it seems. It is always a trap, frequently destroying anyone who tries to make use of it. As a result, most of it is sequestered for safekeeping.
But there is a concentration of Jain technology in an accretion disk, apparently a developing solar system, at a location between the Polity and its long time enemy, the Prador Kingdom, although relations with the Prador remain tentatively peaceful. This disk is guarded by a human-AI hybrid named Orlandine and her fleet of AI controlled battle platforms.
The Warship is the second book in the series. It’s difficult to describe much about it without getting into spoilers. I’ll just note that the situation in the first book intensifies, with most of the action taking place around the accretion disk and the nearby planet of Jaskor, Orlandine’s base of operations.
We learn new things about many of the characters from the first book and meet new characters, including humans, AI, and Prador. The action in this book begins early and moves at a good clip throughout the whole story. There are battles, both on and under the surface of Jaskor, as well as epic space battles at the accretion disk.
Asher teases us a bit by how the event implied by the series title will come about. We saw one possibility in the first book, and others are introduced. But by the end of this book, we learn which one the title refers to.
As always, Asher excels at putting us in the viewpoint of utterly alien characters, exploring the workings of their minds, and mixing technological descriptions with battle tactics. As I’ve noted before, Asher’s writing is a type of mind candy for people who enjoy futuristic science, technology, biology, and other concepts mixed with space opera ones.
That said, this isn’t the hardest science fiction around by a long stretch. FTL (faster than light), anti-gravity, and many other magical technologies are liberally thrown around in the story. But it’s also matched with excellent speculation about the way an alien species’ biology influences its philosophies.
So if epic space opera is your cup of tea, highly recommended, although only after reading The Soldier.