Neal Asher is the author of five series as well as numerous standalone novels and short stories, many set in his Polity Universe, a far future society run by artificial intelligences. Here, Neal introduces the Polity Universe and its origins. Whether you’re wondering where to start with Neal Asher’s books, or you’re already a fan and want to know what to read next, here’s everything you need to know.
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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.
Agent Cormac is sent to investigate a runcible disaster that killed thirty thousand people on the world of Samarkand, sinking it into an Ice Age. This was apparently caused by an alien entity called Dragon, a giant creature who might be older than human history – or a liar.
The Line of Polity
On the frontiers of human-occupied space, a space station has been destroyed. Suspecting the alien bioconstruct Dragon, Earth Central assigns Agent Ian Cormac to discover the truth. Meanwhile, civil war looms on the planet Masada, aided by lethal Jain technology.
Buy The Line of Polity
An old nemesis of Agent Cormac resurfaces, along with the terrifying Mr Crane, a brass android killing machine. He journeys to the brutal world of Cull, tasked with hunting a ‘dragon’. There, he discovers its low-tech citizens are assisted by an entity calling itself Dragon – but Agent Cormac isn’t far behind.
Buy Brass Man
Time travelling refugees arrive in Polity, pursued by something alien and dangerous. Meanwhile, Orlandine, an augmented human, hopes to harness Jain technology – even though it could destroy her. But the lethal technology is spreading, and Agent Cormac is determined to stop it.
Buy Polity Agent
The Polity worlds are under attack. A renegade AI has merged with Jain technology to become more powerful than before. And it attracts the Polity’s most dangerous individuals: Mr Crane, seeking vengeance; Orlandine, who hunts a weapon; and Dragon, who is determined to wake the sleeping makers of Jain technology. Agent Cormac must risk everything to save the Polity.
Buy Line War
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.
On the savage ocean planet of Spatterjay, three travellers arrive. Erlin is immortal and seeks a reason to live. Janer hosts a hive mind – a tourist. And Sable Keech, a policeman who’s been dead for seven hundred years, but still hunts the notorious criminal Spatterjay Hoop. But their lives are disrupted, as a centuries-old prador arrives, to exterminate witnesses to his own war crimes.
Buy The Skinner
The Voyage of the Sable Keech
Taylor Bloc is a dead man walking, desperate to gain the secret of immortality. So he travels to Spatterjay to discover its secrets, retracing Sable Keech’s journey across the wild seas. Erlin’s solitude is disrupted, while Janer returns with forbidden weaponry. And in the deeps, an alien prador stirs, horribly transformed by Spatterjay’s immortality virus.
Buy The Voyage of the Sable Keech
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.
Thorvald Spear wakes in hospital, resurrected from a war that ended a century ago. Penny Royal, the rogue AI on a rescue ship, annihilated friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction – and it’s still free. So Spear hires Isobel Satomi, another of Penny Royal’s victims, to take him to the rogue AI’s last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process, sparking a quest for vengeance.
Buy Dark Intelligence
Thorvald Spear is losing his mind, after Penny Royal links Spear with the stored personalities of those it’s murdered. He tracks it across a hostile starscape along with Sverl, an alien prador warped by the rogue AI. But Sverl’s prador enemies aren’t far behind. Enemies and allies converge on a defective war factory, Penny Royal’s goal – and birthplace.
Buy War Factory
Several forces now pursue Penny Royal, including swarm-robot AI Brockle – the most dangerous of them all. He upgrades himself, becoming ever more powerful in anticipation of a showdown. Meanwhile, Thorvald Spear, Sverl and an assassin drone struggle to survive the war factory. And beyond it, a black hole conceals a tantalising secret, one which could destroy the Polity.
Buy Infinity Engine
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.
Orlandine keeps vigil over lethal Jain technology. She is hatching a plan to obliterate it, removing the threat forever. But enemies seek to stop her by activating a Jain super-soldier, which may breach her defences. And while she continues her quest, the Polity and prador are watching, each waiting for the other to strike . . .
Buy The Soldier
Orlandine has destroyed the Jain super-soldier by deploying her weapon – a black hole. And now it hoovers up the lethal Jain technology within the accretion disc’s event horizon. But Earth Central and the prador king know Orlandine was tricked into releasing her weapon – and fear the Jain may be behind it.
Buy The Warship
The incredible conclusion to the Rise of the Jain trilogy, The Human, is due to be published in spring 2020. Expect epic conflicts in space, extraordinary aliens and impossible choices . . .
Neal Asher’s Polity Universe novels and short stories
Many worlds beyond Earth are occupied by alien life, but alien intelligence seems harder to find. Polity scientists find the remains of ancient civilizations called the Atheter, Csorians and the Jain. But when they discover the prador – giant, hostile arthropods – the Polity are immediately thrust into war.
Buy Prador Moon
Shadow of the Scorpion
Ian Cormac is haunted by memories of a sinister scorpion-shaped war drone, and the burden of losses he cannot remember. He signs up with Earth Central Security, who send him to restore order in worlds devastated by prador bombardment. But old and new enemies dog his path to memory through the ruins left by wartime genocides. And he discovers in himself a cold capacity for violence.
Buy Shadow of the Scorpion
On the world of Masada, the gabbleducks are strange animals who speak nonsense in human language. They are the devolved descendants of the Atheter, who deliberately sacrificed their intelligence to escape a millennia of war instigated by Jain technology. It seems that Jain technology is responsible for the destruction of the Atheter, the Csorians and the Jain themselves. But the dormant Atheter tech is about to awaken.
Buy The Technician
A cosmic super-string drifts into the system of Sudoria and Brumal, two planets locked in war. Packed with alien technology, it’s stored in four segments within a maximum-security space station. There, a scientist falls pregnant and gives birth to quadruplets before committing suicide. By the war’s end, one planet is devastated by the other’s hilldigger weaponry – so named as their blasts create mountain ranges. When Polity ambassador McCrooger arrives, the quadruplets are powerful adults in post-war society. One of them has his sights set on claiming the hilldiggers for himself, but is his agenda his own?
The Gabble and Other Stories
This is a collection of short stories about some shadier corners of the Polity. Find out about the gabbleducks and hooders of Masada, ancient races and ancient technologies resurrected, and dangerous alien life forms – the hunters and the hunted.
Buy The Gabble and Other Stories
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