Fiction Reviews

The Warship

(2019) Neal Asher, Macmillan, £18.99, hrdbk, xv +460pp, ISBN 978-1-509-86250-4


In this second volume of 'Rise of the Jain' following The Soldier, Neal Asher takes us on a thrilling ride into interstellar politics and impending war.

Their nemesis lies in wait…

Orlandine has destroyed the alien Jain super-soldier by deploying an actual black hole.  And now that same weapon hoovers up clouds of lethal Jain technology, swarming within the deadly accretion disc’s event horizon. All seems just as she planned.  Yet behind her back, forces incite rebellion on her home world, planning her assassination.

Earth Central, humanity’s ruling intelligence, knows Orlandine was tricked into releasing her weapon, and fears the Jain are behind it.  The prador king knows this too – and both foes gather fleets of warships to surround the disc.

The alien Client is returning to the accretion disc to save the last of her kind, buried on a ship deep within it.  She upgrades her vast weapons platform in preparation, and she’ll need it.  Her nemesis also waits within the disc’s swirling dusts – and the Jain have committed genocide before.

Buckle up, here we go again for the second book in Neal Asher’s 'Rise of the Jain' series, but before the fun starts there’s a “Cast of Characters” and a” Glossary”. To be honest, I’m not really sure of the need for the former – the cast list isn’t that large, and if you’ve read book one – The Soldier – then you really should know who everyone is by now. More handy is the “Glossary” which is a handy reference guide to some of Asher’s weird and wonderful creations, like explaining what it means to augmented, or what a “Bounce Gate” is, or reminding the reader about the wonders of “U-space”, that’s “Under-space”, which is a sort of a hyper-space kind of thing Again, in keeping with The Soldier, there are only twenty chapters in The Warship, but they are at least split into the viewpoints of the different characters, making it an easy read.

Why is it an easy read?  Well, it’s fast and furious and darkly funny in places.  On one genetically-modified hand, this is a great military science fiction novel with battles taking place on different levels involving AI warships, weapons platforms and android soldiers and battle drones, to name but a few who are mere pawns in events that have been mapped out millions of years earlier – there are forces at work here who are playing a very, very long game.  There’s some big, big, epic space opera on display, but on the other claw, we have a shifting miasma of allegiances and betrayals and characters who have been modified or brought back to life, and no longer know who they are of why they are doing what they are doing.  Expect more revelations to follow. Asher knows how to rack up the tension and the thrills and spills, and that last line is a killer, the perfect set-up for book three in the series The Human  with the tagline “an ancient terror is free once more”. That might seem like a spoiler, but given the series is called 'Rise of the Jain', what else did we think was going to happen here?

The Warship  is great fun, from a writer at the height of his powers. Asher devotees are in for a treat, and those new to his writing will have double the fun - at least, working through his back-catalogue.

Ian Hunter


Neal Asher's back-catalogue includes:-


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