Brass Man by Neal asher (Agent Cormac 3)

Interstellar agent Cormac is back with another intrepid adventure featuring ancient alien technology, a dragon hunting knight and a presumed dead enemy returning with a familiar man of brass. Here is my review.

Title: Brass Man
Series: Agent Cormac 3
Author: Neal Asher
Cover Art: Brice Jensen
Genre: Space Opera | Military Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor 2005
Paperback: 496 pages
Order by: Tor | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

From the Philip K. Dick Award nominee author of Cowl, an adrenaline-powered new SF adventure: Brass Man. Neal Asher returns to his trademark Polity future setting, in a sequel to Gridlinked, which SFRevu.com called “brilliant and audacious work, chock-full of cutting-edge ideas.”

Ian Cormac, a legendary Earth Central Security agent, the James Bond of a wealthy future, is hunting an interstellar dragon, little knowing that, far away, his competition has resurrected an horrific killing machine named “Mr. Crane” to assist in a similar hunt, ecompassing whole star systems. Mr. Crane, the insane indestructible artificial man now in a new metal body, seeks to escape a bloody past he can neither forget nor truly remember. And he is on a collision course with Ian Cormac.

Information

The story takes off where Line of the Polity ended. Agent Cormac momentary believe he has vanquished Skellor and his alien infestation when he destroyed his ship.

The story is told on two time lines, one is retroacts of Golem Twenty-five who later becomes Mr Crane’s origin and the other is the now.

Cormac is the protagonist with his own point of view, Skellor our antagonist is another and a third and new character is the knight and dragon killer Anderson Endrik on the primitive world of Cull. A world that just happens to host the Dragon.

The storyline is as usual intelligent and complex, maybe a little too much divided into subplots as it made it easier to put it down than the previous books.

World building

The Polity continues to chisel out and the world of Cull intrigues me. There is more of the inner workings of the Polity and the AI’s version of politics in this novel. The technologies and ideas in Neal’s universe start to feel familiar here in the third book, I have included them in my mindset but there are more surprises around the corner.

Plot

Skellor isn’t dead, instead he hides and search for new allies. Cormac partner up with a rather amusing warship AI named Jack Ketch and Aphran, the spirit of a Separatist rebel ghost tortured to death by Skellor.

Skellor is like an addict with the alien Jain nano technology and he resurrect Mr Crane thinking of using him against Cormac but there might be more motivating him that he is not conscious of. Then he goes off to see the Dragon on Cull subverting the minds of the local community at the same time really friendly like. But he doesn’t have as much control over the Jain as he thinks.

Meanwhile the Polity is trying to figure the Jain technology out. Mika and the quirky AI slash science vessel Jerusalem first have to deal with the infected and then continue with some rather risky experiments before joining the action on Cull.

The Golem twenty-five back story and the eventual desert march of Mr Crane is the theme of the book. He was made crazy and he now tries to find sanity again in his divided minds. Bloody and gory at times it is still a thought-worthy tale about the mechanics of the mind.

Characterization

The characters are rational and make sense inside their perceived reality and I as a reader understands where they are at. Cormac is still suffering from being hooked up to the AIs for thirty years but he is getting more and more human. I like that with the characters; they have more than the usual space opera or secret agent persona while still being fun and attractive to read.

Beside Anderson I think I liked Vulture best of the new characters. Vulture is the surviving AI from Occam Razor given a vulture body by the Dragon.

My View

I must admit I stumbled a bit at times with the multi faceted split vision story telling the first time I read it, give it time, it is worth it. Every Cormac novel adds a level to the mystery of the Dragon and the ancient Jain technology and in Brass Man you start to glimpse the bigger picture.  It also gives a good closure to an important but now minor part of the sinister mysteries ahead. You should read at least Gridlinked and The Line of the Polity before this one; I would not recommend it as a standalone novel. Great homage to the man of Brass Mr Crane himself and another fast paced Nano thriller about Polity trouble shooter Cormac.