The Soldier – Neal Asher

First of the series Rise of the Jain, this is a hardcore science fiction novel set in the author’s Polity universe.

For reasons that are unclear – at least to me – there is a chunk of outer space where ancient but powerful Jain technology is trapped and guarded to keep the rest of the universe safe.

Chief jailer is a half human, half artificial intelligence, Orlandine. The Dragon – an alien intelligence with some quirky human characteristics – is also on guard. The par of them don’t trust one another. The situation is not helped by the plan Orlandine is working on to destroy the Jain technology.

The prador (alien, crab-like race) and human authorities are keeping watch from a distance.

The entrapped alien technology stirs into more active life, and somewhere out there a rogue trader delivers a package that is about to stir the pot, big time.

This is super-charged space opera, with mind boggling technology and awesome death and destruction thrown about like confetti. The plot is slippery, but it’s there and full of twists if you can keep up with the competing interests and factions. The author pours his heart and soul into describing this universe, with relentless detail that may sometimes overwhelm. In short, it can be a slog. The question for the reader is whether the effort is worth making. Sadly, for me it’s not. The characters don’t engage me quite enough, and the complexity of the narrative doesn’t quite work. I wish it were otherwise, as I could do with a chunky science-fiction series to dig into.