I don't know what it is with those Brits, but they have a knack for writing space opera. Asher's first novel is reminiscent of such compatriots as Iain M. Banks and Peter F. Hamilton. Like some of Asher's previous shorter works, such as "The Engineer", Gridlinked is set in the Runcible universe. Some four hundred years in the future, the Polity is the dominant human civilization. Run by AIs, it teems with humans of the plain, environmentally adapted, and otherwise augmented or boosted kind, as well as androids; its inhabitants are spread over innumerable planets linked by the fabric of the runcible network, i.e. interstellar gates that provide instantaneous transport, and intelligent starships for travel to less accessible places. The Polity feels like Banks's Culture without the warm fuzzy anarchism. Flippantly described as "a benevolent dictatorship in which all [enjoy] their portion of plenty", it is ruled by the humongous AI of Earth Central.
Ian Cormac is a top agent of Earth Central Security, a troubleshooter nostalgically armed with a semi-intelligent throwing star and the man for, er, the less delicate jobs. Having spent the last thirty years mentally linked to the AI grid, he is at the verge of losing his humanity. After his latest undercover mission to ferret out a Separatist cell—terrorists by any other name—is cut short, Cormac is given a new mission by the mysterious prime agent of Earth Central, who also convinces him to disconnect his gridlink. The runcible on the remote ice world of Samarkand has been destroyed, the explosion killing the ten thousand inhabitants. Accident or sabotage? Cormac's investigation will lead him to renewed contact with an inscrutable alien entity, and hot on his trail are a psychotic terrorist with a grudge and the companionship of an insane homicidal android and a troupe of merry mercenaries.
Gridlinked is nothing more, and nothing less, than a colorful adventure yarn set in a richly imagined universe.
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