A Novel of the Polity
Neal Asher is an English science fiction writer best known for his Polity novels. This is the sixth book in that series.
The Story: Readers of Neal Asher’s Polity books know Ian Cormac as an elite secret agent in the service of Earth Central Security. This book is set earlier in Cormac’s life, when he was a young soldier in the war between the Polity (the humans) and the Prador, crustacean-like creatures that can take control of other life-forms’ bodies. A Prador warship has crashed on the planet Hagren, and the Polity’s scientists hope to recover its advanced weaponry before a separatist movement on the planet acquires it. As the action builds toward a confrontation with the separatists, Cormac also must confront his own past, including the legacy of war in his family and the strange, scorpion-shaped machine that has followed him since he was a boy.
Night Shade Books. 248 pages. $14.95. ISBN: 1597801399
"Neal Asher’s latest novel, Shadow of the Scorpion, is an insane, sexy war story full of giant explosions on alien worlds. … Asher superimposes Cormac’s search for one of the separatists over his search to understand his own past, creating an intriguing, multilayered portrait of a man whose mind has been fragmented by war his whole life." Annalee Newitz
Sci Fi Weekly
"[In] the wake of Iraq I and Iraq II, in a post-9/11, post-Abu Ghraib landscape, we are starting to see a different kind of military SF. … [A] few writers with their fingers on the true pulse of events are beginning to depict a future with its roots in contemporary realities. Asher and this novel are part of this phenomenon, by which SF rejuvenates its core concepts." Paul Di Filippo
"Shadow of the Scorpion does a great job introducing a likable and motivated character in Cormac. … In fact, all the characters that we meet are very well presented, none come across as shallow or two dimensional and each contribute effectively to the story. As for the story itself, another winning combination of character development, aliens, action and political undertones." Mark Chitty
Critics read Shadow of the Scorpion in several different ways. The book can be read as a political commentary on the impacts of war, especially counterinsurgency campaigns, on an individual’s memory and personality. Or it can be read as an action-packed, well-plotted story with larger-than-life heroes and highly sophisticated weaponry. It was the coexistence of these two levels of storytelling that impressed reviewers. Those who were fans of Asher’s other books felt it lived up to his previous work, but they also recommended Shadow of the Scorpion as a novel that can be read and enjoyed on its own.