Fiction Reviews


Weaponized

(2022) Neal Asher, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, 531pp, ISBN 978-1-529-05003-5

 

Ursula has lived twice the normal human lifespan, courtesy of the latest technology. But now she’s struggling to find excitement and purpose, so signs up to the Polity’s military. She excels in weapons development, and progresses rapidly up the ranks. But after botching a powerful new ammunition test, she’s dismissed from service.

Hunting for a simpler, more meaningful existence, the ex-soldier heads for the stars. And after founding a colony on the hostile planet of Threpsis, Ursula finally feels alive. Then deadly raptors attack and the colonists are forced to adapt in unprecedented ways. The raptors also raise a deeply troubling question: how could the Polity miss these apex predators? And alien ruins? Meanwhile, biophysicist Oren has formed his own survival plan – one he’ll pursue at any cost. As a desperate battle erupts to consume the planet, Ursula finds she must dig deep into her past to ensure humanity’s future.

Well, this is a meaty tome from Asher, and while I usually flinch when I see a book that is this thick and fairly hefty to hold, I’m not that concerned when it comes to Asher’s work, which can be lengthy but is told from multiple viewpoints, and not all of them human. However, this isn’t the easiest read for a reluctant reader like myself given that the text is over 500 pages long and only told through 21 chapters, which are not divided into his typical varied viewpoints, instead, here they are divided into “Present”, “Past” and “Near Past”, so pay attention reader, there is a lot going on here in this ping-pong, switching timeline of a tale.

Weaponized is considered to be one of Asher’s standalone “Polity” novels like Prador Moon, although some people have suggested it is in fact a sequel to Jack Four which came out in 2021, and told the story of Jack, the fourth of fifteen clones who becomes aware and becomes a hunter, seeking revenge, but he is also being hunted at the same time. If anything both novels share a narrowness of scope and a focus on the growth of the central character.

For those unfamiliar with his work, proceedings start with a glossary, although considering Asher has written twenty three novels, I would imagine that most readers are Asher devotees, but here we get an explanation for things like “Augmented” “Hardfield” “Hooders” “Jain Technology” and “U-space”. Given the explanations on offer at the start, we are treated to familiar Asher tropes throughout the narrative, namely monsters, action, violence, and exotic creatures and locations as well as transformations, for good and bad, but it is not just physical transformation or being augmented by Jain technology that occurs, but personal growth and a sense of purpose and duty and responsibility that blossoms within Ursula, who isn’t that likeable a character to start with, and prone to making mistakes and errors of judgement.

This is a different Asher novel, and it is good to see him doing something varied. It’s a moot point as to whether or not this is a sequel to Jack Four, but the way the story ends, you can expect a sequel to Weaponized, and that would be no bad thing.

Ian Hunter

 


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