by Neal Asher
Cover Artist: Bruce Jensen
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0765317311
Date: 23 January, 2007 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
John Berlyne reviewed Brass Man by Neal Asher for us back in May of 2004.
Now the book is being released in the US in paperback and we have a new review by Harriet Klausner.
Top Earth Central agent Ian Cormac is hunting the alien "Dragon" Schizoid, though he has mixed feelings left over from his last assignment when he was Gridlinked. He feels good about the death of Pelter, whose brass man Mr. Crane killed millions at Masada and Elysium before Ian and the mercenary Stanton destroyed him. As he continues on his current quest he receives an emergency recall from his superior, and he must return to Earth Central immediately.
Apparently the obviously insane Skellor has somehow brought back to life the murderous monster Mr. Crane, who has begun another killing spree. Cormac's leaders fear that the Golem is even deadlier this time as Skellor combines the most amoral human artificial intelligence with the ancient alien Jain bio-technology that most scientists believe were weapons of mass destructions that took out planets in a blink. Cormac is their only hope to prevent galaxy wide slaughters, he is given a specially assigned team of some humans and disposable AIs to destroy Skellor, eradicate the Jain technology, and stop Mr. Crane.
While Cormac prepares his squad for the mission, on a bug infested planet Cull, the half-breed Rondure Knight Anderson accompanied by an apprentice Tergal the thief battles the Dragon whom he, like Cormac, assumes is evil because this odd species apparently knows how to use the five million year old Jain Technology.. Skellor reaches the same assessment about this alien essence and tries to forge an alliance with Dragon because he wants better control of the Jain technology that is part of who he is since it is inside him. Soon all the players, Mr. Crane, his current handler Skellor, Cormac and his troops, Anderson and Dragon head towards a confrontation at Cull where insectoid monsters abide; a battle like none have ever seen will occur with several star systems are at stake. However, in the middle of the conflagration some of Ian's AIs refuse to be disposable pawns when joining the enemy means living at least for now.
Brass Man like its predecessor Gridlinked is a wild dark distant future outer space science fiction thriller in which the bleak deadly landscape is the star of this thriller. The story line is fast-paced whether it following a small vessel on the outer fringe of the star system, at the rebuilt headquarters of Earth Central, or on planet Cull. Readers will feel they are along for the ride as the vast darkness seems everywhere with no end in sight even with the convergence at Cull.
The three prime humans (Cormac, Anderson and Tergal) are terrific characters trying to do the right thing whether it is saving a star system or battling insects. Skellor and Dragon are unique species who bring an alien feel to the Asher universe. However, it is Mr. Crane who steals the show as everyone assumes that in his reincarnation he will become even more evil than in his previous engagement. Readers learn more about how his first owner, the late Pelter, who like a deranged Dr. Frankenstein, drove his creation insane to the point that killing became the only reason to live. Whereas Philip K. Dick answered the question of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"; Mr. Asher answers the question do AIs go insane with as nurturing vs. naturing response. The bottom line is this is not for everyone, but the dark Brass Man is a powerful sequel better appreciated by reading the equally as violent and feral Gridlinked.