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Mini Review - Neal Asher's Zero Point

(Important - spoilers if you haven't read The Departure, but no worse than those in the blurb on the back of the book.)


Zero Point is the second book in Neal Asher's Owner Series, and continues with the strong - and somewhat unpalatable - themes that he developed in the first book, The Departure. The dedication at the start of the novel really sums it all up: "To all you steady researchers and developer of our technology, for recognising the optimistic road to the future, rather than seeing a slippery slope to doom."

Of course, the Owner Series is about a society that has been on the slippery slope to doom, both societally and ecologically. At the end of the first novel, the protagonist, an anti-hero called Alan Saul, was escaping from Earth on board the Argus Station having decapitated the global bureaucratic dictatorship of 'the Committee' whilst taking the station, and finishing off local controls by dropping their own satellite network on them. The 'zero asset' citizens are freed from Committee oversight, at the cost of the collapse of infrastructure, which potential could lead to their starvation.

This novel meshes three tales together - the emergence of Serene Galahad to reestablish the power of the Committee and the infrastructure of the Earth whilst pursuing a more radical path than her predecessors, the events at the Mars Colony which had effectively declared independence from Earth in the first book, and the events aboard the Argus Station. The plots are brutal, and don't show the nicer side of humanity.

Technology ramps forward without the control of the Committee, as Saul develops his abilities and others have the limits on what they can do released, and the plot twists and turns. Some of the characters - for example Galahad - feel quite two dimensional, but the energy and darkness of the plot drive you forward.

I found that it was quite hard to put down as it draws you in quite effectively, despite finding whole elements somewhat unpleasant. The story goes into areas that few other SF stories do except in the more literary side of the genre (such as The Handmaid's Tale or Nineteen Eighty-Four), with a dark dystopian vision and characters that match. It won't be everyone's cup of hot beverage, but I recommend it for its energy and dark flavour. It directly provides of vision that contrasts technology used for good and for ill, with the difference being the morals of those that wield it.