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Neal Asher – Prador MoonPrador Moon, the first book in Neal Asher's Polity sequence, is exploring some of the history predating The Skinner and the rest of the Spatterjay novels. It is a fast and furious 1st contact novel, Asher Style, i.e. with lots of blood, gore, guts, and action. Not his finest or most sophisticated work, but a quick and entertaining read.

It has to be said that this is a novel that starts as it means to go on – humanity, and the all-powerful artificial intelligences who rule the whole of human space, together known as ‘the Polity’, have encountered an intelligent, space-faring race, for the very first time after a long phase of expansion with nothing more than a few separatists causing trouble. We pick up the story as the human Ambassador welcomes the representatives from the Prador Second Kingdom to Avalon Station. On page 9 Jebel Krong, in charge of security for this encounter, muses (whilst being dragged out of the reception chamber, one arm short of the full complement):
Right, thought Jebel, big hostile Aliens with a taste for human flesh. It was the kind of scenario that would have been laughed out of the door by a modern holofiction producer.
Jebel could not have been less amused.

The Prador are huge, crab-like, strictly hierarchical, pheromonically controlled, aggressive carnivores (Prador is a contraction of Predator, you see what he did there?), who don’t negotiate, don’t do deals, and who don’t like (or trust) AIs (or anyone else, for that matter). Classic. They don't just kill everyone, though, they take some 900 prisoners from the station, for ‘coring’ experiments (I leave it to your imagination, or your reading of The Skinner).

The book follows three main streams. Firstly we get, from the very beginning, Jebel ‘up-close and personal’ Krong, who goes on to found the Avalonians after the first assault and the subsequent loss of space station (and his lover). The specialty of the Avalonians is to kill Prador not from a distance, but by placing Gecko mines on their carapaces. Nice touch, I say.
The second thread shows us Moria, a Runcible technician, who gets her first cerebral augmentation, so as not to be left behind by younger, augmented colleagues. But she doesn’t get a normal, bog-standard one from an approved doctor. No, she gets (unknowingly) an experimental advanced aug from Sylac, a scientist on the run from the Polity AIs for forbidden research into augmentation improvements. This, understandably, attracts attention, as do her new abilities. So she starts, as part of her new work, to link closer and closer with the local AI. And when that AI is killed by Separatists in league with the Prador, she is forced to take over the local Runcible, a feat which is, normally, beyond mere augmented humans.
And the final strand shows us the workings of Immanence, the dominating Prador in the huge spaceship that attacked and destroyed Avalon station, and soon much more. We learn a lot about the Prador, their society, and family life. And as always, there’s much you wish you hadn’t heard about someone’s private life…

The book makes use of the normal Polity tech – Underspace travel and communications, Runcibles (see the Gridlinked review for more details on those), Energy Weapons, Anti-Matter weapons, human cranial augmentation, AIs, Golems, Artificial limbs, did we mention all kinds of weapons already?
Neal Asher is one of the hot new talents from the UK – he graduated from Fantasy to SF (which the Publishers decided to print), the Polity universe is his mainstay (no one completely agrees how the books fit into series, so let’s not bother – they can, as far as I’ve read them, be read independently). He’s been nominated for the BSFA award twice, plus for the Philip K Dick award (not for this book, though).

Why not? This is a short story, with a very simple and straight-forward structure, no real plot twists beyond one (very transparent) surprise. I would count is a straight military SF, with none of the ‘mitigating’ factors like complex characters, Ian Fleming-style secret service capers, or human relationships that Asher usually blends the action with.
It a fast, gripping, entertaining read (hey, the boy can write!), but not his best work by quite a distance. What you get, though, are the typical Asher ‘splatter and gore’ moments (plenty thereof), and the odd torture scene (nothing bad, this is NOT Iain M Banks!).
Time line wise this fits in a good time before The Skinner, showing how the Prador war started, and it also predates ‘Line of Polity’, showing how Tomalon came to fly the huge Dreadnought Occam’s Razor.
What else? The book keep quoting the Lear-nonsense poem about the Owl and the Pussicat (see the Line of Polity review for the full thing). Worth reading if you like uncomplicated action-based military SF, or if you read the other, a bit more complex works in the Polity or Agent Cormac cycles, as it provides some background information for other stories.

More Neal Asher


Title: Prador Moon
Subtitle: A Novel of the Polity
Author: Neal Asher
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Night Shade Books
Publisher URL: http://www.nightshadebooks.com
Publication Date: 2006(US)/Nov 2007(UK)
Review Date: 24 July 2007
ISBN: 159780052X
Price: USD 14.95
Author URL: http://www.nealasher.com
Pages: 222
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Military

 

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