(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Ultramotion, by Annihilator (Spotify, YouTube).
Dark Intelligence, the first instalment of the Transformation trilogy, was one of my favourite books last year and, in fact, one of the best Space Opera novels I've ever read. Thus, you can easily imagine that I was eagerly awaiting for War Factory and that my expectations were really high, something that sometimes can be a little bit dangerous. After reading (and thoroughly enjoying) the novel, I'm glad to say that it even better the previous one.
This new novel has all the things I loved in Dark Intelligence, but extended and improved: more action scenes and more spectacular battles, deeper characterization, wider focus... Asher has done a tremendous work with War Factory, for the plot is still as complex and engaging as in the first novel of the series, but it is much easier to follow. Not only does the prose flow a lot better, but the author subtly introduces hints here and there that makes the frequent changes of scene less abrupt and simpler to read. The use of the flashbacks, that provide a very important background on the Prador-Polity War and on the origins of Penny Royal and other characters, is perfectly timed and gives the reader an overall perspective where all the pieces fit in a very smooth way.
I also liked how the theme of the transformation, which was central to Dark Intelligence, is still one of the most prominent topics in War Factory, but now with an interesting, philosophical twist. Where in the previous novel we witnessed the many physical changes that the characters experienced, here the alterations have a more intimate and psychological nature. Many of the main protagonists begin to suspect that Penny Royal have not only changed their external appearance, but also their minds. Especially interesting are the cases of Trent Sobel and Sverl who, well-deservedly, have a bigger role in this novel.
My only concern with War Factory has to do with the fact that in some parts, especially in the final part of the book, it shows that this is just the second book in a trilogy. While the pace is very vivid in the first chapters, after the middle of the novel everything slows down a bit and there are some subplots that get a lot of attention although they seem to be not that important (at least, at the moment). Also, there is certain conflict that I expected to escalate rapidly but that has not reached a clear conclusion yet. As I mentioned, this is just the second instalment of the series, with the resolution most certainly postponed until the third book so we only have to wait and see how everything fits together.
All in all, and despite these minor problems, War Factory is the best science fiction book I've read this year and the Transformation trilogy is already among my favourite Space Opera series ever. Do I need to say more? Just go and read it!