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The Skinner

Neal Asher

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Macmillan

Published : 2002

Copyright : Neal Asher 2002

ISBN-10 : PB 0-333-90364-1
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-333-90364-3

Publisher's Write-Up

Welcome to Spatterjay.... where sudden death is the normal way of life.

On the planet Spatterjay arrive three travellers: Janer, bringing the eyes of the hornet Hive mind, on a mission not yet revealed to him; Erlin, searching for Ambel - the ancient sea captain who can teach her how to live; and Sable Keech, on a vendetta he cannot abandon, though he himself has been dead for seven hundred years.

This remote world is mostly ocean, and all but a very few human visitors keep safe inside the island Dome. Outside it, only the native hoopers dare risk the voracious appetites of the planet's wildlife. But somewhere out there is Spatterjay Hoop - and monitor Keech will not rest until he brings this legendary renegade to justice for hideous crimes committed centuries ago during the Prador Wars.

Pursuing rumour, Keech learns that Hoop has since become something monstrous: his body roaming free in an island wilderness, while his living head is confined in a box aboard on of the Old Captain's ships. Janer, the eternal tourists, is bewildered by this place, where native inhabitants just will not die, but his bewilderment turns to anger when he finally learns the Hive mind's intentions. Meanwhile, Erlin thinks she has plenty of time to find the answers she seeks, but she could not be more wrong. For one of the most brutal of the alien Prador is about to pay the planet a surreptitious visit, intent on exterminating all remaining witnesses to his wartime atrocities…

So, as fortunes of these recent arrivals converge , major hell is about to erupt in a chaotic waterscape - where minor hell is already a remorseless fact of everyday life... and death.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nigel (010403) Rating (9/10)

Review by Nigel
Rating 9/10
Always on the look out for good Science Fiction I had read several reviews for this novel that set it out from the crowd and I was really looking forward to it. I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed.

Set on a unique and violent world in a fairly ordered universe it tells the story of three strangers when they arrive together on the ocean planet Spatterjay, each on their own private mission.

The planet has only partly been accepted into The Polity, the human inhabitants protected in their domed island city by the Warden, while the all-but-indestructible native hoopers constantly battle the planet's indigenous wildlife to survive. The three leave the safety of the dome and enter a land where Polity law is no longer able to protect them and they must rely on their wits and not a small amount of luck.

As the three journey across the planet an age old story keeps cropping up and we learn that the original settlers, now known as the old captains, have a few skeletons in the closet that are getting ready to come out. So starts a tale of aliens, Galactic War, crimes against humanity, revenge, mercenaries, planet AIs, war drones, hornet hive minds, talking sails, leeches, living heads, zombies, giant fish and some very impressive ordnance. A whole host of characters are used to vividly bring to life a place that could never really be imagined... if you see what I mean.

What makes this story stand out for me is Neil Asher's ability to characterise. This novel is overflowing with characters that are detailed as well as relevant to the story. There isn't really a single central proponent that the story is written around as far as I can tell. The three characters introduced at the beginning pull the story together but all the way through you are seeing the visceral life of Spatterjay from many different perspectives... even that of whelks!

Most notably for me was the character of Sniper, an ancient war drone with a few tricks up its sleeve and a dark sense of humour. Also watch out for the sail Windcheater. Both will bring a smile to your face. Another nice touch was the little sub-story at the beginning of each chapter that opened up the ecology of Spatterjay without being part of the main story.

All in all a very impressive novel from an author with the rare ability of effortlessly conveying to the reader dazzling imagery.
Nigel (1st April 2003)

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