As a longtime reader of Asher's excellent Polity series of science fiction novels, I was extremely interested to see what he'd do with an entirely new series. Well, the first installment in the Owner series is certainly a different beast in many ways, but the best tenets of Asher's writing still carry through.
In the novel, we enter Earth's dark future; the planet is hideously overpopulated, and under the inescapable thumb of a fascistic, all-powerful global government. Into this grim world comes a mysterious man, with no memory beyond the last three years, a knack for advanced technology and a plan to bring the whole rotten mess down...
It's certainly a bleaker, more cynical setting than the Polity books, and at times becomes almost a parody of hopeless future dystopias. But pretty much immediately the first action sequence kicks in, and we're treated to Asher's trademarks: funky technology, bad men, and horrible violence aimed at those bad men. Without ruining anything, the abilities the protagonist utilises to fulfill his goals help the book stand out from similar works, and the mystery of his past keeps you turning the pages.
If there ARE any real problems with the novel, they are a certain lack of sympathy for said protagonist; he remains fairly unlikable for the entire story, albeit for justifiable story reasons. Hopefully this will be rectified somewhat as the series continues. Also, a secondary plotline following a group of colonists on Mars is really interesting, and I thought could have benefited from more than a few short sections interspersed among the main story.
Still, this is a bold new universe from one of the punchiest sci-fi authors out there, and I found myself eager for the next installment as I reached the last page. Fans of his previous work could do worse than taking a punt on this one.