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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2007
Deeply enjoyable, page turner with great characterisation from on of my favorite novelists, but it doesn't get 5 stars from me because I couldn't shake off my nagging concern that this book was shared just a little too many concepts with "Inversions" by Iain M Banks, which isn't that great a book. I know it's ridiculous but my "familiarity" with these narrative devices took the edge of the book for me, even though Asher treats the concepts he shares with Inversions, like the low(er) tech civilisation viewpoint, the hidden agent/observer in a more accessible manner than Banks did but I couldn't help shaking off the feeling of deja-vu as each shared concept clicked into view.
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on 3 March 2008
"Hilldiggers" is very much unlike other Asher's books. It is as if it's written by a different person. It's boring.

I love his "Skinner" and still re-read it every now and then; the "Voyage..." is almost just as good. His Cormac books are also finely written. This one, I could barely finish it. The plot is predictable, all characters are flat and the writing style is extremely boring: page after page of monotonous narrative, irrelevant details and dry dialogs. No sense of humor whatsoever, and in fact very little emotions at all.

Despite his obsession with details, Asher doesn't bother to be consistent with his prior Spatterjay books (one example: in both the "Skinner" and the "Voyage..." hoopers occasionally get dunked into the deadly Spatterjay sea and, while being eaten alive by various creatures, they do keep afloat like any normal human would. In "Hilldiggers", the Hooper character McCrooger is for some reason much denser than normal people and would instantly sink to the bottom). Not to mention the idea of sending the Hooper, twice-infected by conflicting viruses, to make first contact with a paranoid and warlike civilization... Not to mention the silly "tiger-on-the-ball" Tigger drone... Or the four obviously suspicious "worm children" so easily allowed to raise to the top of the society...

If you like Asher and don't want to be disappointed, stick to his earlier Spatterjay books and avoid this one.
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on 11 October 2011
Hilldiggers is an Asher novel which takes place in his unique Polity universe but does not follow the Cormac series or the Spatterjay series. Asher makes this novel distinctive by combining a good chunk of the Polity plot line with a savory chips from the Spatterjay line. The result is a rousing read for a seasoned Asher reader (this being my 10th Asher novel) but only for the first half. Throw in two planets with distinguishable race races, an ongoing war between them and a mischievous drone scouting the system... the first half is just a gem of a plot setting.

The book's synopsis sounds a little corny as `four exceptionally talented orphans' have been born through mysterious circumstances surrounding four `cosmic superstrings.' This initial cheesiness had me suppressing a gag reflex commonly experienced which reading synopses of self-published authors. While the ultimate motive for the conception is discussed, I found it a weak link in the plot chain.

The second half sees bad start when the protagonist Old Captain McCrooger begins to lose the Spatterjay virus and hence become weak, fragile. The weakening of the strong main character is a little demoralizing for the reader, as any Asher reader knows that the Old Captains are quirky, strong and a highlight in the Spatterjay series. The humanization of McCrooger is drawn out as he is injured over and over again without much direction.

Additionally, the predictable yet difficult to visualize space battle eventually takes place but doesn't seem as prominent as other battles in Asher's novels. The general plot direction is really predictable and no surprises were had except for a minor smile-worthy disclosure in the last two pages.

Hilldiggers is a good addition is the Polity universe with strong links with the Polity sub-plots but really tapers off in the last half to leave the reading unsatisfactory.
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on 21 July 2007
There are some authors who go on my must read list in the category "get the hardback the moment that comes out". In the sci-fi genre Neal Asher is such an author. His latest is perhaps his best. It's a real page turner, but the story is only a part of the pleasure of reading it - like all his books it is well written and also crackles with ideas and paints a bold, dramatic, detailed and engaging vision of the future that also offers additional details aplenty along the way. His universe is a tough place and pulls no punches, in this tale, which takes place in the aftermath of an interplanetary war, three groups of future-evolved humans engage in a struggle that is more than it seems.

If you have never read Neal Asher before, start now (perhaps with his first book "Gridlinked")- if you are already a fan, then rest assured he is growing in stature and becoming even more of a must-read as he goes on. More anon, I hope.
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on 6 October 2015
Honestly, I think I was underwhelmed by this book. It did not feel connected to the previous book in the series, and the universe in which it is set feels quite dry. I think I agree with some of the other comments that the events in the book seem sometimes a bit set up and artificial - you just have to wonder, do the actions of the characters / AIs involved *really* make sense.

For me it was an OK stand-alone story but felt a little bit like going through the paces. I also read "Snow in the Desert" and "Parasite" by the same author, and I felt that both stories had more energy and engagement, and more depth and feeling to the characters and storyline.

It's fair to say though that I've not read book 3 - possibly this book is a critical linkage, but from the plot summary of polity book 3, it doesn't seem all that closely connected.
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on 1 September 2007
This story of two warring nations and the influence of external factors in the resolution of the conflict is excellent. The characters are strongly developed and the plot is well constructed. After I completed the book on holiday my 72 year old father-in-law borrowed the book and he loved it and he is not normally a sci-fi reader (maybe not such a recommendation! - however indicates how entertaining Neil Asher's books are). Recommended.
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on 6 January 2016
Having been recommended these books started with Prador moon and thoroughly enjoyed that, found Hilldiggers good but maybe went on too long then finished abruptly. I shan't compare him to any other writers as that would be unfair.Don't know if I started the books in the right order but will continue with shadow of the scorpion.Still a really good read and am looking forward to reading the rest, that I want to buy the while series should be testament enough!
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on 16 January 2008
Brumal & Sudoria, two planets in the same system inhabited by adapted humans with a bitter history. A war was fought over many years and 20 years ago Sudoria clenched victory through the use of their massive Hilldiggers, spaceships capable of creating huge disruptions on planetary surfaces. Although this victory led to peace time between the two planets, Sudoria still hold a strong presence and are effectively the dominant planet in the system. Not only do Fleet, Sudoria's space presence in control of the Hilldiggers, protect Sudoria and are used as the main transport links for the planet throughout the system, but Orbital Combine also protect Sudoria through their orbital stations, both industrial, defensive and scientific.

At the end of the war a huge worm like creature was discovered in the system, something completely alien. Fleet immediately attacked the Worm and cut it into four pieces, each of which was quickly imprisoned in individual Ozark containers. Around this the main station of Orbital Combine was built and was used to study the creature. But there is often overflow from these containers and Elsever Strone was unlucky enough to become pregnant during one of these incidents. Her four children are born - Harald, Rhodane, Yishna and Orduval - and grow up with very impressive capabilities, each following a route that is their guiding light and will take them into strong positions within society.

Now with the events of the war a memory, two events bring these back to the surface: a book revealing the truth abut the war written by the secretive Uskaron and the arrival of a Polity probe in the system to establish contact with these distant relatives of humanity. With strict rules in place, David McCrooger, a Hooper, comes to the system as the Polity Consul Assessor to work with the governments to invite the system to join the Polity. But not everyone wants the interference and will go to great lengths to stop the Consul Assessors mission.

This story has everything you need from a good sci-fi book: great in-depth characters, a gripping story, weird and wonderful alien environments and wildlife, big space battles, a Polity drone and one of the best things you can ask for from a book: it's a page turner that will leave you wanting more. Neal has once again used his imagination to conjure up vivid images of alien effects on humanity.

The story really does pick up from the moment you open the book and doesn't let you go until you turn the last page. Neal has structured the book so while you get the events that are happening at present, you also get flashback sections that focus on the four Strone children and shows you just how different they are to the others on their planet. This is a welcome addition to the book and doesn't interfere with the narrative in any way, if anything they add much more depth and give you a very gradual picture of the society in which they grow up. One of the more enjoyable elements were the McCrooger sections, all written in the first person. I've not read many novels with this trait but it works exceptionally well in this context - an outsider coming into a delicate situation. I'd be very interested in reading more like this from Neal.

On the whole, if you like good, fast paced, intelligent space opera, then this is for you, even if you've not read any of Neal's previous works. You may be left wondering over some bits of information, but when an author has spent years building up his universe over 8 novels and many short stories, you will only fully get all references when you've read them all. Very highly recommended!
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on 13 July 2016
This is tricky. While I have always enjoyed Asher and his Polity universe, this story felt clunky and disjointed. The plot used some I interesting ideas but the storyline didn't flow as well as other Asher books and I never felt I understood or even cared for the characters.
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on 25 April 2015
Hilldiggers is an efficient sci-fi thriller set in the polity universe. This usually means big mean aliens, cool supertech and superpowers.
In this case we are looking at a long lost human ship and the civilizations it developed on new worlds. So there is a strong emphasis on political systems, which, I find, is rather unusual for Neal Asher.
All in all a good, efficient book set in a beloved literary universe, if you like his usual work you won't be disappointed!
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