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Shall we start with some definitions, maybe? Maybe in regards to the title – these are not stories concerning lockdowns, neither fictitious ones nor the real-live Corona ones we all lived through, but instead simply were written during the latter, when Asher had nothing to do except write and do some exercise. Which, to be honest, is a bit of a let down.

Lockdown Tales is Neal Asher's first foray published by Ian Whates' Newcon Press, at least as single author effort (he has been part of several of their collections previously), it has since been followed by a 2nd volume under the same (slightly misleading) heading, which I'm yet to engage with.
And I don't understand why Newcon would consider this book to be Hard SF (that's their classification on the cover) – this is far-future Space Opera. Maybe that got overlooked like some of the revision marks still in the text? Actually, it's even more far-future than Asher's usual efforts – these short stories are all set in a post-Polity universe, per the subtitle: What comes after the Polity...?
And I'm not going to define the Polity for you beyond it being an AI-run human sphere of influence in the Universe – if you haven't read the Polity then a lot in this book will not make much sense, and you'll miss so much background that the stories will be affected, I would expect. And if you have then I'm not going to bore you with something you are indeed aware of.


But what about the actual book, you ask?
Well, it starts with an introduction by the author, laying out the story of his life and writing over the last 7 years, and the background to this collection. The main salient points are – his life's been a mess, and when he got it back together Covid came along and knocked things sideways, so here are the short stories he wrote but didn't sell individually during that time.

And then we're into the stories – each of them starts with another short intro by Asher, showing some of his thinking and aims. Not sure how much this adds to the stories, but it might be helpful for someone who has less background in this Universe then me (There are now well over 22 Polity books in existence, and I've written about most of them I reckon, so maybe I'm not a good yardstick for this).

The Relict
This is based on a classic trope, featuring a religious war (humans, eh) in a post-polity civilisation, where both sides are digging for relicts of ancient technology to give them an edge in their technological development and thus the on-going conflict. Add in a post-human bent on beneficial uplifting (very Special Circumstances, that) and an ancient War Drone trapped in a Lava Flow it could not be bothered to step away from due to ennui, and you have an entertaining if not terribly unique story.

Monitor Local
This is the only story here which was previously published, in a WW4 collection and in a rather different form. Apparently it's a SFnal riff on High Plains Drifter stories – that's a reference lost on me I'm afraid, but might tell you something? It displays a Polity intervention on a Graveyard planet, where the closeness of the Prador Kingdom limits how heavy-handed they can go in. We have slaves in mines, thralls, mercenaries, war drones etc all present – this is Asher standard faire, and entertaining.

Bad Boy
A fairly pointless-feeling romp through Spatterjay, with a giant Whelk running amok, the AI not being allowed to wade in, and a human Xenobiologist drafted in to investigate and resolve the situation. And yes, of course was I thrilled to return to the flora and fauna of Spatterjay. Who would not, even if the story doesn't live up to the environment?

We follow the travails of the sole survivor of a shuttle crashed on a terraformed world where life was easy – maybe too easy, during Polity days. Until one day he digs up the remains of a Golem, and starts tinkering with it. Part Robinson Crusoe (author's observation), part McGuiver (mine), part – nope, that would spoil it. I rather enjoyed that one, even if the ending lets it down.

Dr Whip
A Penny Royal story of one of its interventions – this time committing an atrocity for its own aims and providing its double-edged gift without a specific demand or consent – just for its own amusement? Darkly entertaining, if not particularly deep or meaningful I felt.

Raising Moloch
A semi-independent Hooder researcher/specialist gets hired by some not-very-legal organisation to bring up an (obviously) illicitly acquired Hooder baby – and puts his own spin on things doing so. Not sure I liked this very much – too much wanton cruelty, as Asher can be partial to at times.

As said before – this is a fill-in with kinda-canon shorts, mostly set after the Polity. It really needs  some Polity knowledge to make much sense, and I would only recommend this for fans and completists.

More Neal Asher

Title: Lockdown Tales
Author: Neal Asher
Series: Polity
Series Number:  22? Depends on how you count...
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Newcon Press
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2020
Review Date: 220109
ISBN: 9781912950751
Price: UKP 12.99
Pages: 381
Format: TPB
Topic: Space Opera    
Topic: Polity




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