Book: Gridlinked by Neal Asher 

Good fun; up something like the same alley as Iain M. Banks 

Neal Asher
Tor, 2005 (originally published in 2001)
ISBN: 0-765-34905-1
423 pages

Over at his excellent blog Educated Guesswork, Eric Rescorla said that if you like Iain M. Banks's books, you might well like Gridlinked. Since, with one minor exception, I do like Ian Banks's writing, I decided that Gridlinked was worth a try. It turns out that I quite like the book and that I agree that it is up something like the same alley as some of Iain Banks's novels.

In the book, Ian Cormac is an undercover agent for Earth Central Security. The mission that he's finishing as the book begins is compromised because one of the separatist terrorists whose confidence he has gained thinks he's a robot. The reason for that is that he has been "gridlinked" for so long. To be gridlinked is to have a direct brain connection to the artificial intelligences that keep society running smoothly, and having one for too long is apt to leave someone rather emotionless. It's probably time for Cormac to turn that off.

Cormac kills one of the terrorists, but he doesn't manage to kill the leader of the terrorist cell before he leaves the planet. His next mission is to investigate the destruction of a "runcible", the device that's used for instantaneous travel between planets. Runcibles are, naturally, protected very thoroughly, so whatever could destroy one and the AI that controls it must be dangerous in a way that hasn't been anticipated. So he's de-gridlinked and off to tackle something strange with a very mad terrorist after him.

The story that continues from there is very good fun. And, though the narration isn't tight or taut, it's far from plodding. Cormac isn't as memorable as a John M. Ford character, but he carries a very cool weapon. And if you're at all like me, you'll like the idea of a universe that has AIs in it that say things like, "This is Viridian. Will the lunatic flying that antique please respond. I have no objection to you killing yourself, but you are now entering occupied airspace."

The book was originally published in the UK and spelling and usage haven't been Americanized for the US edition. That doesn't bother me, but it might bother someone. Even given the British style, there are some unusual usages, which I was happy to take as part of the book's atmosphere. Even so, there's "her's" (p. 174) and "your's" (p. 203), and "inferred" where "implied" is meant (p. 370), and "metaphorical" where "hypothetical" would be better (p. 373). And I'd have removed the redundancy in "All its lift came entirely from..." (p. 239). 

Posted: Thu - July 21, 2005 at 07:34   Main   Category: