The Technician (book, Neal Asher, 2010)
I love Neal Asher’s books, I really do. From SFX 201.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Neal Asher/ Tor/ 502 pages/ £17.99
The mystery of the gabbleducks revealed!
Each of Asher’s books is an improvement on the last. With The Technician, the improvement is an injection of subtlety. Broken minds, a broken world, broken ideologies and a broken alien species are the components to a story whose themes are rebirth and healing. Although The Technician also features Asher’s dry wit, wild ecological imagination, gore, huge robots and huger fights, it’s a welcome departure from the violence-solves-all drive of his Agent Cormac books. There’s complexity here that goes beyond his dreaming up more weird crustaceans or inventive ways to kill people.
Masada is recovering from the civil war that saw the overthrow of that world’s theocracy (described in The Line of Polity), and is now part of the Polity. Jeremiah Tombs, ex-proctor, is the sole survivor of an attack by The Technician, a huge biomechanoid that flenses creatures alive and makes sculptures from their remains. The Technician has done something to Tombs’ mind, something to do with the extinct Atheter civilisation and their animalistic descendants, the gabbleducks. War drone Amistad (Shadow of the Scorpion) is sent to Masada to unravel what it may be. What he discovers may change the Polity for ever…
The complexity is, however, a problem. Masada’s backstory trips up the narrative at the beginning as events from several Polity books are clumsily referenced, and Asher chooses to open the novel by bouncing up and down his future timeline, which doesn’t help. It’s a choppy start to an otherwise brilliant story, but it smoothes out, and then… to be honest, there really isn’t room to do justice to Asher in a review of any length, so we’ll just say: Buy it, then buy the rest of his books, the man’s a national treasure.
Did you know?
Neal Asher has only written one non-Polity novel, the excellent Cowl. But his Polity books kick arse, so we’ll let him off.