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Title: The Skinner
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
Sable Keech, a dead ECS agent, is a member of the Anubis cult. When he died 700 years ago tracking down infamous slavers who sold their product to the Prador during the Prador War, he was reified and continued his hunt for the Eight most prominent members. Jay Hoop was their leader and Sable has accounted for the other seven members. Rumors bring Sable to the world of Spatterjay, named after Jay Hoop. A world where a peculiar virus gives immortality but with the risk of becoming inhuman.
Janer, a human who was indentured and now works for, a Wasp Hivemind, is on Spatterjay on orders from the Hive. He doesn’t know why and in all honesty, he doesn’t want to know why. But the Hive wants to expand and a world outside of the Polity would suit it perfectly. Janers is along for the ride and the promise of ten million new carth shillings, enough to allow him to be free of the Hive forever.
Erlan. Young hooper. A hooper is someone with the virus. A young hooper is anyone infected for less than 200 years. She was infected and then left Spatterjay to explore the galaxies. But now she’s back and she’s not sure she wants to keep on living. Her mission is to find Captain Ambel and either have him kill her or show her how to live, as all the Captains of Spatterjay are over 700 years old.
Throw in a Prador trying to clean up its trail from the Prador War 1000 years ago, one of the Eight who isn’t dead, Jay Hooper who is now a 12foot tall monstrosity that is practically unkillable, some mercenaries and a couple of AI’s and you’ve got yourself quite a story!
Oh, I forgot to mention the sentient Sails, which might just try to take the planet for themselves.
This was the best Polity book by Asher so far. It had super bloody ultra violent action. It had dead people, it had the Skinner. That thing is surviving even after having its head cut off and kept in a box by Captain Ambel. Hiveminds and Prador and the list goes on and on and on.
While the Prador War was mentioned in passing in the Agent Cormac books, it was more of a blip than anything. Here, while it was 1000 years ago, we get a lot of information about it that helps develop the Polity into a more realistic society. It isn’t all knowing and all powerful and the Prador War showed that. That is a good balance to some of the power we saw in Agent Cormac where it appeared the Polity just rolled over everything.
If I had to recommend a place to start the Polity books, this would be it. It is filled with awesome new ideas and the action and thrillaminute ride never stops. The other thing is that while this is part of a trilogy, it tells a complete story. The Skinner is brought to justice, each of the characters finds closure in one way or another and there are no dangling threads “forcing” you to read the next 2 books. You could read this and see if Asher’s style is for you and if it isn’t, you don’t have that “incomplete” feeling that a lot of series rely on these days.
This is a good sized book. This edition is only 400+ pages, but when I read it back in 2010, it was over 700 I think? Probably those larger numbers were based on a paperback edition. Either way, this is not something you skim through in an afternoon. I spent a day and a half devouring this and “devour” is a good word. Everything on Spatterjay is trying to eat something else, all the time.
I also liked the introduction of the Hive Mind. Sadly, beyond a couple of short stories in some of his later collections, Asher never really delves into this aspect of the Polity. So don’t get too excited about it as it never pans out.
As a re-read, this almost came across as a new book. I remembered the basic details of Spatterjay being a world where everything was eat or be eaten and that there was stuff to do with the Prador and that a dead guy was involved. But honestly, this book and my review from 2010 are part of why I now review the way I do. That review did nothing to help me remember what I had read, while I’m hoping this one does when I decide to re-read it again in another decade or so.
Last time I rated this 4 stars. This time around, with it still being so enjoyable and such a fun read, I’m slamming that up to 5 stars.