The Departure

September 11, 2012 - 11:56 am No Comments

Biography

Hi! My name’s Chris Stocks and I’m a SF addict…
I started young, having already developed a serious reading habit by the time I left school.
At university, I got heavily into psychedelics (Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock etc.), though I’ve since moved onto the hard stuff. Give me a Peter Hamilton or Neal Stephenson trilogy and it still won’t satisfy the cravings.
I’ve tried going straight, but “normal” literature just doesn’t do it for me. Even Iain Banks isn’t quite the same without that added M.
I’ll occasionally go to support groups (aka conventions) to meet fellow addicts, but these places are always swarming with dealers…
As a result, I’ve now got a house full to bursting with books and a 1000 page a week habit.
However I don’t want your sympathy or your help. Like an SF Oliver Twist, I just want MORE…
…And the flying car and personal jetpack that SF promised me all those years ago would be nice too!

The Departure
Author: Neal Asher
Publisher: Tor/Pan Macmillan
Page count/Size: 498pp
Release date: 12th April 2012 (Paperback edition)
Reviewer: Chris Stocks
Alan Saul wakes up in a garbage pod, en route to an incinerator. Even worse, he has no memory of his former life, except that he has been savagely interrogated and tortured. He is helped to escape by Janus, a mysterious AI, which he can communicate with via a set of experimental neural implants and that can seemingly infiltrate any computer system.

The novel is set on a dystopian Earth a few centuries hence. Resource depletion and overpopulation means that the planet can barely support the seething mass of humanity. Technology, unable to solve Earth’s problems, is used instead as an instrument of surveillance and oppression. Earth is ruled by The Committee, which hoards all material and power to itself, killing any who oppose it and leaving the rest of humanity to starve.

Saul sets out to exact revenge on Salem Smith, the Committee member who tortured and then mind-wiped him. He will stop at nothing, even if he has to bring down the Committee itself…

The Departure, the first volume in the Owner trilogy, is a fast-paced and engaging techno-thriller, with the usual assortment of augmented humans, hi-tech weaponry and high body-count for which Neal Asher is known. However, although Smith and the Committee are satisfyingly nasty villains, Saul is a ruthless, totally amoral killer, interested only in revenge and little better than those he is fighting. Given his name, I was awaiting a Damascene conversion, but to no avail. Thus, while cheering him on as he cut a swathe through the Committee and their cronies, I found it difficult, if not impossible, to empathise with him. But despite my misgivings over its amoral anti-hero, I enjoyed The Departure enough to want to read the next book.

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