The Departure (Owner series) Paperback – 12 Apr 2012
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The beginning of a new series from a master of space opera
About the Author
Neal Asher was born in Billericay, Essex, and divides his time between here and Crete. His previous novels include the Agent Cormac series (Gridlinked +4), Spatterjay series (The Skinner +2), Polity series (Prador Moon +4) and The Owner trilogy (The Departure, Zero Point +1). He has also written The Gabble: And Other Stories
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, I didn't. I thought it was a good story in its own right and echoed many themes used in 'Polity' novels from a different perspective and within a more familiar framework.
I think many people may have been disappointed by the fact that the main character, Alan Saul, is not particularly likeable and is portrayed as something of an 'anti-hero'. In many stories, a person/entity such as Saul would be the bad guy. However, as a long time reader of the Thomas Covenant stories, I can deal with the 'anti-hero' concept and didn't feel it was a problem.
There's also been a lot of comment about the amount of violence in the book. I think it is more bloody than other works of his but it's hardly venturing into Shaun Hutson territory. It's there but it's not covered in minute detail.
However, it's not perfect. I would have liked more character definition, even if it only made me dislike them more. A lot of the characters, including the main ones, felt a bit shallow. I'm also not entirely convinced about the basic plotline right now but, given this is the apparently the first of a series, I would assume that there's a bigger picture to be revealed and I'm certainly interested enough in what happens to buy the next instalment and find out.
The Departure is very dark.
It really is.
Pretty distasteful in places, but the writing effectively paints a frankly disturbing picture of a society that has surrendered its scary freedoms to the safety of governmental dominance. It seems to me to be a critique of over-reliance on the state, something you can see happening in this country whatever the colours of the ruling party. I certainly didn't read it as a socialist bashing diatribe. In fact to me it reads more like a warning of how a society can fall into subservience to a fascist like governmental/corporate system. A society where things have gone horribly wrong largely through inaction and apathy rather than through subjugation by some overarching bond-like villain. What I think gets under your skin is the link Asher makes between this horrifying future and the actions (or lack thereof) of ordinary people (just like us) in the present day.
As an opening book in a series I feel it sets the scene very clearly. It's quite different to the other works by Asher, which to my mind is a positive. It's an impressive author who can create totally separate immersive worlds and not rely on constantly going back to safe and reliable ground. I normally only read on the Metro on my journeys to and from work (about 15 minutes each way) so it takes me a while to finish a book. I found that I was so engrossed in this one that I had to read through it rather more quickly. Now I'm going to have to buy the second book on the kindle and then probably despair at how long it takes before the third book is ready, not that Asher is slow, heck I've waited for George R R Martin, but just because I'll really want to know how it works out.
Whilst the short stories tell of events much later, The Departure sets up the basics in the origin of the stories. Set in the 22nd century, Earth is being run by a global authority known as the Committee. Its enforcers, the Inspectorate, rule a rapidly growing population with ruthless efficiency, often involving torture and death. The general populace are controlled by human enforcers and robot Shepherds, a Wellsian type machine that can both capture and shred people.
Things in this dystopia are generally not good. A too-large population using too many of its finite resources without the luxury of expansion means that life for many is arduous. The idea that `Power Corrupts' is important here, and there's clearly something rotten in the socio-political structures of the 22nd century. The world government administrators live in luxury, whilst the ZA (Zero Asset) people, who contribute nothing to the economy, exist on a bare minimum with limited health care and facilities.
To this we have Alan Saul, assisted by an artificial intelligence named Janus. Having being tortured by the Inspectorate, his past is a mystery and much of Alan's past is unknown to him, or at least fragmentarily remembered at best. His mission objective is to bring down the corrupt organisation. He helps who he thinks is his torturer/interrogator, Hannah Neumann, but actually finds that they are former lovers and colleagues.Read more ›
Imagine the best car chase you ever saw in a movie. For me, that was what this book equated to. I really enjoyed it, with my heart in my mouth for half the time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The first novel in what I'd consider to be the authors best series to date. It's ultraviolent, dark and the characters take some getting used to but it also explores interesting... Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Timlin
The underlying scenario is a good one, but the prose is quite leaden. There's an over-reliance on the use of jargon, and the old trick of plucking a future technology out of the... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mr. T. J. Staffell
Since I'm relatively left-wing/liberal - a longtime SF fan but new to Asher - it's a tribute to the man's writing that I soon forgot about the explicitly anti-left flavour of his... Read morePublished 7 months ago by S. G. Gilman