As a relative newcomer to the Polity universe, with this only being my second Asher book, I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to follow the story. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Although the story does take a while to get started and I struggled a little with the technology of it, I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
The story follows the bizarre activities of an albino hooder nicknamed the Technician, which has attracted attention to itself by creating gruesome and complex sculptures from the remains of its victims. Jeremiah Tombs, one of the few remaining members of the fallen Theocracy, is also the only known survivor of an attack by the legendary hooder. While the fanatical Tidy Squad intend to assassinate Tombs as the last symbolic remnant of their hatred of the old order on Masada, the Polity need to keep him alive.
Somewhere in the depths of his madness, the Technician has buried something important about the Atheter that even the AIs can't fathom. Did every member of that alien race really agree to the total extinction of their kind and all their creations? It appears that at least one did not. But in seeking to understand the disappearance of all things Atheter, it seems the Human race may be drawing the same fate upon themselves.
Tombs's slow crawl back to sanity, and an encyclopedic snippet at the start of each chapter, do add to the slowness, requiring fortitude by the reader. A little comedic relief is provided by Chanter, a mildly autistic amphidapt obsessed with the Technician's works of art, referring to himself as 'having spent too much time sitting on his fat froggy backside'.
For long-time Asher fans there is the familiarity of the world of Masada, the rise of the war drone Amistad to Atheter expert, and his tense partnership with the remnant of the rogue black AI Penny Royal. They are joined by ex-rebel Commander Lief Grant who witnessed Tombs' suffering under the hooder and is drafted to keep the theocrat alive until the secret is revealed.
In many ways, Asher's work is much like the macabre constructions of the Technician itself; beautifully sculpted and chillingly gruesome. Definitely a recommended read, and I will be reading others in his series.
Review by Pippa Jay
8.9/10 from 1 reviews
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