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  • Cowl
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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4.0 out of 5 stars
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on 20 June 2004
At just over 400 pages, Cowl certainly deserved credit for being a sleek, self-contained little book, that doesn't commit you to buying another endless series of novels just to find out what happened. The book never outstays its welcome, the pace is brisk and nothing seems extraneous. The plot, hackneyed though it might be, has enough polish to feel fresh and comes with enough new ideas to persuade you that Cowl is original.
Asher has sat down, come up with a series of fabulous SF ideas (biological time machines anyone?), thought up two lead characters that you care about - and yes, might even like and then put them up against a truly diabolical baddie. It sounds simple - but so many books don't get these basics right.
Enjoy the rollicking good pace, the superb action and the novel characterisations - Cowl is a fine book that stands apart on shelves filled with derivative bloated monstrosities.
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on 17 April 2004
Not sure I entirely agree with the other reviewers. The time travel concept is well handled and works. The author has really thought it through. Also there's some very good twists in the plot and an interesting resolution. But Cowl's motivation doesn't really stack up and there are a lot of unanswered questions by the end.
A good read nonetheless but I don't think it's as good as Gridlinked or The Skinner, both of which are absolutely excellent.
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on 23 March 2004
Neal actually does a good job of revisiting the complicated time travel concepts (something about a pool table, a cue and a sheet) but this is not a book for the tube. You need a quiet corner and a chunk of time to get your head around mantisals and vorpal constructs and the probability slope.
The core of the book is the story of two characters in our future who travel back into the distant past. Chronologically they travel a long way but geographically most of the story is set in Essex. You'll probably only appreciate this if you live in East Anglia.
To comment further would risk spoiling the book - buy it and enjoy it. I love reading books a second time and I think this book will get even better when re-read.
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on 18 January 2006
The book progresses at a good pace and the time travel aspect is handled well. By using the time travel to expand the scope, the book reads like a space opera - instead of fighting a war across the universe, the war is fought across time. The two central characters are likable and I was genuinely intrigued to see how it would end.
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on 22 March 2007
Asher takes a slightly welcome break from the Polity and gosh.

Draawing on some of his earlier short stories he takes an alternitive view of humanities future, this time with eugenic ssuper-humans in charge instead of Benevoloant A.I (HAH!) Alot of its setting of it rings true with the modern world, increasingly toltalitarin centeral government, endless taxes, and over reliance on things that aren't really that good for us, and where this may end up.

The characters are abcolutly fantasttic, who needs a super villian when you have Cowl or the Umbrathane who seem to live by a hybrid of Spatan, Dawrinist and Macivellian ideals. There are no good guys, they are all shades of grey, and thats what makes Asher's work so compelling, his characters have depth, they may do good, but that doesn't mean that they are nice people.

This is a great book, so why the 4 stars, well because there isn't a four and a half option, and this nearly scrapes a five but isn't quite there. The ending feels a little bit too rushed but this does leave room for a sequal.

I too just want to see dinosaurs.
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on 11 October 2005
Some of the characters are a bit weak which did mean that I never really got involved in the story. However I liked the fact that until the end of the book you didnt really know the path that things were taking or who was actually on what side.
Could have been a lot better but still worth a read.
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on 4 June 2013
Not quite classic Neal Asher but a good story well told. I liked his exploration of time travel and loved the descriptions of the encounters with different people and animals on the way. A good read and recommended.
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on 6 March 2012
I have come to the conclusion that Neal Asher is quite mad - or, at least, his books are insane. In his hands it's science fiction with the dial turned up to 11, in a Spinal Tap stylee (but without the miniature Stone Henge). He writes with real verve and drags you along for the ride, kicking and screaming. If you're looking for an inventive, wild, exciting ride, he's the man for the job, just be prepared to have all your preconceptions of stuffy old sf books ripped up and thrown back in your face.

I have no idea how to even start describing 'Cowl'. Most of his novels are set within his 'Polity' universe, but 'Cowl' is that awkward beast that is the stand-alone story. Set on Earth, we first meet Polly, a 22nd century prostitute, whose friend Marjae has recently died. When Marjae's brother Nandru, an ex-military type, turns up blaming Polly for his sister's death, he implants her with an AI device. When she awakes he tells her (in her head, through the device) that some people will turn up looking for her and he will tell her what to do when that happens. Sure enough, within minutes, U-Gov agents, led by a genetically engineered super-assassin called Tack, turn up and demand to know where Nandru has left a particular item. Through the AI device, Nandru gives Polly directions and she leads the agents to a mysterious item that looks something like a thorny vambrace, called a tor. Mayhem ensues (naturally), and she grabs the tor, which immediately (and bloodily) fixes itself to her arm and promptly drags her and the nearby Tack back in time.

That all happens in the first 20 or 30 pages, and it gets even madder after that, as Polly and Tack get dragged into a future struggle between genetically enhanced breeds of super-human called Heliothanes and Umbrathanes, who are travelling back through time to finish their war by hunting down and killing the eponymous Cowl, who himself has travelled back through time, killing millions in the process, to a time and place before the birth of mankind, and ...

Oh hell, just read the blimmin' thing, it's brilliant fun.
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on 11 August 2004
Being a big fan of Neal Asher's Gridlinked, Skinner and Line of Polity, I was eager to get my hands on this book. Naturally I got it on release and read it all swiftly. I was however disappointed to some degree because the narrative lacked some flow. The time-travel was done well, but its always hard to keep it together in a book such as this. Still a worthy read, though the other books in this universe are slightly better.
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on 17 October 2014
Not one of Neal's best and whilst I could just about grasp the time travel method, the beast was just plain silly. The characters are hard to like and I found I just wanted it read and put back on the virtual shelf to let me get back to Agent Cormac!
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