Orbus by Neal Asher

(8.6/10) Each book Iíve read has expanded the details of the Polity universe in a new direction.

When I wrote my first Asher review on The Gabble, I said I wouldn’t swear to be an eternal fan of Neal Asher. I have to retract part of that statement, and until the advent of Polity golems for me to upload my brain to, that means I’m a fan. There, said it.

I really enjoyed Orbus. I’ve read reviews that say the main character is weak, but I can’t say I got that impression at all. Asher hooked me from the very beginning with this book, with the snippy dialogue between the two drones stowed away on an AI ship with a steampunk design to the sardonic interplay between Old Captain Orbus and his creepy but aptly named fellow crew member Drooble.

‘I don’t like your name … it sounds like a blend between dribble and droopy … it’s a silly name.’

This is the third book in the Spatterjay series and I strongly recommend reading the previous two or at least some of the other books from the Polity Universe. Being a Spatterjay novel, the book is laced with Asher’s usual gruesomely detailed explanations of how the virus is transmitted and the terrible effects bestowed upon any creature unfortunate enough to be cursed by it. Immortality may be desirable, but the risks of becoming something not human are even more far-reaching and potentially destructive than the early sections of the book might lead you to believe, as the virus gradually reveals its true secret. We hear Orbus’s own terrifying remembrances on his transformation whilst under the curse of the virus, the lengths he was driven to in order to survive and the masochistic lifestyle that followed. He questions himself endlessly.

With the mutating Prador, Vrell, as another of the main characters, we get a clearer insight into Prador civilisation which left my skin crawling. The three main groups of characters meet in the Graveyard, a border realm of wreckage from interplanetary war between Polity and Prador. A mythical monster from the nightmares of Prador childhood, the Golgoloth, and the fearsome Prador King also enter the fray, and something from ancient times with the power to destroy them all is resurrecting itself in a surprising way. The story moves on quickly and there are plenty of great descriptions of the technology and the aliens, something I’ve come to expect of Asher. Each chapter begins with an encyclopaedic snippet from HOW IT IS by Gordon which, unlike The Technician, didn’t seem to drag the story down so much. Each book I’ve read has expanded the details of the Polity universe in a new direction, and I loved the drones in this story as much as the human characters, and even the vengeful Vrell.

I have to confess to being just a tad disappointed by the ending – considering the forces involved and the level of technology it seemed a little too easily achieved. Having said that, I’d still recommend this book, although Asher fans won’t need me to tell them that. To those considering Neal Asher for the first time – this is not the book to start your exploration in, but certainly one to move onto.

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