Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes

Neal Asher
Prador Moon
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2006

Night Shade Books
US Trade Paperback Original
ISBN 1-597-80052-X
222 Pages; $14.95
Publication Date: 05-15-2006
Date Reviewed: 08-07-06

Index: Science Fiction  Horror

Neal Asher is not one to mess around. By page 8 of 'Prador Moon', the blood is flowing and the rail guns are out. Functioning as a prequel to much of everything else he's written set in the Polity Universe, 'Prador Moon' offers a portrait of a dystopian human utopia disrupted by its first meeting with intelligent aliens. As usual, Asher does quite a bit more than it appears he's doing. On the surface, we have a straightforward space war, us versus the Big Uglies. And it's not in any way the whole war, only the opening salvos. Asher is working in a much tighter format than he usually chooses, and manages to reign himself in as required. Still, readers who enjoy his layered style will find it in evidence here. Even as you’re swept away in the face of TOTAL WAR AGAINST SPACE BUGS THAT EAT HUMAN FLESH, Asher slips in some smart thought experiments and complex perceptual shifts that will remain lodged in your memory long after the last gobbet of flesh has gone down an alien gullet.

But you'll have to, or get to, depending on how you feel about it, wade through a significant river of blood and guts, both human and alien while Asher unpacks his cleverest conceits. For all the blood, 'Prador Moon' is not just a war novel. As Jebel Krong is blowing away giant space crabs, Moria Salem is getting an "aug" installed. Readers who have read Asher's work will know that "augs" are the devices via which humans interface with Asher's interstellar Internet. They're familiar ground, stuff we already know -- or stuff we thought we knew. As Moria learns to use her aug, readers get a pretty fascinating glimpse into Asher's version of the wirehead world. And then, of course, he twists the knife and ups the ante.

For readers who prefer the long version of everything, 'Prador Moon' will seem a bit overly compacted, especially when compared to Asher's full-blown novels. But there are blessings to be found in this tighter format as well. To a certain extent, this almost reads like Asher's earlier, rawer, less-formed work. But there's a brutal joy to be had here in return for what is sacrificed in terms of texture. And Asher does pull some of his punches, giving the readers some nice surprises. Moria's plight as she become accustomed to her new life as a augmented human leads to some interesting character developments. And Jebel Krong is a bit more straightforward hero than we're used to finding in Asher's work.

But the most interesting character development is left to the alien Prador, whom we get to know all too well. Maybe it just says something about this particular reader, but Asher gets right behind their eyes and it's to his credit that he makes them sympathetic, even when they're ripping humans limb from limb or using them in experiments that make any torture you've ever read about seem like a virtual vacation in comparison. Asher gets in some very nice riffs where we're treated to automated surgery performed by humans on humans that seems all too reminiscent of the what the Prador do for less humanitarian reasons. We see ourselves as the aliens, and it's a sobering moment.

Asher whips up a storm in 'Prador Moon' and it doesn't let up even as the novella / novel itself does. For $14.95, it's a sweet deal on an excellent intro to an unpleasant but very entertaining universe. Readers who hoped to see a decent adaptation of Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers' back in the day when that movie was current would be well advised to use this novel as an introduction to Asher. Asher makes big-screen, sort-of-cheesy, but undeniably entertaining movies that can't help but play well in your mental multiplex.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us