Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher – Review


Published: February 3, 2015

Publisher: Night Shade Books

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0



One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed…

Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he’s been brought back from the dead. What’s more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human…

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her crosshairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it’s clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?

Dark Intelligence is the explosive first novel in a brand new trilogy from military SF master Neal Asher and a new chapter in his epic Polity universe.

I’ve had this on my shelf for MONTHS, so it’s really about time that I knocked it off my reading list. Dark Intelligence is the first book I’ve read by Neal Asher, who has written many, many science fiction books set in his Polity universe. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, but managed to stay afloat as I accustomed myself to all the new terminology and the vastness of his creation.

Dark Intelligence had all the hallmarks of a book I would love and it started out fantastically, but by the final third of the book I was reading just so I could say I finished. Penny Royal was creepy, chilling even, and malignant. I was totally hooked on Thorvald Spear’s fatal past and his desire to destroy a rogue AI called Penny Royal. I’m a sucker for revenge themes, often because they promise a flawed character with dubious morals- so much more interesting than goodie-two-shoes whose reactions tend to be predictable. Isobel Satomi also had an interesting introduction because she was slowly deforming into a centipede-like alien with strong predatory urges. Honestly her storyline remained interesting for much longer than Thorvalds because I found her transformation to be novel. Even so, by the end I didn’t particularly care what happened to any of the characters.

While this book is clearly complex, with the whole universe and mythos well-thought, I felt apathetic towards it. I found some parts to be particularly brutal or curious, but my reading was mechanical by the end. I was disappointed that I didn’t like it more because I was excited to pick it up and see what the story was. It can be read separately from the other Polity series, but I do wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had more context. If you guys have read any of the other Polity books, let me know what you thought in the comments!

One thought on “Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher – Review

  1. I’ve read all of the Polity books to date and it definitely makes a difference. I’m actually doing a re-read of all the polity books in ’17 and I am wondering how this trilogy will hold up upon a reread. DA builds upon previous knowledge of the Prador and other politics between the pradors and the human/ai Polity.

    If you want to get into the Polity a bit more, I highly recommend starting with Gridlinked and reading the Agent Cormac 5 book series.


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