This is the prequel to Neal Asher’s Agent Cormac series and it covers Cormac’s early years and the first missions that formed the basis of the man he later became.
Title: Shadow of the Scorpion
Series: prequel to the Agent Cormac series
Author: Neal Asher
Cover Art: Jon Sullivan
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Nightshade Books 2008 (US) | Tor UK 2009
Genre: Space Opera | Military Science Fiction | Post human
Order by: Tor UK | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok
[blurb] Raised to adulthood during the end of the war between the human Polity and the vicious arthropoid race, the Prador, Ian Cormac is haunted by childhood memories of a sinister scorpion-shaped war drone and the burden of losses he doesn’t remember.
In the years following the war he signs up with Earth Central Security, and is sent out to help either restore and simply maintain order on worlds devastated by Prador bombardment.
There he discovers that though the old enemy remain as murderous as ever, they are not anywhere near as perfidious or dangerous as some of his fellow humans, some of them closer to him than he would like …
The book is dedicated to the Island of Crete, because the scorpions are small there which doesn’t fit the one in the book, but then he is not on Crete either.
The protagonist is Ian Cormac the young boy and Cormac the soldier in training. The book starts with a flashback to young Ian alone with his mother in the desert. That’s where he sees the scorpion-shaped old war drone for the first time. The story focuses mainly on a selection of mission made by young Cormac with flashbacks to his youth.
Neal Asher is a British science fiction author living in Essex. I am most familiar with and love the now six Agent Cormac novels in the Polity universe. He has also written the Splatterjay Trilogy and a number of standalone novels and short stories in the same universe that I am keen on reading (expected summer reading 2010).
The world Neal Asher paints is the Polity where humanity has spread hundreds of light years ruled by benign artificial intelligences (AIs). Instead of evolving into something in-comprehensive by humans the AI:s choose to stay with their creators. There are some post human features in there mind-upload into golem bodies, nano technology, body enhancments, computer-brain interfaces, sentient spaceships and much much more.
One thing that sets Neal Asher apart from the usual Space Opera is the complex and well thought out future society he created. It is complex and believable.
Young Cormac has to find his way as a soldier on the war thorn planet Hagren where he first experience the Separatists as they tries to sneak into the crashed Prador warship to steal warheads. Faced with both the Separatists and surviving Prador crew Cormac has to make some hard decisions and learn just how far he is prepared to go. Fighting your own people is not what he expected.
The big mystery is the war drone, where is it from, what do it want?
The other thing that sets Neal apart is the characterization. Neal is a wizard with characters, a new character comes to life in a few paragraphs and they all makes sense and add their part to the story.
The main character Ian Cormac, or Cormac as he prefers is easy to love, but he is a complex character with many dimensions. He deeply contemplates the choices he makes and feels bad about the hard ones he has to make but he comes through with determination and adaptability. He and the other characters grow and take on new roles.
The questions the characters ponder are also high quality. In this novel Neal ponders moral questions about being a parent and protecting your child as well as many of the questions a soldier has to ask himself when he stands against his own. Many of those questions are current today, the technologies exist today but they are used on soldiers returning from war and they are just as controversial now.
The Shadow of the Scorpion is an excellent introduction to Agent Cormac and the Polity universe. It takes on some deeply moral issues as well as being a fast paced science fiction story with aliens, rebels and sentient war machines. It works as a standalone novel and gives great background if you are already into the Cormac series.