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#124 Neal Asher: Cowl - Off in the distance
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The Bellinghman
Date: 2007-03-17 17:37
Subject: #124 Neal Asher: Cowl
Security: Public
Tags:books, reviews
Neal Asher: Cowl

Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Tor; New Ed edition (30 April 2005)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0330411586
ISBN-13: 978-0330411585
Category(ies): Science Fiction

This is not one of Asher's Polity books. Indeed, being a time travel novel, of that subset to do with temporal wars, it's unlikely to be part of any series.

Our protagonist is Polly, a street-wise mid-teen drug addict who makes a living from under-age whoring. She's not a particularly attractive person, though she does improve during the course of the novel, under the impact of events. And the major event that happens to her is that she has a 'tor' attached to her - a bracer that drags her back through time in increasing jumps to a point before life's conquest of the land, where the Big Bad expects to 'sample' her for reasons that are never particularly clear.

This particular sub-genre is a difficult one to do right. Having a modern character interacting, however briefly, with historical periods is tricky, and it's always going to be suspiciously coincidental that she encounters both a King and the Emperor Claudius. The story is most reminiscent of Barrington Bayley at his more inventive, but whereas Bayley was odd, Asher doesn't quite bring it off. It's all too confused: motivation is far from straightforward, and even which faction are the good side, which the bad, isn't clear.

If this had been my first Asher novel, I might well have decided against him as a writer.

In the end, I have to say it's an interesting experiment that Asher doesn't quite bring off.
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Angelic Eye for the Gendered-Species Individual: death to vermin!
User: rysmiel
Date: 2007-03-17 18:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:death to vermin!
I hated this one, I'm afraid. I think I can bear with Asher's cock-eyed notion of "survival of the fittest" being all about nastiest and most brutal predators possible for fictional purposes on another planet much more easily than with real Earthly ecosystems; he seems to entirely miss the fairly simple concept that exterminating one's prey is a short path to extinction. That plus the Eurosceptic-nightmare near future that Tack and Polly start from, plus the bits of humans through history seeming set up to illustrate a thesis about all humans being really nasty at heart, plus the almost indistinguishable far-future factions, plus treating the "Marching Morons" thesis as if it actually worked... feh.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-03-17 19:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
So you still don't like it, eh?
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