Thorvald Spear, resurrected from his death over 100 years earlier, continues to hunt Penny Royal, the rogue AI and dangerous war criminal on the run from Polity forces. Beyond the Graveyard, a lawless and deadly area in deep space, Spear follows the trail of several enemy Prador, the crab-like alien species with a violent history of conflict with humanity.
Sverl, a Prador genetically modified by Penny Royal and slowly becoming human, pursues Cvorn, a Prador harboring deep hatred for the Polity looking to use him and other hybrids to reignite the dormant war with mankind.
Blite, captain of a bounty hunting ship, hands over two prisoners and valuable memplants from Penny Royal to the Brockle, a dangerous forensics entity under strict confinement on a Polity spaceship that quickly takes a keen interest in the corrupted AI and its unclear motives.
Penny Royal meanwhile continues to pull all the strings in the background, keeping the Polity at bay and seizing control of an attack ship. It seeks Factory Station Room 101, a wartime manufacturing space station believed to be destroyed. What does it want with the factory? And will Spear find the rogue AI before it gets there?
War Factory, the second book in the Transformation trilogy, is signature space opera from Neal Asher: breakneck pacing, high-tech science, bizarre alien creatures, and gritty, dangerous far-future worlds.
©2016 Neal Asher (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
The people in Asher's book used to have some ability to influence the events around them. I'm not entirely sure when that changed, but at this point anyone who isn't an out of control super AI with nearly unlimited powers is essentially baggage. I wish I could have liked this because I have been a big fan of the Polity books.
War Factory is the 2nd book of Neal Asher's Transformation series, picking up where book 1, Dark Intelligence ended. Penny Royal continues to manipulate and orchestrate people and events such that the Polity gives him a wide berth, while certain Prador elements are more concerned with reigniting war with the Polity. The title refers to a particular "war factory" that cranked out weapons and AI drones for during the Prador war and is the birth place of Penny Royal. Along the way, the various entities that Penny Royal has targeted have backstories revealed and are gradually coming to see Penny Royal in a different light.
The sci-fi elements continue the general themes from Book 1, but Asher adds time travel with an interesting twist to deal with some unusual, embedded problems. Asher also adds a new AI, a forensic investigator known as the "Brockle" who seems far more insane and dangerous than Penny Royal, but has proven useful to the Polity. In Book 1, Asher presented Penny Royal as a sort of chess grandmaster and puppeteer, pulling everyone's strings in a complex web of interactions that on the surface appeared to be directed at redressing past wrongs, but hinting at something far more devious. In Book 2, Asher adds god-like powers in Penny Royal's control of time, space, and matter. The climatic denouement when Penny Royal brings all the major players together as a definite Old Testament, burning bush feel with the ultimate purpose left for book 3.
The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices, including the Prador aliens, as well as the snake-like assassin drone and its sssssinister patois. Pacing is well executed as in typical Asher fashion, the plot is technically dense and requires close attention, but well worth the effort.
I'll think twice about spending so much time on such a book. The number of female characters is small and the main one turned into a monster.
The role of AIs in the future.
This is a great example of the trend in scifi space operas over the last 15 years where quality exposition is confused with great length. To put it another way, the story goes on and on and on (and on and on) in ridiculous detail and then just quits in a very unsatisfactory way. This story could easily have been told better in 1/3 of the time. "Spear reached up and rubbed his nose. Time passed while he contemplated what Penny Royal would do next. He rubbed his nose again. For good measure, he rubbed it a third time." (I made that up.) Given the great length, there could have been better character development but, again, it would have been acceptable and sufficient for a shorter work that just moved the action along sharply and GOT TO THE POINT.
I simply and thoroughly enjoyed this new addition to the continued story of the polity universe and I can't wait for the next installment.
This is a great book. The characters are are all believably motivated & the plot exciting. I cannot wait for book 3. More like this please audible. Well done Mr Asher
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