Neal Asher

Neal Asher portrait image to appear alongside the Neal Asher biography.

Neal Asher was born 1961 in Billericay, Essex, the son of a school teacher and a lecturer in applied mathematics who were also SF aficionados.

Prior to 2000 the Asher had stories accepted by British small press SF and fantasy magazines but post 2000 his writing career took flight. Pan Macmillan offered him a three-book contract and have now published many more UK, America, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Japan Czechoslovakia and Romania. The majority of his novels are set within one future history, known as the Polity universe. The Polity encompasses many classic science fiction tropes including world-ruling artificial intelligences, androids, hive minds and aliens.

"I have numerous favourite themes in my books so I’ll start off with the most obvious ones. Upgrading I think is a constant and important one. My characters are variously boosted – their muscles made more dense and powerful and bones strengthened to take the load – enhanced with joint torque motors and other technological additions, even given entirely knew Golem bodies. The Old Captains are physically enhanced by the Spatterjay virus to the point where they’re practically indestructible and as strong as bulldozers. Cormac, with his gridlink is an obvious example of mental upgrading, as are subsidiary characters with their various styles of aug. Then, of course, when you get to Alan Saul, you have a human mind amalgamated with an AI copy of itself and able to expand into, and utilize and control, computer networks."
Neal Asher during a 2013 interview with Bella Pagan at Tor Books

Neal Asher books reviewed


  • The Engineer (1998)
  • Runcible Tales (1999)
  • Cowl (2004)
    In the far future, the Heliothane Dominion is triumphant in the solar system, after a bitter war with their Umbrathane progenitors. But some of the enemy have escaped into the past, intent on wreaking havoc across time. The worst of these is Cowl, an artificially forced advance in human evolution but one who is no longer human. Polly, desperate to obtain funds to support her habits, is unprepared for her involvement with Nandru Jurgens, a Taskforce soldier, and the killers pursuing him. Nor can she resist the the alien 'tor' which she feels impelled to attach to her arm. But she must learn fast, as she is dragged back through time, not least that to the denizens of some earlier eras, she is little more than a convenience food. Initially, the fragment of tor imbedded in Tack's wrist sums up his value to the Heliothane - a point brought home to him with bloody abruptness. But, as a vat-grown programmable killer employed by U-gov, he is no stranger to violence. His long journey into the lethal world of the Heliothane is only beginning, the extent of his mission just becoming apparent. Meanwhile, hunting throughout time and the alternates, Cowl's pet, the tor beast, grows vast and dangerous. And the beast continues to feed.
  • The Engineer Reconditioned (2006)
    Mysterious aliens... ruthless terrorists... androids with attitude... genetic manipulation... punch-ups with lasers... giant spaceships... what more do you want? A collection by the author of Gridlinked, The Skinner, In the Line of Polity, Cowl, Brass Man and The Voyage of the Sable Keech.

Owner trilogy

  • The Departure (2012)
    Visible in the night sky the Argus Station, its twin smelting plants like glowing eyes, looks down on nightmare Earth. From Argus the Committee keep an oppressive control: citizens are watched by cams systems and political officers, it's a world inhabited by shepherds, reader guns, razor birds and the brutal Inspectorate with its white tiled cells and pain inducers. Soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human beings need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online... This is the world Alan Saul wakes to in his crate on the conveyor to the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Informed by Janus, through the hardware implanted in his skull, about the world as it is now Saul is determined to destroy it, just as soon as he has found out who he was, and killed his interrogator...
  • Zero Point (2012)
    Earth’s Zero Asset citizens no longer face extermination. Thanks to Alan Saul, the Committee’s despotic network is in ruins and its robotic enforcers lie dormant. But the ruthless Serene Galahad sees an opportunity to grab power. On Mars, Var Delex fights for Antares Base’s survival, while the Argus Space Station hurtles towards the red planet. And Var knows whomever, or whatever, trashed Earth is still aboard. She must not only save the base, but deal with the first signs of rebellion. And aboard Argus Station, Alan Saul’s mind has expanded into the local computer network. In the process, he uncovers the ghastly experiments of the Humanoid Unit Development, the possibility of eternal life, and a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight. But Earth’s agents are closer than Saul thinks, and the killing will soon begin.
  • Jupiter War (2013)
    Alan Saul is now part-human and part-machine, and our solar system isn't big enough to hold him. He craves the stars, but can't leave yet. His sister Var is trapped on Mars, on the wrong side of a rebellion, and Saul's human side won't let her die. He must leave Argus Station to stage a dangerous rescue - but mutiny is brewing onboard, as Saul's robots make his crew feel increasingly redundant. Serene Galahad will do anything to prevent Saul's escape. Earth’s ruthless dictator hides her crimes from a cowed populace as she readies new warships for pursuit. She aims to crush her enemy in a terrifying display of interstellar violence. Meanwhile, The Scourge limps back to earth, its crew slaughtered, its mission to annihilate Saul a disaster. There are survivors, but while one seeks Galahad's death, Clay Ruger will negotiate for his life. Events build to a climax as Ruger holds humanity’s greatest prize - seeds to rebuild a dying Earth. This stolen gene-bank data will come at a price, but what will Galahad pay for humanity’s future?

Agent Cormac series

  • Gridlinked (2001)
    In outer space you can never feel sure that your adversary is altogether human. The runcible buffers on Samarkand have been mysteriously sabotaged, killing many thousands and destroying a terraforming project. Agent Cormac must reach it by ship to begin an investigation. But Cormac has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Pelter, who is prepared to follow him across the galaxy with a terrifying android in tow. Despite the sub-zero temperature of Samarkand, Cormac discovers signs of life: they are two 'dracomen', alien beasts contrived by an extra-galactic entity calling itself 'Dragon', which is a huge creature consisting of four conjoined spheres of flesh each a kilometre in diameter. Caught between the byzantine wiles of the Dragon and the lethal fury of Pelter, Cormac needs to skip very nimbly indeed to rescue the Samarkand project and protect his own life.
  • The Line of Polity (2003)
    Outlink station Miranda has been destroyed by a nanomycelium, and the very nature of this sabotage suggests that the alien bioconstruct Dragon - a creature as untrustworthy as it is gigantic - is somehow involved. Sent out on a titanic Polity dreadnought, the Occam Razor, agent Cormac must investigate the disaster. Meanwhile, on the remote planet Masada, the long-term rebellion can never rise above-ground, as the slave population is subjugated by orbital laser arrays controlled by the Theocracy in their cylinder worlds, and by the fact that they cannot safely leave their labour compounds. For the wilderness of Masada lacks breathable air ... and out there roam monstrous predators called hooders and siluroynes, not to mention the weird and terrible gabbleducks.
  • Brass Man (2005)
    On the primitive world Cull, a knight errant called Anderson hunts a dragon, not knowing that elsewhere is a resurrected brass killing machine, Mr Crane, assisting in a similar hunt. Learning that this old enemy still lives, agent Cormac pursues, while scientist Mika begins discovering the horrifying truth about an ancient alien technology. Each day is a survival struggle for the people of Cull. Ferocious insectile monsters roam their planet, as they try to escape to their forefathers’ starship still orbiting far above them. But an entity with questionable motives, calling itself Dragon, assists them with genetic by-blows created out of humans and the hideous local monsters. And now the supposedly geologically inactive planet itself is increasingly suffering earthquakes...
  • Polity Agent (2006)
    From 800 years in the future, a runcible gate is opened into the Polity and those coming through it have been sent specially to take the alien ‘Maker’ back to its home civilization in the Small Magellanic cloud. Once these refugees are safely through, the gate itself is rapidly shut down - because something alien is pursuing them. The gate is then dumped into a nearby sun. From those refugees who get through, agent Cormac learns that the Maker civilization has been destroyed by pernicious virus known as the Jain technology. This, of course, raised questions: why was Dragon, a massive biocontruct of the Makers, really sent to the Polity; why did a Jain node suddenly end up in the hands of someone who could do the most damage with it? Meanwhile an entity called the Legate is distributing pernicious Jain nodes... and a renegade attack ship, The King of Hearts, has encountered something very nasty outside the Polity itself.
  • The Line War (2008)
    The Polity is under attack from a 'melded' AI entity with control of the lethal Jain technology, yet the attack seems to have no coherence. When one of Erebus's wormships kills millions on the world of Klurhammon, a high-tech agricultural world of no real tactical significance, agent Ian Cormac is sent to investigate, though he is secretly struggling to control a new ability no human being should possess... and beginning to question the motives of his AI masters. Further attacks and seemingly indiscriminate slaughter ensue, but only serve to bring some of the most dangerous individuals in the Polity into the war. Mr Crane, the indefatigable brass killing machine sets out for vengeance, while Orlandine, a vastly-augmented haiman who herself controls Jain technology, seeks a weapon of appalling power and finds allies from an ancient war. Meanwhile Mika, scientist and Dragon expert, is again kidnapped by that unfathomable alien entity and dragged into the heart of things: to wake the makers of Jain technology from their five-million-year slumber. But Erebus’s attacks are not so indiscriminate, after all, and could very well herald the end of the Polity itself...

Spatterjay series

  • The Skinner (2002)
    To the remote planet Spatterjay come three travellers with very different missions. Janer is directed there by the hornet Hive-mind; Erlin comes to find the sea captain who can teach her to live; and Keech - dead for seven hundred years - has unfinished business with a notorious criminal. Spatterjay is a watery world where the human population inhabits the safety of the Dome and only the quasi-immortal hoopers are safe outside amidst a fearful range of voracious life-forms. Somewhere out there is Spatterjay Hoop himself, and monitor Keech cannot rest until he can bring this legendary renegade to justice for atrocious crimes committed centuries ago during the Prador Wars. Keech does not realise that Hoop's body is running free on an island wilderness, while his living head is confined in a box on an Old Captain's ships. Nor does he know that the most brutal Prador of all is about to pay a visit, intent on wiping out all evidence of his wartime atrocities. Which means major hell is about to erupt in this chaotic waterscape.
  • The Voyage of the Sable Keech (2006)
    Sable Keech is a walking dead man. Was he resurrected because he was infected by the Spatterjay virus, or it took place late in a tank of seawater? Taylor Bloc wants to know the truth. He also wants more – adulation, power, control – and will go to any lengths to achieve them. An ancient hive mind has sent an agent to this uncertain world. Does it merely want to obtain the poison 'sprine' that is crucial to immortality? Erlin, still faced with the ennui of immortality, is interrupted by an angry whelkus titanicus, and begins a strange journey. Deep in the ocean the Spatterjay virus has wrought a terrible change that will affect them all. Something long-dormant is breaking free. And Sniper, its Warden, finally receives his new drone shell. It's better than his old one: powerful engines, more lethal weapons, thicker armour. He's going to need them.
  • Orbus (2009)
    In charge of an old cargo spaceship, the Old Captain Orbus flees a violent and sadistic past, but he doesn’t know that the lethal war drone, Sniper, is a stowaway, and that the past is rapidly catching up with him. His old enemy the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, has seized control of a Prador dreadnought, murdering its crew, and is now seeking to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed. Their courses inexorably converge in the Graveyard, the border realm lying between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, a place filled with the ruins left by past genocides and interplanetary war. But this is the home of the Golgoloth, monster to a race of monsters, the place where a centuries-long cold war is being fought. Meanwhile, the terrifying Prador King is coming, prepared to do anything to ensure Vrell’s death and keep certain deadly secrets buried... and somewhere out there something that has annihilated civilizations is stirring from a slumber of five million years. The cold war is heating up, fast.

Polity universe

  • Prador Moon (2006)
    The Polity Collective stretches from Earth Central into the unfathomable reaches of the galactic void. But when the Polity finally encounters alien life in the form of massive, hostile, crablike carnivores known as the Prador, there can only be one outcome - total warfare. Chaos reigns as, caught unawares, the Polity struggles to regain its foothold and transition itself into a military society. Starships clash, planets fall and space stations are overrun. But for Jebel Krong and Moria Salem, trapped at the centre of the action, this war is far more than a mere clash of cultures, far more than technology versus brute force. This war is personal.
  • Hilldiggers (2007)
    During a war between two planets in the same solar system - each occupied by adapted humans - what is thought to be a cosmic superstring is discovered. After being cut, this object collapses into four cylindrical pieces, each about the size of a tube train. Each is densely packed with either alien technology or some kind of life. They are placed for safety in three ozark cylinders of a massively secure space station. There a female research scientist subsequently falls pregnant, and gives birth to quads. Then she commits suicide – but why? By the end of the war one of the contesting planets has been devastated by the hilldiggers - giant space dreadnoughts employing weapons capable of creating mountain ranges. The quads have meanwhile grown up and are assuming positions of power in the post-war society. One of them will eventually gain control of the awesome hilldiggers...
  • Shadow of the Scorpion (2008)
    Raised to adulthood during the end of the war between the human Polity and the vicious arthropoid race, the Prador, Ian Cormac is haunted by childhood memories of a sinister scorpion-shaped war drone and the burden of losses he doesn’t remember. In the years following the war he signs up with Earth Central Security, and is sent out to help either restore or simply maintain order on worlds devastated by Prador bombardment. There he discovers that though the old enemy remains as murderous as ever, it is not anywhere near as perfidious or dangerous as some of his fellow humans, some of them closer to him than he would like. Amidst the ruins left by wartime genocides, he discovers in himself a cold capacity for violence, learns some horrible truths about his own past and, set upon a course of vengeance, tries merely to stay alive.
  • The Gabble: And Other Stories (2008)
    In the eight years since his first full-length novel Gridlinked was published by Pan Macmillan, Neal Asher has firmly established himself as one of the leading British writers of Science Fiction, and his novels are now translated in many languages. Most of his stories are set in a galactic future-scape called ‘The Polity’, and with this collection of marvellously inventive and action-packed short stories, he takes us further into the manifold diversities of that amazing universe. No one does monsters better than Neal Asher, so be prepared to revisit the lives and lifestyles of such favourites as the gabbleduck and the hooder, to savour alien poisons, the walking dead, the Sea of Death, and the putrefactor symbiont. Through these thirteen stories, welcome to a universe of unbridled imagination, each one of them a delight in itself.
  • The Technician (2010)
    The Theocracy has been dead for twenty years, and the Polity rules on Masada - but it is an order that the rebels of the Tidy Squad cannot accept, and the iconic Jeremiah Tombs is top of their hitlist. Tombs, meanwhile, has escaped his sanatorium. His insanity must be cured, because the near-mythical hooder, called ‘the Technician’, that attacked him all those years ago, did something to his mind even the AIs fail to understand. Tombs might possess information about the suicide of an entire alien race. It’s up to the war drone Amistad to discover this information, with the help of an ex-rebel Commander, the black AI Penny Royal and the amphidapt Chanter. Meanwhile, in deep space, the mechanism the Atheter used to reduce themselves to animals stirs from slumber and begins to power-up its weapons...

Critical acclaim

"Playing like a turbo-charged mix of Total Recall and The Bourne Identity, The Departure moves at Asher’s usual bullet-speed pace" SFX

"Fast, dramatic stuff … definitely not one for the faint hearted"