cover image The Soldier: Rise of the Jain, Book One

The Soldier: Rise of the Jain, Book One

Neal Asher. Night Shade, $26.99 (392p) ISBN 978-1-59780-943-6

Asher (Infinity Engine) begins his new series set in the Polity universe with this adrenaline-charged work that brings the threat of the civilization-destroying Jain to the fore. Asher demonstrates his skill at creating alien actors with a cast of characters that does not include a single unaltered human. The action in this volume centers on the accretion disk of an exploded star that is littered with dormant Jain tech. The human- AI amalgam Orlandine is sent to protect against any threats from the disk, while the AI- controlled human Polity and the king- dom of the crablike prador, who were once at odds, wait warily to see what happens there. Partnered with Orlandine is Dragon, a moon-size alien artifact with inscrutable motives and a fierce hatred of the Jain. When the Client, the last remnant of her species, is revived, she takes control of one of the many weapons platforms guarding the disk and disappears on her own mission. Once a Jain soldier unit is activated, all these entities and more join in combat, starting with hand-to-pseudopod fights and escalating to titanic battles that rend space. With mind-blowing complexity, characters, and combat, Asher’s work continues to combine the best of advanced cybertech and military SF. (May)