Here's the first review of Hilldiggers over at fantasybookcritic by Robert Thompson.
Thanks for the plug Neal! Definitely a book to check out if you're any kind of science fiction fan.
I'll be picking this up once it's released and really looking forward to it!
I hope to see more of the same. I've seen a lot of writers start out, get high praise, then thereafter go downhill. Luckily it seems the consensus (with one or two exceptions) is that I'm improving. I'll try not to get complacent though -- please shout at me very loudly if you think I am!
Once BookDepository puts it up for sale (usually several days after Amazon.uk which has already done it), I'll be ordering it and then reading it as soon as it arrives at my door.
I will post my impressions here, though I expect the book to be quite good and compete with The Dreaming Void for my favorite book of the year.
I finished Hilldiggers last night and it was excellent. It is the 9th novel I've bought and read by Mr. Asher pretty much on first publication anywhere and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
Hilldiggers is set at the edge of Polity, some unspecified years in the future of the series beyond all current novels, when The Polity seemingly mellower seems happy to contact new civilizations on their terms.
In a strange system, there are 2 planets Sudoria and Brumal, that come close to one another every 3 years, but otherwise are quite different, one being very desert like, one being cooler but very acidic.
Many years ago, before Earth Central, The Quiet War, The Polity..., an early colonization ship came there, and there was a split in the colonists, some going on Sudoria and adapting themselves to the conditions there and in time forming a relatively standard human society, some on Brumal where they thought life would be easier not realizing the deadliness of the planet, and consequently their adaption will be even more dramatic so that the present day Brumallians are quite far from normal humans physically and psychologically, very good in bioengineering and having large underground hive-cities
When Sudoria got high-tech and one their ship visited Brumal, the "monsters" (in the Sudorian vision of history) of Brumal attacked and destroyed it and a war to the knife lasting 100 years started, though it could be prosecuted only seasonally when the planets were relatively close, but then you got the whole deal, nukes, bioweapons, later gravity disruptors...
One day an alien lifeform/techform appeared in the system and the Sudorians got lucky (or so they think) to catch it, cut it into 4 pieces (it was worm like), imprison it in 4 cylinders in orbit, and study it well enough to get the new weapons that made Hilldiggers of the title possible, the huge warships now armed with gravity disruptors literally burying Brumallian city, after Brumallian city, and stopping just short of genocide.
In the meantime the study of the alien worm is not without hazard, one Sudorian physicists closely involved in that, gives birth to 4 quads, Harald, Orduval, Yishna and Rhodane, and soon after walks out the airlock with a bomb strapped to her and detonates it. The orphans grow to become very, very intelligent, driven, but not without a touch of madness;
Yishna becomes a physicist and the foremost authority on the Worm like her mom, very high in the Combine hierarchy, the Sudorian orbital hightech/finance society that became one of the 3 major powers after the War being in charge of the Worm, Harald becomes a high ranking officer in the Fleet, another major power of the Sudorians (the third being the planetary society itself), Rhodane becomes a biologist but she is also afflicted with a touch of madness so she "defects" to Brumal where she claims she finds "peace", while Orduval hospitalized for bad convulsive fits decides to walk out in the desert to die.
But the Polity has been watching for a while through a drone named Tigger, who despite having strict non-interference orders from Geromiad the sector AI, cannot help itself to do good here and there, saving Orduval among other things.
A mysterious historian and social scientist Uskaron publishes some studies questioning the fundamentals of Sudorian society, bringing unimpeachable proof that everything Sudorians know about the early war is well, not quite what happened, and his books throw the Sudorian society in turmoil.
The Polity considering enough time has passed since the war, makes itself known and sends an old Hooper captain McCrooger with a problem of his own (he is dying...) as Consul Assesor to make contact; of course the Fleet wants the Polity out, The Combines want it in, the Brumallians want to be heard by the Polity, and things start happening...
Told through the stories of the 4 children (present and retrospects), McCrooger and Tigger, Hilldiggers is a great, great story, lots of action, gadgets, strange biology, drama, suspense, politics... Space opera at the best and a standalone novel by and large with a very satisfying conclusion...
Highly, highly recommended and being a relative standalone (all Polity, hooper... background is mentioned) is also a great introduction to Mr. Asher's extraordinary Polity universe and magnificent novels...
I must get hold of a copy of Death Ray Magazine. Here's either part or all of a review in it of Hilldiggers:
"Asher has an axe to grind, but what a shiny, well-honed and beautifully weighted axe it is... He's on top of his game with this one and his confidence entwines a fibrous thread throughout the plot. Multiple narratives occurring in different time frames, shifts between first-and third-person perspectives, a detailed and convincing description of planetary ecosystems...In lesser hands, a rambling wayward text could well result. What we have instead is a wonderfully rich and complex tale that happily flips between giving the mind something weighty to mull over and pleasing its baser, thrill-seeking desires... Asher's skill is making it all seem wild, wonderful, politically provoking and fresh."
Hey, Suciul, I've only just noticed your review here. Glad you enjoyed it and thank you very much!
If you need a copy, Neal, PM me and I'll send you a scan.
Despite the hideous title, Death Ray really is growing on me as a magazine.
And the latest SFX arrived this morning, with another good review. Again, if you need a copy, Neal, PM me and I'll send you a scan.
In summary though, all sounds good.
Thanks for sending the two scans, Mark. All looking very nice thus far.
Excellent reviews of Hilldiggers have now appeared in the national (mainly SFF film and TV oriented) magazines SFX, Starburst and Deathray. Here’s some samples from them:
It might not quite trump his barnstorming epic The Line of Polity, but if there’s a more enjoyable and provocative sci-fi action saga this year, we’ll be surprised.
– Saxon Bullock (SFX)
So, despite the space-war back ground, what Asher actually delivers here is a political novel, about conflicts between military and civilian authorities, between war and post-war generations, messianic belief, and the balancing of truth and reconciliation in the aftermath of atrocities – with massive space battles and scheming boo-hiss villians who show unexpected sides as an added bonus.
– Anthony Brown (Starburst)
In lesser hands a rambling, wayward, text could result. What we have instead in a wonderfully rich and complex tale which happily flips between giving the mind something to mull over, and pleasing its baser thrill-seeking desires.
– Jonnie Bryant (Deathray)
Here's the stonking new Jon Sullivan cover for Hilldiggers.