back to article Hardboiled, fast-paced, mind-bending fun – Dark Intelligence IS sci-fi

It’s not easy to come in cold on something like Neal Asher’s Polity universe, a hard sci-fi world spanning 12 books and counting that I’ve never quite got around to starting. Instead, it was a dive into the deep end with the twelfth novel, Dark Intelligence, the beginning of a trilogy about the black AI Penny Royal, who’s popped …

  1. Gordon 10

    Start with the skinner and gridlinked.

    The skinner especially has some of the nastiest alien biospheres known to fiction.

    Gridlinked is more thoughtful and is the start of his longest sequence the Agent Cormac series which is probably the strongest set of his novels set in the polity.

    Can't remember if the Prador show up directly in either novel but they are some of the ickiest Aliens in fiction.

    I would describe the Polity as the Culture crossed with Edward Lear.

  2. ISP

    One or the other?

    Never had a problem reading both Polity and Culture books. They do have similar post-scarcity settings with much of the action being set on the peripheries where such niceties break down, but come at things in different ways.

    1. Fazal Majid

      Re: One or the other?

      The Polity is not yet post-scarcity, it is just post-poverty. The Culture could be seen as the Polity after a few millennia to mature and wipe out or tame existential threats like the Jain.

  3. Jellied Eel Silver badge


    Does it contain my favorite fisher-drone, Sniper? Time to find out..

  4. Dave Schofield

    Having read both the Culture and Polity novels, I see the difference as being down to politics. The Culture is socialist and the Polity is the capitalist equivalent.

  5. Grade%

    You can use the word, 'curve', Neal. Please, for the love of...

    I enjoyed the fire-hosed verbiage of Asher but if I see the word 'meniscus' again--DANG IT, THERE WENT MY LUNCH.

  6. Squander Two

    Funnily enough....

    Asher’s books are similar to the world of Iain M Banks’ Culture universe, but the Polity is arguably a much darker and more vicious environment – and all the better for it.

    Much as I love the Culture, Banks's best book is Against A Dark Background, which takes place in a much darker and more vicious environment.

  7. Steve 13

    Time warp

    Edit - it's not the review that's out of date. It's the recommended articles that's popping up this one from Feb...

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