This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Departure
Series: Owner Sequence #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Visible in the night sky the Argus Station, its twin smelting plants like glowing eyes, looks down on nightmare Earth. From Argus the Committee keep an oppressive control: citizens are watched by cams systems and political officers, it’s a world inhabited by shepherds, reader guns, razor birds and the brutal Inspectorate with its white tiled cells and pain inducers. Soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human being need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online . . . This is the world Alan Saul wakes to in his crate on the conveyor to the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Informed by Janus, through the hardware implanted in his skull, about the world as it is now Saul is determined to destroy it, just as soon as he has found out who he was, and killed his interrogator.
Saul infiltrates a soon to be shut down branch of the committee and takes the identity of one of the lower executives. This is the first step towards infiltrating a much higher branch where the woman who implanted the hardware in his head resides. After successfully performing this, he and Hannah are on the run. She performs the next level of surgery on him, basically turning him into a human/ai hybrid. By this time Saul realizes there is no way to save the billions on Earth and decides that he is better off without humanity.
He hooks up with some revolutionaries, the leader of which has a similar bit of implant in his head. They’re goal is to get to the Argus Station. The Revoluionary’s goal is to crash the satellites the Station controls and the station, into Earth and wipe out every Committee Stronghold. Saul realizes his goal is to take over the Station and turn it into a mobile space fortress, ie, a spaceship. What neither of them know is that the Committee Member in charge of the Station has upgraded himself and become a human/ai hybrid as well. Agent Smith, errr, Committee Executive Smith destroys the Revolutionary Leader and Saul finds out Smith is planning a coup to take over the Committee and only allow select Committee Members onto the station while causing a massive dieback on Earth among its citizens.
Saul and Smith fight while the current President of the Committee and his pet Executives fly to the station as well. After a 3 way fight, Saul ups his game and becomes fully integrated with his implant, turning him into something not quite human anymore. Saul wins control of the Station and begins preparations to fly to Mars.
While all of this has been happening, the small colony on Mars has found out that they have been abandoned by the Committee. The Committee Executive in charge plans on killing almost everyone so he and his minions can survive the years necessary until the Committee on Earth can come back to Mars. Saul’s sister fights back and takes charge of the colony. The book ends with them seeing the Argus Space Station heading their way but without knowing it isn’t under Committee control.
I liked this a LOT more this time around. Last time I was really confused with how things started out and the jumps in the timeline. This time I knew it was coming, was prepared and enjoyed the ride.
I think this was the most violent of Asher’s books yet. It was gory and graphic AND the sheer body count was humongous. The Revolutionaries take out millions with nukes when they attack multiple Committee headquarters alone. Then you have Saul taking out people left and right or the Committee people committing atrocities to get at Saul. No matter how you slice it, or dice it, or blow it up, or generally kill it in some way or another, this was Violent, with a capital V.
While Asher’s Polity books tend to be pretty optimistic, at least in terms of humanity bootstrapping itself to a better future, the Owner Sequence is pure dystopia. With 18 billion people on Earth and no way to support them, even Saul gives up of trying to save them. He goes so far as to blame them for existing and calls humanity the manswarm, like they were some sort of plague of locusts. I won’t go so far as to say it was a refreshing change from Asher’s outlook in the Polity books, but the change was more inline with my outlook on basic humanity, ie, broken by sin. However, unlike Saul, who pretty much says “Sucks to be you, have fun dying”, I don’t give up on people, even if I don’t like them.
I am thankful that Asher didn’t try to write a series about the rise of the Committee but simply gave us the world with that as Fait Accompli. They were the perfect mix of Corrupted Power, Meddling Bureaucracy and Bumbling Idiot all rolled into one scary badguy mix. When a group is planning on killing 12 BILLION people with space lasers, you know they’re great bad guys!
Saul is not a “connect with the main character” kind of guy and if you’re looking for that, don’t bother reading this. He’s the gun AND the bullet that Asher uses to tell us the story. I wouldn’t want to read characters like him all the time but every once in a while I like someone like that, ie, competent beyond belief, totally focused on their goal and not emoting like an Emo. Kind of like mixing John Wick and Spock! Saul Sprwock perhaps? Hmm, sounds like someone speaking with their mouth full of chocolate pudding. Why chocolate you ask? Because I LIKE chocolate pudding.