(2009) Neal Asher, Tor UK, £11.99, trdbk, 438pp, ISBN 978-0-230-73705-1
Is this Asher’s best book? Not from a question of plot, characterisation, and action? But more importantly, from the viewpoint of the writing itself, and his control over his own labours. Maybe he just keeps getting better which makes you wonder what his next book might be like, because Orbus is a cracker from start to finish. He has always been a great world-builder, right up there with Iain M. Banks, and a great creature builder, but he’s managed to fuse them brilliantly together here for the third in the Spatterjay series, coming after The Skinner and Voyage of the Sable Keech, and while a good, nay, great read, I would suggest reading these two books first if this is your initial contact with Asher’s work. Particularly you should be reading Voyage of the Sable Keech. In Orbus, the old captain himself is trying to turn over a new leaf as he takes charge of a cargo ship, unaware that Sniper, the war drone has stowed away on board. He is also unaware that an old enemy, the Prador Vrell corrupted by the Spatterjay virus has taken charge of a Prador dreadnaught, and after disposing the crew has his sights firmly set on getting his own back on those who tried to kill him, and guess who is on the list? Both ships are on a collision course in the region known as the Graveyard, not the best place to be, as the name implies. A cold war off sorts has been going on there, and the Prador King is on his way to silence Vrell, and is about to enlist the monster of monsters to make sure it happens. If that description does not make you want to rush out and buy this novel, then I should mention the great characterisation as we delve into the minds of Orbus as well as the mutating Vrell, King Oberon ruler of the Prador Third Kingdom, and best of all, Sniper, the war drone. Fun, fast, furious, and a great read.
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