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This creative collection of short stories by Neal Asher will provide an excellent introduction to his work for those unfamiliar with it, as the standalone stories cover his favorite themes and strengths: high-intensity action, richly described alien biologies, villainous religious cults, and much violence. Returning readers will also be rewarded by references and tie-ins to his other future histories, The Polity, and The Owner universes.
The title novella, 'The Engineer', deserves special attention due to its length and polish. A Polity story, it tells of the discovery of an ancient alien escape pod by a science vessel who manage to revive the advanced being within. News of the discovery brings attention from various factions and soon a classic Asher full-scale conflict erupts. I was a little surprised by the altruism and bio-centric technology of the Jain alien in this story, having only the example from Asher's "Orbus" novel to compare with, but as is clearly shown with the various human factions in the Polity stories, species and societies are more diverse that any single specimen would illustrate.
The three "Owner" stories shared a common plot device for their climaxes, so I won't spoil them with a description, other than to say I would have appreciated a more varied 'reveal' in the stories chosen to accompany one another in a collection. Taken individually, all three are thrilling and wholly engaging stories that bring a low-tech fantasy element to Asher's SF which I hadn't seen before.
My favorite story in the collection, "Spatterjay" is probably the most dependent on a familiarity with Asher's other novels, in this case the Polity trilogy of the same title, as it deals with a setting and characters so vividly colorful that they are difficult to absorb in so few pages. It serves as a prequel to those novels, and even more so than any of the other stories in the collection it brings some wild alien biology to life for the reader- a whole ecology in fact!
The other five stories here each have interesting aspects, but can be grouped and summarized by saying they revolve around unique alien biological oddities which are expanded and extrapolated into skeletons on which to hang a brief story. Interpersonal drama, tension, and subtlety are not really to be found here, but imaginative and intense moments of action will make them memorable for most readers, I believe.
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What about Todd McLaren’s performance did you like?
Great as always
Any additional comments?
I would read it as a primer before his books or a chaser when your dun with his books.
If you like his stuff then you will like it. If you get it first and like it-- well the rest is gravy.
If you could sum up The Engineer ReConditioned in three words, what would they be?
Old school, humorous, engaging.
What other book might you compare The Engineer ReConditioned to, and why?
Its a tricky one, I think I would be drawn towards sci-fi/fantasy books I read as a child/teenager, Asher walks the line between both. The first story was quite stark and reminded me of Alien the movie (not a bad thing). After that it cheered up a bit, and amongst other things, for me it actually conjours up images and experiences of playing borderlands and fallout 3 PS3/Xbox games, in that the storytelling at times is tongue in cheek and pokes fun at conventions. It also has the classic god-like space traveller appearing throughout its stories, leaving me wanting to read more of these books to learn more about his origins.
Did Todd McLaren do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?
Generally alright, the best thing I can say is his voices never got in the way of the story, which probably means actually he did a pretty good job.
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
Difficult to answer because its a collection of shorter stories. but I'll try :0The Universe, Re-Engineered
Any additional comments?
Yes, I listen to my audiobooks on the move either on foot or in the car, and often am not able to eperate my generic audio playing device. This means I need clear audio breaks to signify the ending of a story and the start of the next. There were times listening to this when i was thrown with the abrupt conclusion of a story wandering into the start of the next which is why I scored the performance down (so not a reflection of the reader per se). A real shame as otherwise I probably would have scored this a 5.
As with every Neal Asher book, this is completely marvellous from start to finish. His short stories are always readable and give us extra insight into life in the Polity. Others are stand-alone and we are even treated to an Owner story.
My only complaint is that I don't understand why an American reader was chosed for this, as the books are written by a British author. Having to listen to Todd McLaren call Golem 'Gollums' is incredibly irritating, amongst many instances. If the wonderful William Gaminara was not available, were there not other British readers who would have done almost as well?