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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. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.