Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: The Engineer Reconditioned

Neal Asher's Gridlinked was a lot of fun, so I checked outThe Engineer ReConditioned from the library to see if his short stories were up to par.

The opening story, "The Engineer" explores the discovery of a survivor of an extinct civilization. I enjoyed the story quite a bit, even though it was quite predictable what would happen. The clash of causes explored was entertaining, but did not have sufficient time to develop.

Then there came a sequence of "Owner" stories, effectively stories about a super-human intelligence that controls a planet that humans have chosen to settle on. These are much less compelling, as the "Owner" always feels more like a deus ex machina than a proper story hook. These are acceptable. There's also a time travel story that is OK, but not even close to being as good as Palimpsest, still the best time travel story I've read.

Finally, there are two stories about parasites and religion. Asher has a low opinion of religion (as do I), so I'm not sure how well these will go over with anyone who doesn't already agree with those views. Nevertheless, the parasites are at least interesting, though I suspect the source material is more interesting than Asher's stories.

All in all, I can't recommend this book. I think Asher needs novel-length space in order to strut his stuff and ideas. What I particularly dislike is that his ideas are cool but it's also quite clear he's not a scientist and hence can't explain any of the "super-science" he uses and relies on as plot devices, so I would classify him in the "thriller" genre rather than the science fiction genre.
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