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Gridlinked (2004)

Gridlinked (2004)
3.93 of 5 Votes: 5
0765349051 (ISBN13: 9780765349057)
tor science fiction
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Gridlinked (2004)
Gridlinked (2004)

About book: I’ve been trying lately to pin down, in some quantifiable way, how I read books. When I first started my blog I started giving everything a rating. It didn’t make sense after awhile so I abandoned it. I decided that my reviews have to stand on their own. So I’ve been trying to find a way to describe why some books fill me with pure hatred and others with pure glee. For instance I don’t know why I love Robert Jordan’s books but read Dan Brown with the kind of loathing that is actually joy at all the horrible things I have to say about it.Everybody has a limited attention span. Some people it’s longer than others. When I’m sitting in class it takes about ten minutes for me to start thinking about something else. Other people have shorter or longer attention spans. They say for children that the rule of thumb is about one minute per year of age – so I have the attention span of a ten year old – or something. At some point that breaks down. However, when I’m reading a book that I like reading my attention span becomes hours.So I’ve started to pay attention to how I read a book. Do I look at my watch frequently, or look up or stop to count the pages until the end of the chapter? Do I sometimes read twenty minutes while thinking about something completely different and have no idea what I just read? Those are all signs that something is not right with this book. Sometimes I can identify what it is that is keeping me from really getting lost in the words. Sometimes I can’t.Very few authors can achieve this to the extent that I lose track of time. I could probably list them all on my two hands – though it would take awhile to scrub the ink off.Gridlinked is one of those books that I just couldn’t get into and I think I know why.The story is about Ian Cormac, legendary ECS agent and the psychotic killer who is hunting him down. There’s also a bit about some weird aliens and giant explosions. Ian Cormac is basically James Bond in the future. He goes undercover by using his real name – even though he’s famous all over the galaxy and he stands in the middle of a hail of bullets and shoots the bad guys right in the face without ever getting hit once.Sometimes I get the idea that the whole thing is supposed to be a farcical play on spy movie tropes but if it is it’s too buried for it to be clear. It feels more like it’s just a series of those tropes glued together in a science fiction universe – albeit a well thought one.The writing, though, is probably the most atrocious thing about this book. Many of the sentences were so awkward that I had to read them twice before I believed that they actually passed an editor. There’s a great deal of maid-and-butler dialoge only thinly disguised as ‘explain it to me again’ which is dull and annoying. Other than the three or four main characters the rest are all indistinguishable from each other and serve only to either get injured or make awkward narrative suggestions such as ‘lets start calling this alien Scar so we don’t have to keep saying “the other alien” all the time.’ Yes this really happened.The bad guy is an evil psychopath who kills anybody whenever he feels like it a la Darth Vader except when they are characters that we are supposed to care about, and then he miraculously lets them live when they offend him. He even has some kind of giant metal brain attachment on the side of his head and sticking out his eye so that he will look all villainy.This book suffered a lot in translation as well. It was written in English and I read it in English but it was written in British English and I don’t read British English. Words were misspelled and every past tense verb ended in –t instead of –ed. These aren’t the author’s fault as much as the editor and publisher but they made it harder to read. In American English saying “he leant against the wall” means he borrowed something with the wall as collateral.Many of the chapters started with short descriptions of the technology in the book in the form of excerpts from fictional encyclopedias and journals. These were actually quite interesting and entertaining. I found myself frequently looking to see when the next chapter started so I could read another of these sections. Which is another problem, I suppose. The pre-chapter discussions were more interesting than the book.In all I don’t think I will read this author again. His style is so over the top that he made me think I was reading a Dan Brown science fiction novel. At least he didn’t have the half-page cliffhanger chapters. Small mercies.

First of all, a big shout-out to Ellen, the owner of Colophon Books in Ithaca, NY, who recommended Neal Asher to me when I was in her shop earlier this year. (You can check out the shop's website at Gridlinked starts out with a bang and I really enjoyed it from the outset. However, I got really bogged down in the middle section of the book and it took me forever to finish. I finally finished it while traveling over the course of the last couple of weeks and remembered what I liked about it in the first place. What I liked about it in the first place was its combination of intensive hard-sci-fi world-building with lots of fast-paced action.What I didn't like so much was the awkward, sometimes impenetrable prose. Here's a typically tortured construction:"That the station was a centrifugal ring station showed that it was old."Asher also has a way of introducing jargon and made-up technical terms without explaining them first or even making them particularly easy to understand in context. So part of getting bogged down was my own fault. This was not a good book for me to read a couple of pages at a time before going to bed at night. But when I got back into it during vacation I tore through the last third pretty quickly and am looking forward to reading more of Asher's stuff. Gridlinked takes place in a universe dominated by a galactic empire called The Polity, which is guided not by human politicians but by super-advanced AI.Ian Cormac, an agent of The Polity, has been mentally connected to a massive computer network--"gridlinked"--for several years longer than recommended due to his value as an agent. Soon after the novel begins his connection has to be severed because he's becoming indistinguishable from an android.His main human antagonist is a separatist leader named Arian Pelter who wants Cormac dead for personal reasons. Over the course of the novel Pelter is constantly adding "augs" to himself, and his physical appearance becomes more inhuman and technologically grotesque as Cormac is learning to be human again. This dichotomy is potentially interesting, but Asher is more interested in world-building and violent action than in philosophizing or going too deeply into the psychology of his characters. For instance, since The Polity is presented as infinitely wise, the separatists are presented as being interested only in chaos for chaos's sake. There are enough separatists that they even have a home world called Cheyne III, but I never had much sense of why they were fighting in the first place. The other big story going on in Gridlinked is about an enormous alien intelligence called "Dragon" that is composed of four enormous floating spheres. Dragon is a type of Sphinx, bedeviling Cormac with riddles and half-truths.As I said earlier, Asher's writing is sometimes clunky. He has huge ideas and cool concepts, but occasionally it feels like a Ferrari powered by a two-stroke lawn mower engine.Still, I don't read hard sci-fi for the lyrical prose.
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This book is just bad. Let's list some things:Interstellar "dragon" that acts as histrionic and pathetic as a chubby junior high goth kid? Check.Amateurish attempts at creating false tension by using the word "as" (as in "he moved slowly as he pulled out his gun" [my quote, not from the book:])? All over the place.Use of the word "suddenly?" You betcha.Horrendously awkward sexual encounters? Of course.Seemingly random motivations and wild mood swings amongst the protagonist and antagonist? Don't get me started.Terrible, trite idea? Actually, no. The idea is sound.It's almost a passable novel, but the actual nuts-and-bolts writing technique is reminiscent of first-semester writing students. I admire the author for simply getting through it all, for creating a complete novel, but, in truth, he still fails. If I ever need to self-mortify, I'll look around to see if this no-name has swindled another publisher into inflicting this drivel upon us.Not as terrible as Dan Brown, but close.2 of 6
Written as a breathless sci-fi thriller, with shifting perspectives to tell the story of Earth Security agent a la 007, Ian Cormac, as he is re-finding his own humanity after 30 years of mindlink to AI. Hounded by the inexplicably-insane terrorist Arian Pelter, Cormac investigates the malfunctioning and explosion of a runcible (teleportation devices which renders time and space meaningless) that destroyed an entire planet.Set in a world ran by AIs that easily passed version x of the Turing test; Golemns created but possessing personhood, therefore required to pay for their freedom and creation price by service to the companies that constructed them; nerve-blocked surgeries where the flesh is easily peeled apart to get at the bones and organs... Easy and rapid inter-galactic travel via runcible devices... The interference in human history of an alien bio-mechanic creature called Dragon... All very fascinating stuff.The upside: this is a rapid read.The downside: plot threads seem somewhat scattered. Some people's motivations are murky and strange. So who, or what, did blow up the planet? And what was up with Dragon?This is very clearly the first book in a series. Maybe some of my questions will be answered down the line. Given how difficult it was to push through the last 100 pages, I'm in no hurry for Book 2.
Ian Cormac has been gridlinked for far longer than is recommended and it's affecting his humanity. The solution is separation from the grid and, along with having to deal with the loss of that support, he's plunged headlong into an investigation as to why a runcible gate exploded on Samarkand, killing thousands.Cormac also has enemies and one, Arian Pelter, in particular will stop at nothing, sacrificing the lives of anyone in his way, to kill him for the sake of revenge. Along with Pelter and his gang of highly-trained mercenaries comes Mr Crane, a psychotic android with a penchant for toys and well, killing.Then there's Dragon, a mysterious entity comprised of four spheres, each about a kilometre long, with little regard for human life. Cormac first met it on Colora but why is it now seemingly aiding Arian Pelter? What are its true motives?Gridlinked is Asher's first Agent Cormac novel and a great start to a series I hope to continue reading. Set in the rich universe that is Asher's Polity, the story is nicely paced and well dotted with sex and violence. Possibly a bit heavy on the violence but it works well here and enhances the tale. Well worth reading!
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