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Impressively, Neal Asher has managed to up both the quantity as well as quality of the violence in this second installment to his near-future dystopian ‘Owner’ trilogy. Like a hydra, the ruthless ‘Committee’ of Earth’s rulers, quickly sprouts new leadership in the wake of anti-hero Alan Saul’s one-man revolution in ’The Departure’. Chief among these is Serene Galahad, whose Committee bloodletting efficiently secures her role as supreme ruler of Earth. For a genocidal tyrant, this character is surprisingly understandable in Asher’s hands. His first person segments taken from her POV connect the dots of her atrocities believably, while illustrating the progression of her stomach for violence. In order to level the playing field and restore dramatic parity, Asher contrives to incapacitate and diminish Saul’s abilities, which also allows some of his satellite characters to step out from his shadow a bit. Three or four other narratives alternate with these, and all of them overflow with yet more gruesome death. Delightfully, adolescent wish fulfillment comes via some new techno-tricks Saul has learned, and almost everyone gets their comeuppance, although enough loose threads remain to provide ample material for a third installment.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Neal Asher's Zero Point, book 2 of the Owner trilogy picks up immediately where book 1 left off. Saul and Argus station are heading to Mars to reconnect with his sister. In the shattered ruins of the Committee oligarchy, a surviving delegate, Serene Galahad executes her previously designed coup, by activating individual biochips to release an Ebola like disease that kills nearly half of Earth's population and most zero asset citizens, then she conveniently blames this on Alan Saul. With Saul in possession of the Earth's biobank data on extinct flora and fauna, she mounts a mission to retrieve the data and bring Saul to justice. At the same time, she institutes an even more ruthless and arbitrary totalitarian rule over Earth. Saul meanwhile continues his plans for transforming Argus space station, while Var on Mars is trying to triangulate between possible Earth and/or Argus attacks. The historical text interludes beginning each chapter do a wonderful job of detailing the societal stimuli driving this dystopic future that resembles "1984" for a digital age.
The action is nonstop, riveting, and daring with unexpected twists that slowly reveals the grand strategy Asher is unfolding. For sci-fi elements, Asher hints at the earliest implementation of artificial intelligence, the human / computer interface grows stronger. Robotics plays a key role. Finally, the Alcubbiere warp drive concept is developed along with other exotic matter based weaponry for future battle scenarios.
The narration is outstanding with a fantastic range of voices given the varied characters. The pace, tone, and mood make for a can't stop listening experience. While an action oriented thriller, this tale seriously explores the contradictions and limitations of humanity along with the possibilities for an evolutionary stage beyond human.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful