Sunday, 9 June 2013

Book Review: The Departure by Neal Asher

This is one of the books that featured in my very first haul video! I bought it not long after Christmas.

  • Title: The Departure (Owner Trilogy #1)
  • Author: Neal Asher
  • Page Count & Publisher: 498 | Tor (Pan Macmillan)
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
  • Format: Paperback
  • Links: Amazon UK | Goodreads
Alan Saul wakes up on his way to the Calais Incineration Plant. He can't remember much, but he does remember pain and his tormenter's face. He has an illegal AI in his head who reveals a world full of death and despair. Earth is a hugely overpopulated planet, ruled over by the Committee, watched over by the Argus Array. The Committee need to kill 12 billion in order to stabilise the population of Earth, Saul doesn't intend to let them.

My Thoughts:
This took me some getting through! The first quarter or so of the book seemed to take so long to get through but the second half flew by. It's probably because while I love love hard science fiction (and this is definitely in the ranks of hard sci-fi), I'm not the biggest fan of post-humans. Aliens and such are fine, but something about AI and computer enhanced humans just doesn't do it for me. Maybe I was just traumatised by the Borg as a child.

This Earth is a brutal, violent world where the sheer scale of human life has cheapened its value. The phrase "manswarm" is used a few times and it sums it up quite well. There are Zero Asset and Societal Asset citizens. The be a Societal Asset means you have use (unless you start asking questions, then you get taken away to be re-educated) and the ability to buy food. Zero Asset citizens are nothing.

The world building in this was pretty fantastic. You got a good idea of the sights (and occasionally the smells) around Saul. You can understand how this world came to be, especially with the snippets of future history at the start of each chapter. This world actually makes sense, it feels real. Horrifically brutal, but real.

At first I wanted to sympathise with Saul. He has no idea who he is, everything about him was wiped out during his torture. You want him to find his answers, find out who he was and how he reached that point. However, as he began to get his answers he moved further and further away from what it meant in his world to be human. He's downright disturbing at the end and I even began to ask myself if he was "the good guy" after all. He doesn't seem to want to cause suffering, only death. Some of the obvious "bad guys" were a bit stereotypical bad guy-ish. You knew they weren't good but lacked some depth that could have added more interest to the world and storyline.

I am planning on reading the rest of this trilogy, but it's probably not going to be a priority.

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