The Polity is a far future society run by artificial intelligences. In the early years of space travel, as we spread out into the solar system, the political make-up of humanity is a mixture of national and world (or moon) governments, and large corporations. However, these separate political entities – polities – employ AI for gain. During this time Iverus Skaidon, a scientist, directly links his mind to the AI Craystein Computer and invents underspace travel, just before his mind blows like a fuse. The invention of this faster-than-light travel results in a diaspora from the Solar System.
Many groups head out to the galaxy, usually in cryogenic storage in their ships, to set up numerous colonies. Shortly after this, the AIs take over in a relatively bloodless coup known as the Quiet War. During a renaissance, the second wave of humanity, guided by the AIs, spreads out into the galaxy (quite often running into that first wave). Skaidon’s technology, whose naming template is based on the poems of Edward Lear, gives the nascent Polity the runcible: gateways for instantaneous travel between worlds.
The Polity started out in short stories in the small presses. I wanted a far future in which I could tell any story, and it grew organically without much in the way of a plan bar this. I create ecologies because the logic of the predator and its prey must be adhered to, though my preference is always for the most grotesque of the former. I visualize that ‘technology indistinguishable from magic’ and give it credence from heavy science reading. And I try to wrap all this up in stories you will enjoy and characters you’ll care about. Here then are some of the stories I’ve told in the ever-expanding Polity.
And I will be telling more.
On a final note: the Polity is not all of it. In the Owner trilogy I tell the story of a near future and brutal dystopia, while in Cowl I venture into time-travel and a war across the ages between far future humans, to the beginning of life of Earth.
Neal Asher’s Polity Universe books in order
Agent Ian Cormac works for the Polity, embarking on investigative missions throughout the universe. But during these investigations, he uncovers a larger threat. Ancient Jain technology provides individuals with great power, even as it takes control of them. This is especially dangerous when the individuals are disenfranchised AI war machines – drones and warships – who have developed contempt for humanity.
Many centuries after the war, the leech-infested planet named Spatterjay is not part of the Polity but is a ward of the same. Here, living sails drape the spars of primitive sailing vessels. Old Captains, stronger than Polity Golem, sail the seas and contemplate their endless lives, while the ancient war drone Sniper looks for action. And a complex virus wages war on the planet’s life forms, granting them immortality – and changing them forever.
The rogue AI Penny Royal, driven insane by orders no soldier should be forced to obey, is a dark presence in the Polity and the Graveyard. For payment, it transforms people into their ideal, but this is a cursed deal, as the transformations are grotesque. Thorvald Spear, resurrected after a hundred years, sets out intent on vengeance against this entity. But it seems Penny Royal might be atoning for previous sins. It follows a larger agenda, which leads back to the place where it lost its mind, and to a black hole.
A corner of space swarms with Jain technology, a danger to all sentient life. Half AI, half human Orlandine has made it her life’s work to contain and eventually obliterate it. Dragon shares her vigil, but fears she is being manipulated by some alien intelligence. Meanwhile, Polity and prador fleets watch this sector of space, as neither can allow the other to claim its power. Things are about to change. The Jain might not be as dead as they seemed and interstellar war is just a heartbeat away.
Neal Asher’s Polity Universe novels and short stories
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