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ORBUS By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the third book in the Spatterjay series, although this one doesn’t take place on the galactic version of Australia (ie the most dangerous planet in the universe!). If you’ve read the other books in the series you will know that Orbus is one of the old captains, the rulers of Spatterjay, a virtually immortal group of Captains who sail the leech-infested seas. But after the events of the second book, Orbus is happy to head off-planet, and takes a cargo ship travelling to a place known as the Graveyard, a no-man’s land between the Polity (human) empire and the Prador empire. And everything is going fine with this routine pick-up until a couple of war drones stow away on Orbus’ cargo vessel, a rebel Prador attacks at the pick-up, a civil war starts in the Prador empire, and a mythological nightmare creature proves to be very much real and alive…

Asher write SF with a good amount of action, with some of the characters already set up in previous books he has a chance to let rip without having to explain who and what they are. His books always contain great details that make them seem more real, and Orbus is no exception.

The different setting makes this barely a Spatteray novel, but the characters are what connect it to the other books in the series. This one works well enough by itself, but there’s a lot of history and backstory you would miss out on if you skipped the first two books.

The exciting SF adventure continues. The Spatterjay series is remarkable and unique. This slight change of direction for the series works well, bringing in a new environment, and further developing the  interesting characters, particularly the war drone Sniper.  I’ll be coming back for more in the fourth book in the series. The story of Spatterjay rocks!

THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE KEECH By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This is the second book in the Spatterjay series, and sees us returning to the water-filled planet where the Hoopers or Old Captains (near indestructible, near immortal, super-strength men) run the planet, alongside the sentient sails they use for their ships. The waters of Spatterjay are filled with all manner of dangerous fauna, including virus-wielding leeches which burrow into their victims but pass on the virus which causing the superhuman strength and longevity.

It is ten years since the first book ended by riotous climax, and not a great deal has changed. Those familiar with the first novel will find this one remarkably similar, the same characters, the same style, the same snippets to let you know about the wildlife that inhabits the planet, virtually the same plot! The riotous finale where everything all comes together is lacking, as the various plots are this time individually wrapped-up, leaving the reader with an unsatisfactory bump in the excitement, rather than a mountain.

The Sable Keech is a massive ship aiming to re-run the epic journey of its name-sake as he ventured to the place where he was brought back to life using the virus. Bloc, the reification (a kind of technologically undead) in charge of the voyage, employs the old Captains to help out and a Golum sail (a crazy one intent on destroying death) to lead them. But there are also aliens and the deadly creatures of the deep intent on stopping them.

The first two hundred pages of the novel seem to go nowhere, feel like padding and could quiet easily be removed without any ill effect. The final hundred pages see almost a re-run of the climax of the first novel, but spread out so that there is little impact.

The ways in which this novel goes wrong are many: it is too similar to the first book, but fails where the first book succeeded. This isn’t a rubbish book by any means. It’s still pretty good, and only really falls down when compared with The Skinner, the first book in the series. Asher can write, the world of Spatterjay is epically explorable, and the old Captains are like cosmic super-pirates. But this doesn’t have the danger or the anger of The Skinner, despite similar plotting, and we’ve already visited this world. For those who haven’t read The Skinner you’ll enjoy this a great deal more than fans familiar with the first book.

Let’s hope Asher can redeem himself with the third book in the series.