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The Skinner (Spatterjay, Book 1) First Edition Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0765307378
ISBN-10: 0765307375
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With his second novel (after 2003's Gridlinked), a rousing space opera, Asher takes us to Spatterjay, a deadly planet reminiscent of that in Harry Harrison's 1960 classic Deathworld. Spatterjay has Earth-equivalent gravity and a breathable atmosphere, but it overflows with inimical life forms, from gruesome leeches that grow to the size of sharks to horrific glisters, gigantic shellfish that will eat anything. Worse still, all of Spatterjay's life forms are infected with a virus that makes them virtually invulnerable to harm. Most of the few human inhabitants are also infected with the virus. Ruling loosely over the world are the superhumanly strong Old Captains, who spend their days aboard ships fishing the planet's dangerous waters. Three off-worlders land on Spatterjay: the depressed Erlin, who has returned after many years to find Ambel, an Old Captain whom she hopes will give her a reason to go on living; Keech, a long-dead former police monitor kept cybernetically alive who hopes to hunt down the last of a group of murderous pirates; and Janer, essentially a tourist who acts as eyes and transport for a hive mind. Unbeknownst to the three, however, other more unsavory intelligences, some human, some alien, are gathering with evil intent. Though his fiction is less thoughtful than that of Ken MacLeod, Iain M. Banks and some of the other top British genre writers, Asher will definitely appeal to connoisseurs of sophisticated adventure-oriented SF.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Three travelers land in the Dome on Spatterjay: Janer, who works for a hornet hive mind; Erlin, who has the Spatterjay virus, which makes the infected practically immortal, and is looking for Ambel, an old captain; and Keech, centuries dead but still pursuing his mission to punish Hoop's crew. Hundreds of years ago, there was a war with the alien Prador, who use human "blanks" as their motile units, and Hoop and his crew, original Spatterjay settlers, provided the Prador with blanks infected with the virus and tougher than the average human. Rebecca Frisk, Hoop's former mistress, is also on Spatterjay, transported by the Prador (so they're back in the picture, too), to kill Keech and find what's left of Hoop--the head of the Skinner, which is part of Ambel's cargo. The Prador just aim to kill every witness to their actions during the war. In a massive showdown at Skinner's Island, old battles are finally resolved. Throughout, Asher beautifully realizes the background to this wild adventure. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765307375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765307378
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Science fiction (as other genres) is often very poorly done if written by someone who fails to build a consistent story. The story can be quite improbable, yet hold together quite well if well constructed. Neal Asher's new book "The Skinner" is just such a well structured story. As a biologist who likes a good tale of strange planets and creatures, I was quite pleased to find this riveting tale. The book has something for every sci fi fan- a strange world with oceans full of weird predators (not totally unlike our own, but perhaps a bit more dangerous!), alien minds controlling or communicating with humans and machines, galactic conspiracies, viruses that cause infected organisms to be more resistant to injury, a cast of characters with their own secrets, and nearly indestructible sea captains who are the survivors from a human slave industry based on a war between quite different galactic civilizations. The founder of that illegal activity, the space pirate Jay Hoop, has become (after 700 years) a very dangerous outlaw indeed- the Skinner (I won't describe this entity further as it might spoil the reader's fun!) He and his surviving associates are the targets of a former warden (Keech) who was killed by one of them and was "revived" as a sort of half-living reification. His mission is to finish off the last of the outlaws, who were all condemned to death. He is aided in part by a woman (Erlin) who is searching for one of the old captains (Ambel), and a former indentured slave (Janer) to the hive mind of intelligent earth hornets who carries two of the hornets with him. Add assorted Old Captains, various mercenaries, animated sails, giant leeches and numerous others, and you get a complex weave of very evocative interactions.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first Neal Asher book I've read and I look forward to reading more. "The Skinner" caught my fascinated interest with several themes and multiple characters and storylines.

If humans could be truly long-lived, how would they deal with getting BORED? The inhabitants of the Skinner world include human "old captains" who "live into the calm". The "juniors" who crew with them are those who've only lived a few centuries!

The native life of the Skinner world is anything BUT calm. Is there something beyond mindless feeding frenzies up and down the food chain of life?

There's an overall plot with a satisfactory conclusion. It comprises MULTIPLE story lines and characters, including men, women, articial intelligences, and aliens. These characters are variously heroes, bad guys, really bad guys, and ones you're not quite sure about.

There's plenty of humor in the narrative. I like it because it's a complex, humorous, planetary narrative that includes just a bit of thinking. I guess I'd tell more of the story line but what mattered to me most is the creative structure and good-natured feel of this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rare is the book that immerses me as fully as this brilliant novel did. In The Skinner, Asher tells a stand-alone tale crafted within the future universe he has envisioned. The tale takes place on a rather savage world, Spatterjay, where a particular virus creates incredible regenerative and other effects in all the organisms it infects. This virus happens to work on humans as well as the local fauna, and Asher explores the implications of his creation quite fully.

The plotting and pacing are superb, the various storylines, each attached to one of the central characters, mesh and interweave splendidly, and the story progresses steadily, cleanly and quickly, without a single lull in the narrative, to a satisfying and well-conceived conclusion. Along the way, Asher treats us with great humor, well-conceived speculations regarding what it actually might mean to live hundreds of years in perfect health and fitness, some truly horrifying and shudder-inducing actions by humans and non-humans, and (my favorite character of all), a very old, battle-hardened and -scarred, sarcastic and extremely clever combat android/artificial intelligence.

While there is some background and comfort with the "universe" Asher created to be found in reading his earlier offering, "Gridlinked," it is not at all necessary for the full enjoyment of this novel. I heartily recommend The Skinner.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was a fun, interesting and original novel which both reminds one of the roots of science fiction and provides a fresh, updated story that reads well today. Asher's second novel is much better then his first (Gridlinked) and holds the promise of even better novels to come. (I didn't think "Cowl" was as good as "The Skinner", but it's not bad at all). The novel takes place on world where life forms have adapted into perfect killing/surviving machines. Once you get infected with a local parasite, you really can't die. However, the alternative isn't that great either. In a universe where immortality, or at least really long life, takes many forms, the inhabitants of this planet have chosen to stay on their violent world and sail their oceans attempting to find inner peace. Into their rather dull existence comes three tourists, each seeking their own particular answer to a personal dilemna. To complicate matters, some very nasty aliens bring some virus infected humans back to the planet in an attempt to resurrect their sadistic leader (whose head is kept in a box. Kind of like an evil Ted Williams.)

Asher writes great action sequences and in this book, unlike in "Gridlinked", he develops his characters a bit more freely. Unfortunately, his most interesting characters are an insecure alien and an obsessed war robot. Once Asher learns to give his human characters that much range and emotion, his writing will become superb. It's only a matter of time. This is a great read, loads of fun and will completely get you into the spirit of science fiction. It's a shame there aren't more novels like this on the book shelves instead of the endless parade of Star Trek/Star Wars knock offs and books about video games.
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