the Little Red Reviewer

The Engineer Reconditioned, by Neal Asher

Posted on: May 21, 2017

The Engineer Reconditioned by Neal Asher

published 2006 (or maybe 2008?)

where I got it: purchased used





I’ve not read a ton by Neal Asher, but everything I’ve read I’ve enjoyed.   Asher enjoys having a go at religion, writing incomprehensible aliens who see humans as delicious snacks,  AIs who are smart enough to lie to their human wards, a biological explanations for immortality, over the top biological adaptations, and a galaxy with ancient alien technology and ruins.  That’s like, all my favorite scifi things!  If you’re interested in hard scifi, space opera, large scale universes, really alien aliens,  I highly recommend Neal Asher.


I didn’t realize The Engineer Reconditioned was a short story collection until I started reading it. The collection includes ten or so stories of various lengths from Asher’s interconnected Polity plot lines. If you’ve never read any Asher,  this is a great place to start, because whatever stories you liked the best there are a bunch of novels where those characters and situations will show up.  The collection includes stories of Jain tech, gross-out biological action on planet Spatterjay, stories of the mysterious Owner, and a few stories that are just fun romps through alien environs and dumb humans who may make tasty snacks.  Click here for a timeline and how all the Polity books work together.


The first and longest story, “The Engineer”, is what I came here for, and I wasn’t surprised that this ended up being my favorite story in the collection.  Two scientists, Chapra and Abaron, are aboard an exploration vessel and they come across an egg floating in space. Abaron teases Chapra about her obsession with old movies, especially a certain movie starring face huggers and chest bursting scenes.  They bring the egg inside the ship to investigate, and see if they can wake up the comatose creature inside.  Herein lies some excellent hard scifi – how to determine the creature’s natural habitat? What if air that humans can breathe poisons the creature? How to determine what to feed it? How to communicate with it?   The creature wakes up, and Abaron and Chapra are able to give it an environment in which it can survive, and food that it can metabolize. Living mostly under water, the creature starts building things and communicates its needs to the scientists by leaving different items on the pier.  After a while the scientists realize their AI has insulated them from the outside world as a protective measure. “The Engineer” was a fantastic story with great pacing, smart dialog, and some truly excellent science. Not to mention a few laugh out loud Alien jokes!

My first foray into Asher’s work was the novel The Skinner, so of course I was excited to read the “Spatterjay” short story.  Native critters bite entire chunks out of someone’s flesh, spit out the nasty tasting human meat, leaving the injured person to simply screw the lump of flesh back into their body where it reattaches itself.  Erlin, visiting from Earth, is fascinated and shocked by what the planet has done to everyone’s biochemistry.  Attached by a giant leech, she too, is forever changed.   The star of this short story is all the creatures (sails!!) and plants and gross things that are everyday happenings on Spatterjay (including a famous head that ends up in a box), but the loose plot weaves around the secrets of ship captains, a terrorizing fage that the Captain didn’t tell anyone about, and how nothing on Spatterjay is ever what it seems.  Always a good and gross time to be had by all in a Spatterjay story!


Later in the volume are a few “Owners” stories. This is an Asher universe I’m the least familiar with, so while I enjoyed these stories, I wish they had been further fleshed out. The gist of the Owner stories seems to be a mysterious owner owns large swaths of property on various planets, and he lets anyone live near and on his property so long as you don’t break any of his rules, such as no poaching.  Should someone break a rule, terrible things happen.


There is also something really weird about the formatting in the edition I have of The Engineer Reconditioned. The table of contents shows 5 stories. There are, however, closer to ten short stories in this collection, most of which do not show up in the table of contents and do not start on a new page and are not titled. They are simply slapped onto the end of other stories as if they are a new paragraph, yet the plot, characters, and sometimes entire part of the universe abruptly changes. So perhaps the table of contents is meant to show the reader which stories are Skinner stories, which are Owner stories, and so forth?  So the bad news is I don’t know the titles of half of what I read, which I can see being a huge turn off to a lot of readers. The good news is that I enjoyed all of it.


Thanks to Amazon, I was able to figure out that the short bit after “The Engineer” is called “Snairls”,   and that the larger Spatterjay story I read is actually at least two, possibly three separate short stories.  What a weird experience to have!


Have you read any Neal Asher? What did you think of it?


If you have, or have read this collection,  any idea what’s up with the weird Table of Contents and stories that don’t have title pages?


7 Responses to "The Engineer Reconditioned, by Neal Asher"

I have this in ebook. I’ll have a look-see at it this this evening…


let me know if your e-book has the same weird formatting. it’s so odd, so I’m curious what others have run into!

Liked by 1 person

my kindle edition from ’14 looks like this:

The Engineer
Jable Sharks
The Thrake
The Owner
Tor-Beasts Prison
Tiger, Tiger

It also has “About X” before each story. Maybe you have an old ’06 copy or a scanned version? My initial eread of Asher was all through scanned copies, as his books hadn’t been released on kindle yet and I know the formatting totally depended on the scanner/editor for how much effort they put into it.


it must be a weird ’06 version. It’s print, not scanned. I’ve read a few scanned books, and they often do have weird formatting oddities.

Liked by 1 person


I loved this collection. And since I have read and liked most of Asher’s work I would recommend that anyone who intends to read him especially the Spatterjay books start here. A number of the stories introduce plot threads and characters that continue in the novels but don’t actually appear in the novels some of the action might be briefly explained but if you want to understand the events fully or decide if Asker is for you this is the book.

Happy Reading

Liked by 1 person

Have you read The Gabble collection? I LOVED that collection so much!


Yes I did read it and I thought it was great. I just adore the Gabbleducks they are one of my favourite aliens.

All the best

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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