(2013) Neal Asher, Tor, £18.99, hrdbk, 472pp, ISBN 978-0-230-75071-5
As the blurb for Jupiter War says, Alan Saul is now part-human and part-machine, and our solar system isn't big enough to hold him. He craves the stars, but can't leave yet. His sister Var is trapped on Mars, on the wrong side of a rebellion, and Saul's human side will not let her die. He must leave Argus Station to stage a dangerous rescue -- but mutiny is brewing onboard, as Saul's robots make his crew feel increasingly redundant. Serene Galahad will do anything to prevent Saul's escape. Earth’s ruthless dictator hides her crimes from a cowed populace as she readies new warships for pursuit. She aims to crush her enemy in a terrifying display of interstellar violence. Meanwhile, The Scourge limps back to earth, its crew slaughtered, its mission to annihilate Saul a disaster. There are survivors, but while one seeks Galahad's death, Clay Ruger will negotiate for his life. Events build to a climax as Ruger holds humanity’s greatest prize -- seeds to rebuild a dying Earth. This stolen gene-bank data will come at a price, but what will Galahad pay for humanity’s future?
Buckle up, because here comes the third and final part of Neal Asher’s 'Owner' series, which started with The Departure and continued with Zero Point and now concludes with Jupiter War.
For a reluctant reader like myself, the prospect of reading a 472-page novel that consists of only 18 chapters and a epilogue is a bit off-putting, but at least Asher further sub-divides his chapters into different sections, usually based on where the action is occurring in places like Earth or Mars or Argus for events that unfold on Argus Station, and also gives us some nifty pieces of info-dumping (normally considered a sin in writing when they are revealed in the narrative or through some lengthy conversations between characters who fill in the reader with some essential background information, but here they are presented as standalone info-bites) in other parts marked 'Slippage' or 'Tweaking', but reading this book really is no hardship because Asher is at the height of his creative powers, acting like a master puppeteer, or chess master moving his pieces around the board, or make that battlefield, jostling for position until they are ready for the final confrontation. Obviously with over twenty books to his name, and several series within them, Asher is an old pro on the themes of war, and human enhancements which make human bodies more and more perfect and closer to immortality and the ability to become almost God-like with the multiple functions they can perform, and there are interesting under currents about what being human means any more when such changes to mind and body can be made, but Asher is also pretty creative with the other mainstays of such space opera-like science fiction with original takes and uses of robotics and cloning, star drives and technology.
Great plot, great pacing, lashings of tech and violence and bloody battles and characters who don’t always act how you might expect. This is a fine end to the series, and Asher devotees will gobble it up. Readers new to the series should, of course, go back to square one and start from there. Also, a nod to Jon Sullivan for another excellent cover illustration, and I would not be surprised if we see some sort of incarnation of Alan Saul in a future offering from Asher, but it won’t be like the one we have met in these three books.
See also Mark's review of Jupiter War.
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