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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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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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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 August 2014
This is the first book by Neal Asher that I read, and I absolutely loved it. I have since gone out and read a lot of his other work, and although good, The Skinner stands out as my favourite.

This is my type of science fiction - distant planets, intrigue and some really bizarre alien biology. The concept is clever, the style of writing is engaging, the plot is fast moving and the whole book highly entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely recommend it to others.
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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 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 31 January 2014
This is my first, and probably last Neal Asher.

Undoubtedly the guy has a vivid imagination, the world created in "The Skinner" is full of ideas, creatures and aliens, not all of which could possibly exist, but that's a small issue. In more capable hands this world could have been the foundation of a truly memorable book, or series of books.

The problem with "The Skinner" is that it is like listening to a fairly poor punk band for 5 hours straight. It has a novelty value to start with but after 5 hours, the constant thrashing away, the unremitting intensity without any respite, leaves you completely drained, bored and desperate to leave.

There is absolutely no light and shade, no breathing space whatsoever in the Skinner. The multi-viewpoints are pretty much the same, all constituted of similar people, all in the same situation at the same time. As the story moves (fairly quickly) from one group to another is is almost impossible to remember what each group are doing, and what happened to them, (and therefore what is happening to them now) because they are all so similar. You spend more time trying to remember what each group WERE doing than you do reading what they ARE doing !!

On top of that the narrative churns on and on, and for 80% of this book, it really gets absolutely nowhere. This is a book that is worth reading because it demonstrates better than any other example I can think of, the gulf in writing class between the likes of Banks, Reynolds and others, and this, and some of the self published stuff available on kindle. I know this was not self published, but Asher's writing style does not help in any way to develop clarity, and often comes across as something written in school.

Just picking a completely random sentence .... "Janer sat on a log with the queen hornet on one shoulder, and with interest watched the gathering" ... surely even a child could see that this could be worded better? "Janer perched on a log, the queen hornet motionless on one shoulder, and watched the gathering with increasing interest" ... I don't know, something like that !!! The whole thing seems really amateurish.

I read today that he is criticised for the number of books he puts out ... on the basis of the Skinner I would agree ... slow down, add some light and shade into your work, put some effort into the writing style, and you will do justice to your excellent imagination, but I have to say, I almost gave up at 96%, because I was bored, fed up and exhausted with the unchanging mundanity of "the Skinner"
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on 5 November 2014
Loved it, the Hoopers are no longer a mystery.
What I love about Asher books are how easy they are to read,you flow along enthralled by the story lost in the visuals your mind creates.
I have downloaded the next book and when I have typed this I'm going to start reading it.
I wish he would do more with the sparkkind and Golams one with a human upload would be great , here's wishing.
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The planet of Spatterjay is a very dangerous place. Home to some of the most vicious lifeforms known to man, all of whom are both hunter and hunted in their own eco-system. Ironically though, these lifeforms all carry a virus that if you survive their initial attack can make a human all but immortal. Some of the old sea captains plying their trade on the oceans of Spatterjay are over a thousand years old. They also hold deep and dark memories of terrible crimes committed far in the past by Jay Hooper and his band of criminals who provided immortal slave bodies to the crab-like Prader race - Some of those memories though are not just memories. They are real and they are coming back.

This is a really brilliant science fiction story that also has a large helping of horror thrown in for good measure.

The characters are what makes this book for me. From the manically evil Rebecca Frisk searching for her old lover, to the massively powerful and calm Captain Ron they are all superbly drawn and full of life.

This story also features some of the best Artificial Intelligences I have seen in a long while. The ancient and slightly cranky war drone known as Sniper and the huge planet governing AI "Warden" with his multiple sub-minds are the best AI characters I have found since I discovered the Minds and drones of Iain M Bank's Culture series.

Spanning more than 8500 locations, presentation on the Kindle was pretty much perfect too.

Overall: 5 stars - I have never read anything by Neal Asher before but I really did enjoy this book. If you like The Culture then you should most definitely read this story. I liked it enough that I am going to download The Voyage of the Sable Keech next!
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