Jenny Trapdoor

by Neal Asher

Jenny is a war drone in the shape of a trapdoor spider, created by an insane AI. At the edge of the Graveyard she feeds on prador, the enemies of the Polity, until she is nearly destroyed. When she awakens hundreds of years later she finds a changed world and a strange new friend.

This novella is definitely meant for existing fans of Asher’s Polity Universe. It is another chapter from the backstory of Penny Royal, the strange AI from Dark Intelligence. I wouldn’t start with this book, but if you are a fan I wouldn’t skip it.

The Rising

by Ian Tregillis

The three-sided conflict comes to a head. The Dutch threaten to wipe the French from the face of the New World. The French try not to let them. And a new Clakker threat emerges from the frozen north.

Plus a bit of philosophizing on the nature of souls and free will. But less than in the first book; this is more a straight-up save-the-world adventure. I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the first book. But like Empire Strikes Back, it’s clearly a connector to the finale, which I will be starting … now.

The Mechanical

by Ian Tregillis

Artificial intelligence, but with alchemical robots—Clakkers—instead of computerized ones. Instead of enslaving Africans to build the New World, the Dutch use alchemy to create mechanical slaves and take over Europe, driving the French into exile in their North American territories. French catholics who believe Clakkers have souls help rogue Clakkers escape on the ondergrondse grachten, the “underground canals.” New France barely survives by wielding advanced chemical weapons and defenses.

With plenty of references to the actual colonial history of North America, this is fundamentally an adventure story about a Clakker fugitive from injustice, a French spymaster’s quest to restore her country, and a French agent forced to betray his conscience and country. I liked it a lot, and I’ll start reading the next book in the series right away.

(Ian Tregillis’s other series, The Milkweed Triptych, is also a creative alternative-history series, about Nazis super-soldiers during World War II.)

The Last Emperox

by John Scalzi

Something I forgot to mention when reviewing the previous Interdependency books is how much I enjoy Scalzi’s exuberantly irreverent writing style. I love it when it feels like the author was chuckling at their own cleverness while writing. Tamsyn Muir is like that, too. And Jasper Fforde. And Douglas Adams, obviously.

In this, the last installment, the characters (Kiva Lagos is my absolute favorite) rollick towards a tidy but unpredictable conclusion.

If you didn’t get it from my previous reviews, I really enjoyed this series!

The Departure

by Neal Asher

I’m a big fan of Neal Asher’s Polity Universe, so I was trying to figure out if I missed anything. I didn’t. But it turns out he wrote another sci-fi series. It’s good! This guy basically upgrades himself by merging with an AI, saves the planet from a space station that can kill anyone, any time, and hijacks the space station to rescue his sister from Mars. Echoes of the Polity Universe in a compelling series of its own. Loved it.