One of the space-opera novels that I enjoyed more last year was Dark Intelligence, written by Neal Asher, a british author (in those islands they really know how to write good space-opera). His work mainly focuses on the universe of The Polity, and covers a broad period of future history of humanity, which is based on a few key points: the ability to travel through the stars very quickly, a society in which AI have a very important role and the war against an alien species, the prador (a kind of giant crabs with very bad intentions). In this first part of the Transformation saga we follow the steps of a corrupt IA, Penny Royal, through the consequences of its actions that have affected the protagonists of the story.
The second part of the saga, War Factory, preserves much of the aspects that made me like the first one: a spectacular world-building , very original ideas on a scientific level, action and entertainment and a complex plot that requires a lot of attention.
The story is told through the perspective of different characters, but never of the one who has triggered all the plot: Penny Royal (I hope that in the third book Asher provide us that opportunity). Most of the characters already appeared in the earlier novel, though, as the name of the saga suggests, a few of them have suffered transformations (in all aspects, not only in the physical: a very interesting novelty of this second novel). The diversity of views (human, prador and AI) makes the reading much enjoyable, and the plot, which is convoluted, easier to follow. Asher is a very good story teller and gives us the information in appropiate doses to guide us to the main plot giving us the necessary information and keeping intrigue.
One of the points that I liked most is how deepens into the physiology and ethology of the prador. One of my favorite dishes was rice with crabs ... now I look at those adorable little critters otherwise.
There are a couple of minor points that have caused that I don't avaluate the novel as excellent. Although I like space battles, sometimes I lost interest in them while I was reading the novel: too many lasers, particle guns and reflector shields. Almost all the action of the plot happens inside spaceships, with characters traveling from one place to another following the dictates of Penny Royal. This ends up generating a sense of claustrophobia, I do not know if planned by the author, and also a certain sense of repetition within the novel.
In short: space-opera at its best with a fantastic world-building, good characters and a complex, surprising and addictive plot, with moments of tension and action if somewhat elongated for my taste in some cases. I really want to know how the saga will end.