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4.3 out of 5 stars62
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 26 November 2001
Neal Asher, master of gritty science fiction, is back with a novel that makes even the intense GRIDLINKED seem like a joy ride.
Asher's future is a no place for the faint-hearted. This is a time when a slight miscalculation is all-too likely to take you out passing through the runcibles that provide instantaneous galactic travel. Don't worry, though, everything is all right, because this universe is run by "flawless" AIs.
The planet Asher springs on us in this novel is an entity as deadly as any of the criminals our ECS agent Keech is sent to wipe out. Every form of life on Spatterjay survives at the expense of others, including the no-longer human Hoopers.
Keech, perhaps, has less to worry about -- after all, he has been dead more than seven centuries, but that doesn't mean he doesn't pose a threat to some of the most heinous villains to ever appear in fiction. Erlin may have her own form of immortality to fall back on, but even she can die. And what of the Hive-linked Janer? What is truly his agenda on Spatterjay?
Asher floods the reader's senses with input. From planet to planet, he produces stark, stunning visuals of the terrain and the natives. Employing a wide-ranging cast of characters , Asher infuses each individual with animation and unique personality. It's a mark of his skill that some of the most appealing and sympathetic of his creations are the Subminds of the AI. With a minimum of strokes, he paints in fully fleshed-out characters. Come to think of it, that's how Asher brings THE SKINNER vividly to life.
And when you finish this novel, you'll know precisely what a horrifying idea bringing the Skinner to life is...
Asher delivers the goods every time. And, he leaves you eager for more.
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on 4 August 2004
I discovered Neal Asher about 6 months ago when I first read Gridlinked and I was hooked.
After having read all of his books, I can safely conclude that The Skinner is certainly Asher's best work (with Gridlinked following a close 2nd). Without going into too much detail, this book is one of the most immersive pieces of science fiction I've come across.
One of the reviewers described aspects of Skinner as implausible - I strongly suggest that reviewer go off and read trashy Grisham-like novels! This is science fiction mate; landing on the moon once seemed implausible!
I digress...
I have never managed to draw such a rich imaginative picture whilst reading any other piece of sciene fiction (ok maybe Neuromancer). I clearly remember one scene where the main character of the book is flying this Star Wars-like airbike across the ocean infested with the most grotesque and bad-ass creatures imaginable - I could picture this scene as if I was flying alongside him! I could rattle off numerous other such experiences whilst reading this book.
Give it a go, hopefully you will derive as much enjoyment out of Asher as I have.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2007
The Skinner was the first Neal Asher book I read, and it is still my favourite. Set on the highly dangerous waterworld of Spatterjay, which is infested by a wide variety of suicidally voracious aquatic life forms, this is a hugely enjoyable and action packed novel. The Skinner features quirky characters (both human and robotic), truly horrible and violent aliens, space battles, sea battles, undersea battles and an ecosystem straight from Hell, all of which makes for some terrific entertainment. After reading this, you will never look at the fish counter in your local supermarket in the same way again.
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on 22 April 2002
If anyone is unsure about Neal Asher's ability as a writer, they haven't read either of his novels. After reading Gridlinked I have been waiting for the follow-up. The Skinner does not disappoint.
The Skinner is an excellent story set in a phenomenally engrossing future. Spatterjay, the planet upon which most of the action is based, is a superb piece of Sci-fi environment.
If you have not read either Gridlinked or The Skinner, go out and buy them both now! Settle in with Mr. Crane and the Old Captains for a week. If you are a Sci-fi fan you will love these books.
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on 11 January 2004
The Skinner starts off quietly enough, but we are quickly introduced to a host of 'new' stuff. It does not matter whether you've read any of the other Polity stories, this particular one takes place on a fascinating planet that is home to a range of deadly sea-life and the aged Hoopers. Throw in some centuries old vendettas, alien politics, and a rather nasty chap called The Skinner and you are all set for a good read.
Great to have some of the AI drones, hornets, and even the intelligent sails getting a decent look-in.
Very original, I loved this.
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on 3 June 2008
I agree with other reviewers that this book is a tour de force of imagination. Where it fell short for me, though, was the lack of empathy. I found that I was struggling to read on because I didn't really care about any of the characters. A gesture towards altruism in the last chapter didn't help me much. Asher is a good technical writer, but give me the humanity of Ian M Banks' characters any day.
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on 26 January 2006
A previous reviewer had complained about the lack of solidly drawn, believable characters in this novel and to a certain extent s/he has a point, at least two of the perspectives, from which this story is told, seem to lack any accessible motivation. So why as high as 4 stars? 4 reasons.
Asher’s descriptive powers are first rate, he paints a series of truly masterful scenes of monsters and the violence they do. Then the action sequences of the story are well told, they are entertaining and exciting. Added to this the overall SF is good. A solidly imagined future history (not as realistic as many that have been created, but certainly one in which it’s fun to wander about for several hours at a time). What I’ve described so far would be enough to earn a 3 star recommendation from me. What lifts this novel up to a 4 star is Asher’s central joke. Obviously I have no wish to tell what it is here. However he carries on through the novel without it ever getting wearisome, indeed when I cottoned on to what he was doing after a few chapters I became eager to get to the next chapter to see how he was going to carry the gag further. I found it very funny, even laugh out loud funny at times and that’s worth 4 stars any day.
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on 13 May 2006
Neal Asher is one of the best of the current crop of sci-fi writers. The Skinner is as good as his earlier books such as Gridlinked and shows how well the Polity Universe that he created stands alone without the need for previous characters such as Ian Cormac.

The location is a planet with an ecosystem that is so violent and predatory that it only continues due to the effects of a virus that offers protection from injury. Dealing with this location are some genuinely interesting characters and a gripping plot, making this a great sci-fi tale.

Make sure you have a strong stomach though, the decriptive passages of the eponymous villan are fairly brutal.
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on 26 September 2008
The world of Spatterjay lies on the boundary between the AI-controlled safer worlds of the Polity and the rest of known space. It has an AI warden and a runcible (matter transmitter portal) connecting it to other Polity worlds, but has not yet been fully subsumed into the Polity system.
Spatterjay is a dangerous world, boasting evolved predators billions of years older than our own. Its dominant life-form is the leech which not only gouges lumps of flesh from its victims, but infects them with a virus which repairs the wound, thus maintaining a self-sustaining food supply. The side effect of this is that infected organisms, including humans, are virtually immortal. Infected humans, though, which comprises of all Spatterjay's permanent residents, must consume off-world nutrients to combat the transformative effects of the virus, which produces gross mutations of the body and mind.
Three offworlders have now landed on Spatterjay, and their goals become intertwined. One of them, Erlin, is on the trail of Jay Hoop, one of the founders of the planetary colony, and a criminal wanted by the Authorities for trading in `cored' humans. These bodies, cleansed of their resident personalities, were sold to the crablike Prador and employed by them as slave robots.
There are obvious parallels between the environment, Hoop's activities and the slavery trade in Europe and America, although Asher doesn't really exploit this comparison other than to make the obvious moral points.
Over the centuries Hoop has been transformed by the Spatterjay virus and has evolved into a legendary monster, The Skinner, so called because he flays his victims.
AIs, self-aware self-evolved military defence robots, hornet hive-minds and the secret machinations of the Prador are all thrown into the mix to produce a satisfying and colourful novel.
Asher has also worked hard at creating an interesting alien ecosystem with whose predators Humanity has to contend on a daily basis. As in `Gridlinked' each chapter is prefaced by an excerpt from a side story, here telling a tale of predators and prey beneath the Spatterjay oceans.
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on 13 July 2008
The planet is Spatterjay, an extremely strange and hostile virus-infected waterworld where 'kill, or be killed' is the order of the day for all forms of life. Get bitten by any of the wildlife and you'll be immediately infected with a strange virus that gives the body amazing regeneration capabilities, making the body almost completely impervious to injury, no matter how severe. It also gives increased longevity to life, meaning all the infected humans of Spatterjay (called 'Hoopers') live for centuries and are very, very tough. Many decide to live out their lives working on the ships that travel Spatterjay's oceans hunting the planet's giant leeches, with the captains of these ships generally considered the toughest Hoopers of the lot. And tough you have to be to live on a world where all wildlife is carnivorous, aggressive, and always hungry.

But as well as being an unpleasant place to live, this planet also has a nasty past. Years ago the original human inhabitants supplied virus-infected human 'blanks' to an alien race called the Prador who used these humans for a war. Effectively these humans were slaves and had no control of their freewill but because they were virus infected, they were tough, and ideal cannon fodder for the Prador. Chief among the perpetrators of this 'human blank' trade was a ruthless and barbaric human settler called Jay Hooper, from whom the planet derives its name. Since this shameful episode, Hooper and his cronies have since gone their separate ways, some were killed, some took on new identities, while Hooper himself stayed in hiding on Spatterjay but in a far different, hideous form that sends fear through even the most hardened Hoopers.

Though technically outside the Polity, Spatterjay is still watched over by an AI Mind called the Warden, who in turn employs a number of Sub-Minds to keep tabs on the planet, plus a very capable (and very witty) war-drone called Sniper.

To this bizarre world comes a group of equally weird characters. Erlin, a depressed woman searching for one of the hardest Hooper sea captains, Keech, a cyborg corpse 700 years dead and intent on bringing Jay Hooper to justice at any cost, and Janer, an agent linked to a hive mind controlled by hornets - yes that's right, the little flying insects that have actually always been super-intelligent but never told us. Weird? Welcome to the world of Neal Asher!

The book has the usual dose of highly intricate and imaginative storytelling from Asher. His imagination runs riot in this novel as he creates a fantastical world that is as shocking as it is believable. In fact there's so many weird goings on that at times it all borders on the surreal and I have to admit to having to re-read some of the passages as some of the imagery is so strange it doesn't always sink in first time.

Generally the characterisation is excellent, even the robots have personalities of their own and you'll find yourself cheering some of the characters on, while hoping others get their much deserved comeuppance. It's a fascinating read that builds up to a suitably thrilling and dramatic climax.
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