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Thread: Where to Start?

  1. #1
    Prefers to be anomalous intensityxx's Avatar
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    Where to Start?

    I enjoyed the podcast interview with Rick Kleffel, and so bought Gridlinked, Skinner, and Cowl. Does anyone have any thoughts on which one I should read first?

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    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    As a relatively recent convert too, Intensity, I would go for Gridlinked. As well as being Neal's 'breakthrough' novel, this also sets up lots of Polity stories later - more buying!

    Hobbit
    Mark

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    I'd definately go in chronological order, you'll enjoy them all!

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    Neal Asher nealasher's Avatar
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    Though being a bit paranoid, I would say don't be put off by Gridlinked. It's my first major book and I'll admit to it having some faults. The Skinner is the one most applauded and Cowl is the one on which opinions seem to be most divided.

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    Prefers to be anomalous intensityxx's Avatar
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    Thanks! Maybe Skinner, then.

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    Questioner of Usefulness Lowerprofile's Avatar
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    I nearly picked up Cowl yesterday. But there were several factors against it. It was the only Asher title in the store, which is a huge, national bookstore. Is that usually the case?

    Also, I'd just read the forward to Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. So that's what I bought. Can you blame me?

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    Having read Gridlinked a couple of times I decided to branch out and so bought:-

    The Skinner - now read
    The Voyage of the Sable Keech - now read
    Cowl
    The Line of Polity - now read
    Brass Man - reading
    Polity Agent

    So far so good but I do have a couple of niggles. Firstly I really struggled to find information on correct reading order. Tried the Neal Asher website, searches on here and various other places. nothing is made clear and, as it arrived first, I began reading Brass Man before The Line of Polity. I quickly realised that there must be a previous book and so stopped. However this was not clear from the information available to me prior to commencing reading. Personally I felt Brass Man should have had something along the lines of 'the follow up/sequel to Line of Polity, on the cover.

    My second grumble relates to recapping and I felt that Neal was bordering on padding the books out with uneccessary repetition. If anyone wants to see where this habit can end up then try reading horror books by Brian Lumley.

    That said I have really enjoyed the books, good ideas, plenty going on and humerous AI's. Being a fan of the Culture novels the last always appeals to me.

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    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Firstly I really struggled to find information on correct reading order. Tried the Neal Asher website, searches on here and various other places. nothing is made clear.
    Did you try the bibliography?

    THIS SITE also helps.

    The only thing I would question there would be to put Line of Polity as a Cormac book.
    My second grumble relates to recapping and I felt that Neal was bordering on padding the books out with uneccessary repetition.
    There's a fine balance between telling what has gone before in a series and letting the new story unfold. You could read the books as stand alone, though there are references that make more sense when you've read them in order. Polity Agent, for example, makes more sense if you've read the earlier books, but you don't necessarily have to. Sometimes the old story needs repetition for new readers, so to speak.

    Hobbit
    Mark

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    Neal Asher nealasher's Avatar
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    "The only thing I would question there would be to put Line of Polity as a Cormac book."

    But it is a Cormac book. 1. Gridlinked 2.The Line of Polity 3. Brass Man 4. Polity Agent 5. Line War.

    "There's a fine balance between telling what has gone before in a series and letting the new story unfold."

    This is very true. It's also true that it ain't easy to get your publisher to fess-up that you're writing a series. They want single complete books to drag in new readers, which really is only sensible. Plenty of people have now come to my books by reading something later on, like Brass Man, then tracked down the backlist. In fact, that's how I started on some of my favourites like Julian May's Many Coloured Land, Zelazny's Princes in Amber and many others besides.

    It's only on Polity Agent that you'll now find 'The fourth agent Cormac novel' written on the cover. There's been some talk of going for a new cover design for the older books and maybe then they'll do the same thing for them. Then again, they did so with Brass Man (check the difference between the hardcover and the paperback) and it didn't have 'The third agent Cormac novel' on it. Byzantine are the ways of publishers.

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    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Thanks Neal for making that clearer.

    I must work on my clarity too: my point was that I thought Line of Polity is a Cormac book, whereas on that internet link it wasn't.

    I do like the new covers, btw: think the Polity Agent cover is excellent.

    Hobbit
    Mark

  11. #11
    Neal Asher nealasher's Avatar
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    And I should have read it more clearly - or checked the site.

    I'm presently falling for the Hilldiggers cover (just received the dust jacket). I've put it on here and the back of it is up on my blog.

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    Thanks Neal for clearing that up. I had no idea that publishers had the say on that sort of book cover info. To be fair I will normally try to read in chronological publishing date order if there is any level of doubt. I find that this gives me a better idea for how a writer is developing as well. In this instance I got a bit impatient waiting for my book delivery.

    I've now finished Brass Man and am half way through Polity Agent, thoroughly enjoying them still, great ideas and I like the multiple plot aspects to books. Got to say though that the repetition/recap rate seems to be creeping up. Have noticed a couple of times in Polity Agent where almost the same recap appears twice within a few pages. I appreciate that there are people that will read as stand alone and also many who will have much bigger time gaps between books. However this goes beyond catering to them and qualifies as pure padding. The other thing that can creep up is basically rewriting the same book over and over again. IMHO you haven't reached that but it is a future path that seems plausible from where I'm sitting. I can think of several SciFi and Fantasy series that have gone down this route. Unless you want to deliberately rehash for a loyal fanbase that demands this.

    I hope you accept the above in the spirit intended, which is constructive, because I do thoroughly enjoy your work, enough so that you are currently on my 'automatic' buying list....cheers......Al

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    Neal Asher nealasher's Avatar
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    Homosap, its entirely because of that necessity to elucidate for the new reader that I'll be winding up the Cormac sequence with Line War. The books are starting to become a bit heavy with exposition and, inevitably, the more books in the series the more of it that's required. Anyway, though set in the Polity, Hilldiggers stands alone and is certainly a different story.

    Of course there's a balance to achieve in that respect too. Yes, I can tell an entirely different story, and end up being punished for it by my fanbase. I can do what a lot of SF writers have done in the past and go 'literary', then spend my declining career complaining to the publisher about sales. I'm aiming for somewhere inbetween: different stories, but with plenty of my weird creatures and gratuitous violence. Maybe I'll do other Cormac stories that don't have such a heavy connection to the previous series. Maybe I'll hop right out of the Polity universe and work on something new from one of my short stories (like Cowl). Maybe I'll sit down and rewrite that fantasy trilogy still sitting in my files...

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    Neal Asher nealasher's Avatar
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    When I wrote Gridlinked, I had some vague idea of carrying on with the story in another book, and by the time Macmillan picked me up I had a synopsis and 30,000 words of The Line of Polity. When I came to write LoP I threw away the synopsis and most of the words. I then had the vague idea of four books, each involving the destruction of a dragon sphere. Then I thought that too obvious and formulaic and shafted the idea in Brass Man. Now, Polity Agent has tied together numerous threads left dangling from the previous books. Line War, which Iím about 40,000 words into now, will tie off the last threads in what I hope is a spectacular finale.

    But seriously, if someone had picked up Gridllinked from the slush pile at Macmillan and seen ĎGridlinked, book one of five of the agent Cormac seriesí, that person would have laughed while shoving it into the return envelope. A publisher is not going to take on a big series from a new unproven writer. You have to first prove youíve got the legs.

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    All fair comment Neal and informative, so goes to show how little I know about the literary business. I'm one of those strange types then, because if I read 'book 1 of 5' or similar on a cover I find that attractive. I've even been known to buy an entire series before reading any of it. Guess I must like to read on without delay, so naturally I would always be susceptible to recap repetition.

    I'll probably finish Polity Agent tomorrow so you'd better hurry up with Line War!

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