September 13th, 2005, 01:34 PM
\m/ BEER \m/
Posting now that I've gotten into the book after a nice bunch of books I reviewed. I also tried not to see what others have said yet, since I'm only about 100 pages into it.
I get the sense that Asher had a good amount of fun writing this book, some interesting creatures and pirate-like characters (Hoopers) on the sea. The world is full of possibilities.
The characters, aside from Kreech, I don't get a real sense of their motivations. Janer and his connection to the wasps is really cool, but I don't get a real feeling of why he is on the planet.
September 13th, 2005, 03:28 PM
the puppet master
He's still working for the wasp species and their interests,even though he is no longer indentured to them, as I understood it. So his presence has more to do with them wanting to be there.
But he's not much of a character anyway.
September 13th, 2005, 03:52 PM
\m/ BEER \m/
Yeah, at this point, he just seems to be an observer. I suspect there is more to him than that, though.
Originally Posted by ArthurFrayn
September 13th, 2005, 06:26 PM
I do have to say that the concept that another Earth-evolved sentience would be an insect hive-mind and that we never noticed because they communicate with pheremones was pretty darn cool. I'd like to read more about that sort of thing, actually.
September 23rd, 2005, 02:54 PM
Archren, there will be more about those tricky hornets in 'The Voyage of the Sable Keech'. Check out 'Books' on http://www.freespace.virgin.net/n.asher
September 27th, 2005, 03:31 PM
I will certainly check that out. Good to see you drop by, BTW. I've got "Cowl" on my To Read pile as well.
December 24th, 2005, 08:00 PM
OK. I said I'd drop in and add my tuppen'rth when I'd finished.
OK. Very interesting comments made by people earlier in the thread. I must admit that I thought the world building was great - sort of an anti-Dune. I loved the creatures, and I really liked the idea of a specialised ecosystem that really was kill or be killed. This was also mirrored in the actions of the humans - evolution and kill or be killed, with Keech seemingly doing a lot of the killing.
It is a book about the diversity of species and diverse alien races. I thought the book had that sense of wonder that has been missing from a lot of recent SF - for me, anyway. I liked the idea of the Prador - nasty alien crabs! There was a feeling though of the greater events outside the events of the novel and I did want to read more about other worlds of the Polity. The Polity links are there to the other books, as too the Hive Mind, I think.
One of the things that is always tricky to handle in such books is humour. There was a variety here, both in the characteristics of the pirates (who had everything except the 'Argh' included ) as well as Sniper's somewhat erratic sense of purpose, and even the development of Windcheater to develop an economic power base. At times I didn't think it always worked, (I often find that!) but on the whole it wasn't bad.
Character development was something mentioned above. I can see what you're saying, though I didn't think it was disasterous. There were some characters I really liked - Keech, Windcheater, Sniper.
One of the difficulties to a degree was the fact that the characters were either on a boat at sea or on land for most of the book. Though there were Galactic influences, it wasn't that sort of book; the upshot of this was that there wasn't a great deal of variety there. The pacing was fairly leisurely, though lots of fights and explosions livened it up in places. Having said that, you can have too much of a good thing, and they were a little tiring towards the end.
In summary then, for a second novel I thought this was good, though a little drawn out in places, but a pretty good one on the whole, I thought.
I have a copy of Sable Keech ready to go and will be reading it soon. It will be interesting to see how Neal's writing has developed since this book. I am picking up the rest of his books to see how they compare.
December 31st, 2005, 06:40 AM
Thanks Hobbit. Interesting what you said about the story being confined to the planet and the, for you, consequent lack of variety. Funny that. Judging by your reaction otherwise I would guess you'll find the Cormac books (beginning with Gridlinked) a whole lot more satisfying. The complaint often levelled at them is rather the reverse...
I've had huge praise for this book. It's been positively reviewed in many publications, including the London and New York Times, and Locus. It won the Czech Academy Award (the Salamander) out of shortlist of Blood Music Greg Bear, Chasm City Alastair Reynolds, The Scar China Mieville and A Deepness Upon the Sky Vernor Vinge). And it is now selling in about eight foreign translations. Yet I still wince at the negative stuff. I guess when I stop wincing that'll be time to throw away my keyboard.
December 31st, 2005, 09:44 AM
Thanks, Neal. I think you have to remember that my comments on the Forums are often filled with that understated 'Brit-ness'; what is 'pretty good' for me may be other's 'fantastic'. As a result, they can sound negative, which was not my intention.
And I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that I have ordered the Polity books, and am very much looking forward to them.
My comments about the lack of variety on Spatterjay is a very good point.
Perhaps it was because I was in the mood for a whole new world out there and was a little frustrated that I saw glimpses without getting a bigger picture. There was a sense of wonder there that was mainly involved in the animals living there, but I did get an impression that there was a lot more of the planet and that area to see. And I didn't quite see it.
Not that that should put readers off.
December 31st, 2005, 11:55 AM
Hobbit, your particular review did not make me wince. If you've come out of the other side of The Skinner having on the whole enjoyed it and with the intention of getting hold of my other books, that makes me very happy indeed! As far as the wincing is concerned, I was just putting across a general attitude of mine to reviews.
I guess, about not seeing the entire 'world' that's because the world-building had to take second place to the plot. There's plenty about the Polity milieu in the other books...
February 12th, 2007, 12:56 AM
I'm sorry to say this was a tough read for me. I thought the world Asher created was an interesting one but found the myriad of characters and their various intersecting stories exhausting and hard to follow. Loved the notion of the virus imparting immortality but, as has already been mentioned, it lent the ensuing violence a cartoonish, almost comical nature that only served to undermine the narrative. I decided to stick with this book, hoping all would eventually become clear - or, at the very least, pick up - but, in the end, the various characters and their respective storylines congealed into a confusing morass that had me skimming the last sixty or so pages.
Imaginative and unique, but frustratingly confusing and ultimately unengaging.
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