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The Voyage of the Sable Keech
Neal Asher
Tor UK, 506 pages

Neal Asher
Neal Asher was born in 1961 in Billericay in Essex. He started writing SF and fantasy at 16 after what he terms an "overdose" of E.C. Tubb books. After leaving school, he worked for a steel furniture maker, then operated a milling machine and began writing again. Thereafter, he decided to go back to school and finally graduated. He continued to write, having his work published in a number of magazines and producing a short story collection called Runcible Tales from Piper's Ash. With the publication of Gridlinked and The Skinner, he's working on The Line of Polity, to follow the year after.

Neal Asher Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Brass Man
SF Site Review: Cowl
SF Site Interview: Neal Asher
SF Site Review: The Skinner
SF Site Interview: Neal Asher
SF Site Review: Gridlinked

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

The Voyage of the Sable Keech The Voyage of the Sable Keech is the sequel to Neal Asher's acclaimed Skinner, set again on the Line planet Spatterjay: a world of many monsters, some of them human. So pull up a stool, matey, pour a mug of seacane rum, and listen to more salty tales of titanic man-eating whelks, leeches the size of sperm-whales, swarms of vicious rhinoworms, glisters and heirodonts....

Spatterjay is a hellhole, in the fine old SFnal tradition of Harry Harrison's Deathworld, where life is hard, men are harder, and predators are big, fierce and very, very hungry. Spatterjay is a waterworld, with wooden ships and exotic-alloy men, men to match their monsters: the Hoopers, the Old Captains, infected with a leechborn virus1 that makes them almost immortal, and very, very strong. The Old Captains date back to the days of the Prador Wars, almost a thousand years ago. The Prador are not nice. They make Larry Niven's Kzin look like house cats. And you'll be learning some nasty secrets about Prador's murderous, incestuous, impenetrable royal politics....

The Voyage of the Sable Keech carries over most of the cast of Skinner, and is told in the same overlapping, multi-viewpoint mosaic style. Which gets confusing at times, even to the author. But Asher is as feverishly inventive as ever, and keeps those pages turning -- a good thing, too, with 500+ of 'em to turn!

This isn't quite the book that Skinner was -- but then, few are. If you're new to Asher, that's still the place to start. If you liked Skinner, you'll definitely want to read The Voyage of the Sable Keech too. As the cover blurb says, this is SF with the volume turned up. Recommended.

1 Here (and elsewhere), it's best not to look too closely at the back story. A virus that can infect species from three different worlds? About as likely (and as subtle) as the Hollywood computer virus in Independence Day...

Copyright © 2006 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Amazon, Infinity-Plus, SF Site, and others. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more of Pete's reviews.

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