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Neal Asher - OrbusOrbus is the 3rd book in Neal Asher's Spatterjay sequence, and it's a worthy addition to the series, even if it's a bit different from the two that went before (The Skinner, and Voyage of the Sable Keech).
The book picks up where 'Voyage of the Sable Keech' stopped – we find Old Captain Orbus, who gives the book its name, as captain of the space ship Gurnard now, outbound from Spatterjay, and on the search for his sanity and balance of mind. One of his old ship mates, Drooble, has also hired as crew. Plus we get two stowaways who urgently need to get away from the place – Sniper and 13 (still in his sea horse body) have smuggled themselves into the Cargo Hold in a large crate.

Orbus (and the Gurnard AI, more importantly) are being contracted by a Reif (a reification, literally a moving, embalmed dead body with the mind of its current and former occupant on a crystal, controlling it) named Cymbeline to retrieve a Prador carapace from a space station in the Graveyard, the demilitarized zone between the Policy and the Prador 3rd Kingdom. Arriving there they stumble over a Prador agent, so it's very convenient (overly so, actually) to have an Old Captain and a war drone on board who both hate the Prador, and who have experience of battling them.

Vrell, in the meanwhile, is taking over Vrost's ship, and then heads for the Graveyard, too, fleeing from both the Polity's Dreadnoughts and from Oberon, the Prador King.

And finally we encounter the Golgoloth, a mutated, very old, Prador hermaphrodite. It was the kingmaker for the 2nd Prador King, and is hiding from Oberon. It's name is such that it is being used as a Monster, used to scare Prador young (which takes some doing, given their normally short and violent lifes with no chance of freedom). And Oberon himself is now taking a massive interest in what's going on just outside his borders.

I don't think I need to point out that the solid effluent and the air ventilation device follow intersecting trajectories, no? Or that the intersection point is in said Graveyard?
A lot of games are being played here, politically, strategically, and developmentally. Allthough the most blatant (if never fully revealed) one is the way the ECS (Earth Central Security) AIs manipulate Orbus, Sniper, and presumably the Gurnard, too.

The book is marked departure from the earlier books in the Spatterjay series – firstly it doesn't play on the planet at all, and we thus don't get it's deliriously nasty and gory ecosystem. There is generally less splatter and gore here (I said less, ok?) despite loads of fighting. What we get instead is bigger. Bigger monsters, bigger space ships, bigger weapons, bigger battles; nearly ad absurdum.  What we also get is a good dose of Character Development, especially for Orbus as war damaged character suffering from survivor's guilt (and a lot more), plus some for Sniper, also. It's not terribly deep, but it's exactly what keeps Asher novels from descending into pure 2D splatterfests like Prador Moon, so this is a Good Thing, ok?
The overall pace and density of the prose is measured, and substantial, all the more so for Asher (hey, this is praise, honestly!).
The book is actually re-readable if one skips the overly drawn out (Star Wars, anyone?) and in parts (especially the Prador in-ship) repetitive battle bits.
Bad bits? Except for the above I'd mention the quotes which start each chapter with a half page (or a little more) infodump. It's clumsy, and didn't work particularly well for me, not even for delivery of the info the author seems to feel I needed.
But overall these are minor niggles in a rather substantial and enjoyable book. Overall I can heartily recommend this for reading, although starting with the first two books would be a good thing I think, you will miss an awful lot of the pre-story otherwise, and I think this makes a difference here.


Title: Orbus
Series: Spatterjay
Series Number: 3
Author: Neal Asher
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Tor Books
Publisher URL: http://www.panmacmillan.com
Publication Date: 2009
Review Date: 100616
ISBN: 9780230708723
Pages: 438
Format: Hardback
Topic: SF
Topic: Space Opera


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