Tuesday, 14 October 2008
‘Prador Moon’ – Neal Asher (Tor UK)
I hate autumn, the leaves may be a prettier colour than normal but that doesn’t balance out the fact that this is the time of year when everything you would normally expect to find on a tree can now be found rotting into piles of mulch on the pavement. If this wasn’t bad enough the weather invariably takes a turn for the worse and the evenings start to get darker as well. Now more than ever I find myself needing a read that will take me away from the gloom with a hefty dose of escapism, explosions and villains that are awesomely cool. Yesterday I found this book and, for a brief while, everything was right with the world. It was a very short read though (two hundred and twenty two pages) so I finished it very quickly and I’m back in autumnal gloom. That’s ok though as the following words are still bringing a smile to my face,
Giant carnivorous space crabs...
I’d read a couple of Neal Asher’s ‘Polity’ books, years ago, and although I enjoyed them never got round to picking more up. That’s just the way it goes sometimes isn’t it? There are just far too many other books out there to read :o)
‘Prador Moon’ looked like a short read and an easy way to get back into the swing of the ‘Polity Universe’ without having to play catch up. Not only was this the case but the story absolutely rocked as well!
Fans of Asher’s ‘Polity’ series will have come across the crablike Prador in previous books. ‘Prador Moon’ takes us back to mankind’s very first encounter with the Prador and the resulting war that followed. The galaxy explodes into warfare and as the Polity struggles to transition itself into a military society, attention is focussed on two humans who will shape the outcome of the war...
‘Prador Moon’ is one of those books that is brimming with action to the extent where you have to keep checking to make sure that none of it has spilled out of the book and onto the floor. For such a short book it cannot afford to let the pace slip and it generally keeps to this apart from a couple of moments where time needs to be dedicated to explaining a piece of technology or the ‘harder sci-fi’ elements of combat in space. Although these moments did interrupt the flow of the story I found that they were necessary to the plot and did help me get a better picture of what was going on. This was definitely the case when the finale came about, a masterful moment of spectacle (it really doesn’t get much bigger than this) and realisation about where certain elements of the plot had been leading. Having seen how it all ends up I’ll probably re-read ‘Prador Moon’, at some point, just to fully appreciate how Asher brings everything together.
‘Prador Moon’ is an essential read for ‘space opera fans’ like myself with the emphasis on warfare with an alien species, be it on the surface of alien planets or in the cosmos. I particularly enjoyed reading about the Prador, giant carnivorous crabs with shells and claws that bristle with weaponry. You don’t need me to tell you how cool a giant crab with a gatling gun is! :o)
While the Prador civilisation is fleshed out to an impressive degree (given the length of the book) this comes at the expense of similar treatment being given to their human counterparts. There is so much other stuff going on that the main characters never really get a chance to be anything other raw emotion painted on a blank canvas. Jebel Krong has the potential to develop in quite complex ways but only has time to be a stereotypical hero out for revenge. Moira Salem, on the other hand, spends so much time trying to figure out what is going that by the time she works things out the story has come to an end...
This is really only a minor quibble when the story itself is so much fun to read. ‘Prador Moon’ is a good place to jump into the universe of the ‘Polity’ and it’s just as much fun as a stand alone ‘space opera romp’. I’ve got Neal Asher’s short story collection, ‘The Gabble’, waiting to be read and if it’s half as much fun as ‘Prador Moon’ then I’m in for a treat.
Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten