Polity Agent (Book IV of the Ian Cormac series)

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Aug 7, 2007
Apologies if there's another thread dealing with this, the fourth of Neal Asher's Ian Cormac series.

Again, the author ups the stakes and the quality of the story in this book. I can't think of anything I didn't like and would recommend it to anyone (unless they truly, hate multiple PoV characters in a chapter), but suggesting that they read books I, II and III first (Gridlinked, Line of Polity and Brass Man respectively).

It becomes ever more clear that the author is building up to a big climax. Even so, and as with its predecessors, the book has its own arc and so could - if one really wanted to spoil the overall experience - read it as a standalone.

Something I haven't mentioned before, but should have. This series successfully melds together the invented science with the story, so while the wide range of technology might be seen as shovelling in the shiny stuff (as some Fantasy authors do with magic just to up the stakes, but at the cost of weakening the logic), here the variety is meaningful and not random, in spite of the wide ranging imagination deployed.

Really, really excellent.

Now to post about the fifth and final book in the series, which I've just finished reading.


Mad Mountain Man
Jun 29, 2010
Scottish Highlands
I agree with your views completely here Ursa, this was one of my favourites of the Cormac books and, as you say, you really begin to realise that the back story isn't just a backdrop but is a whole story arc that becomes steadily more important to the individual book's story, whilst still letting the book stand in its own right.

Incidentally you might find it worth reading The Gabble and Other Stories around this point in the cycle, as it fleshes out some of the history of Asher's universe in interesting ways (I actually read it just before Brass Man).


New Member
Feb 6, 2013
I just joined this site looking for sf/f recommendations and to hopefully avoid Sturgeon's law at least 50% of the time. Neal Asher was my first new find and I read the first four Ian Cormac Polity books in about a week (maybe too fast). All four present an intriguing futuristic world, which is what I look for in my speculative fiction.

I was captured by his depiction of the fate of Coloron's main arcology. (maybe since I write this on the 20th anniversary of the 1993 WTC bombing) but was less satisfied with the solar system wide space battle. I guess I like my conflict on a more down-to-alient-planet level.

My main complaint was the absence of the Brass Man although a certain sidearm does return. I would love a Mr. Crane & Ian Cormac series (heh, it worked for R. Daniel Olivaw and Elijah Bailey).

(Did anyone else get a Chtorr-like feel to Mika close encounter with the Dragon?)


Oct 23, 2008
unless they truly, hate multiple PoV characters in a chapter
I don't and that's good, as he's done that all series long but it actually was a problem here in that things got much better when Chapter 16 reduced it to a single (or two in that the one split) narrative line and kicked in the finale.

this was one of my favourites of the Cormac books
Variety is the spice. :) This was easily my least favorite.

I was captured by his depiction of the fate of Coloron's main arcology. (maybe since I write this on the 20th anniversary of the 1993 WTC bombing) but was less satisfied with the solar system wide space battle.
Again with the spice and the direct-opposite-ness. I hate to say it but, for the first 417 pages, I was bored and even skimmed (which I never do) the fourth century of pages or so as I got frustrated with how long it was taking me to get through it - though certain things in the skimming such as
Cormac getting Shuriken back - a great "character", that -
piqued my interest. The book saved itself, for me, with the sustained 145 page finale starting with the description of the solar system and the combat that ensued when we originally reduced to just the Centurions and then split off into the planetary combat and the space battle. There were, unfortunately, a couple of deus ex's to make it possible -
King just happening to be right where he was and in the mood he was in and Orlandine just happening to be in the area of the second USER though at least, unlike King, Orlandine had to work at it in an interesting fashion to fully get there. And there was an oddity with the Dragon thing being resolved as it was by having Mika's mind-contents be a sort of voucher when, in the same book, Blegg has a completely manufactured mind and what he believes is no guarantee of anything so neither should Mika's be

Given this boredom until the finale, the nitpicking set in. Why is Thellant called a "negro" and was Blegg actually described, in addition to "old Oriental" as, actually "inscrutable" once? And Asher's fondness for words like rucked-up, hoovered (granting that to be a word), actinic, and impinge began to, heh, impinge on my consciousness and I laughed when, not long after making a note of this, I read, "an actinic flash impinged" (495). Part of my boredom was that, while it does introduce
time travel, this was more annoying than fascinating, and it does introduce Orlandine, who is perplexing but no kind of great enemy - or friend - and we do get into Blegg (but I was never as interested in Blegg as others seem to be) and it shifted the "enemy" from the Makers/Dragon/Jain to the rogue AIs/Jain
but there was otherwise nothing new or better. Yeah, I know - and other than that, what have the Romans done for us? But, seriously, all of these except one are just elements in an otherwise treading-water story that I've been through before. The arcology isn't Masada and the bad guys aren't Skellor and the good guys (except one) are the same ol' good guys and this has been going on for four books and about 2400 pages. I just expect more (or less) at this point. Indeed,
it felt like Asher might have had a trilogy in mind and, prior to either starting or finishing the third, he decided to stretch it to five. Maybe the Makers were intended to be the actual primary antagonist of a trilogy and it was switched to rogue AIs to stretch it out to more and, since quartets are lame and hardly worth the switch, it became five even if there isn't much material for five. Probably not true, but that it could even cross my mind is not a great sign

But, like I say, Erebus and its style of combat and that incredible, long, sustained, gripping finale was pretty amazing. But I sure hope v5 ends the series in style because I feel like it's past time to do so. (Not that I object to other, isolated, "Polity Agent" adventures like I gather Shadow of the Scorpion was/will be.)

To end on a happy note: what's probably my favorite line (one of them, at least) comes in one of my favorite sections (the header of Ch.20 about why the Singularity sucks and why, even if AIs could zip off into the nerd rapture, they wouldn't and going on to compare humans): "Ask then why a human, capable of learning verbatim the complete works of Shakespeare, instead drinks a bottle of brandy, then giggles a lot and falls over."


Well-Known Member
Mar 19, 2014
I agree with the initial assessment; it was great fun, pacey and not too heavy.


|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Nov 6, 2008
I have just finished this book. WOW!!! Another excellent read.

You can see Neal getting more confident with his writing and his space battles are especially good.

I'll probably save Line War until Human comes out, as it looks like it leads directly into the Rise of the Jain trilogy. I want to read them all together.