In his far-future POLITY series, Neal Asher writes consistent, dependable, grimdark space opera. Prador Moon is one of three POLITY books that came out in 2006, and the fifth overall. It’s the first in the in-universe chronology, though, telling of the first meeting between the Prador and humanity. To say things don’t get off on the right foot would be to sell the opening scene (and the several novels which follow) short. Prador-human relations tumble to bits in the aftermath of “diplomacy,” and all-out space war erupts.
Asher, as is his custom, provides viewpoints into all sides of his conflicts. Scenes from the Prador general Imminence’s ship grotesquely describe what happens to the humans captured, including the rudimentary research into thrall technology as war increases the pressure on the lab. Meanwhile, humanity is not unified against the Prador. Not wanting to be ruled by Polity AI, a Separatist faction has blossomed, a faction whose agenda may see the war turn one way or another based on their guerrilla actions. And within the tech labs of the remainder of humanity, a young woman recently augmented by an illegal technician finds her new skills more than helpful in meeting a certain technical challenge facing human logistics.
Prador Moon is action-packed and fun. There is nothing new about Asher’s books, but what he does, he does well. The action scenes, while a tad visceral, are not too overdone, and fit smoothly within a larger framework of story. Asher knows he’s writing grimdark space opera, and he does it with aplomb.