Raised to adulthood during the end of the war between the human Polity and a vicious alien race, the Prador, Ian Cormac is haunted by childhood memories of a sinister scorpion-shaped war drone and the burden of losses he doesn’t remember. Cormac signs up with Earth Central Security and is sent out to help restore and maintain order on worlds devastated by the war. There he discovers that though the Prador remain as murderous as ever, they are not anywhere near as treacherous or dangerous as some of his fellow humans, some closer to him than he would like. Amidst the ruins left by wartime genocides, Cormac will discover in himself a cold capacity for violence and learn some horrible truths about his own past while trying to stay alive on his course of vengeance.
An energetic, gory prequel to Asher's "Polity" novels (Gridlinked, etc.), this far-future novel alternates the youthful memories of Ian Cormac, Asher's complex soldier-hero, with Cormac's brutal adult efforts to master lethal-force training as an undercover agent in Earth Central Security's conflict with the terroristic Jovian Separatists. Amistad, an anthropoid war drone Cormac had glimpsed as a boy, resurfaces periodically throughout the novel, a relic of the half-century-old war between humanity's galactic Polity and the vicious alien Prador. Gradually, Cormac's recollections merge with his ECS missions, until finally Amistad reveals what Cormac most needs and fears to know: his father's fate in an earlier battle. This blasting indictment of war forces readers to ponder whether winning can be worth the struggle if it turns the "good guys" into something worse than their enemies.