the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Neal Asher’ Category

2015-04-05 20.33.31The Gabble and Other Stories, by Neal Asher (short story collection)

published 2008, Night Shade Edition published 2015

where it got it: received review copy from Night Shade Books (thanks!)

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My first Neal Asher novel was The Skinner, an edgy  space opera that I’ve lovingly described as “magnificently disgusting”.  In that novel, the name of the game is adapt or die, and the denizens of the planet Spatterjay take full advantage of evolutionary opportunities. Even visitors who stick around long enough can watch their bodies change into something not quite human.  The Skinner made me an instant fan of Asher, and I’ve been watching for his titles ever since.

Many of Asher’s novels take place in his Polity Universe, which in a similar fashion to Banks’ Culture novels,  the novels all take place in the same universe, and occasionally characters from one book show up or are mentioned in another, but you can generally jump around in the order the books were published.   Not sure Asher is for you? Not sure you want to dive into a new universe? The Gabble, a short story collection of stores from the Polity will answer both of those questions for you.  If you ask me, you can just answer those two questions with a resounding Yes and be done with it.

What I loved about how Asher does alien planets and aliens is that everything is so damn alien. Why should aliens have two arms, two legs, a head, a nose and a mouth? If that configuration is unique to Earth, it follows that every planet will have a unique configuration based on evolutionary needs, the planet’s unique environs, and any one of a million other variables in how life works. No one we run into is going to look like us, think like us, or communicate like us. There is no gentleness here, no Star Trek style diplomacy.  Some species simply do not communicate with others, and humans are quite tasty.  It might sound harsh, but this is how nature works.   When it comes down to it, we are just animals in a food chain.

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The Skinner, by Neal Asher

published in 2005

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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So often in science fiction, immortality is found through technological means – we upload, or become cyborg, or some such. How refreshing to come across a biological method of immortality  in Neal Asher’s The Skinner, and that’s just the first of many refreshing concepts presented in this unique space opera.

Discovered around a thousand years ago, the planet known as Spatterjay is unique in the universe. The environs of the planet are so harsh and the poisons coursing through the bodies of its indigenous species so volatile that every life form on the planet has evolved to survive. Nearly every life form on the planet is teeming with a native virus, that for all intents and purposes, makes its victims immortal. On Spatterjay, the most valuable commodity is permanent death.

If you could survive any injury, how would it change how your life? To the citizens of Spatterjay, decapitation puts a crimp in one’s afternoon, not one’s life. Those with a weak stomach may want to skip The Skinner, as Asher has quite a bit of magnificently disgusting fun putting characters through the physical ringer.

The story begins with the arrival of three off-worlders.  The depressed yet curious Erlin who is searching for a famous ship captain who keeps a monster’s head in his sea chest; Keech, the cyborg corpse cop who has a score to settle with the remaining pirates who were involved with enslaving the citizens of Spatterjay; and Janer, who tries to convince every one he’s a simple tourist employed by a hive mind.  And circling high above them all are the snarky subminds of the Artificial Intelligence who manages the government of Spatterjay.  And we can’t forget the semi-intelligent long-necked large-winged living Sails, who are an integral part of the fishing industry on Spatterjay. If you read The Skinner for no other reason, read it for the Sails.

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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.