The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1) by Neal Asher [Book Review]

Bourne Identity Space Opera

Welcome to a future where a lot of things have gone wrong. Democracy is a thing of the past. The bureaucracies of the world have taken over. The Commission sounds suspiciously close to the European Commission which I guess is not something Neal Asher is fond of. The environment is unpleasant and overpopulation needs a final solution. At least that’s what the people in power seem to be planning. Rebellion is hard since the Commission controls orbital laser weapons that can destroy any riot in seconds. They also dispatch robots troops straight out of the war of the worlds to pick up any ringleaders for torture and brainwashing.

It is a chilling world where people are classified after their usefulness to society. Zero-assets are more or less dumped to fetch for themselves. Usefulness is of course assigned by The Commission.

This is the world where this electrifying story takes place. Saul is a man with extraordinary skills and intellect but who can’t remember what the things you put on your feet and walk in are. He wakes up in a box on the verge of incineration but escape bent on revenge. We get to follow his trail through what is left of Europe and Russia as he learns the world again. In a way this reminded me of a story by A. E. Van Vogt named Tyranpolis (aka Future Glitter from 1973) where the hero instead has a scientific breakthrough in an all-seeing kind of technology while Saul here goes for the AI interfaced brain that Neal seems so fond of (See Gridlinked).

The Yin of the story is a woman called Var who probably is Saul’s lost sister. She struggles at the abandoned colony on Mars where the political officer is trying to kill off all none essential people to make the resources last longer. Her story and Paul’s take turns in a way that fits well with the story and keep the reader interested.

There is a lot of good action down on earth and up at an orbital fortress but you never feel that the ending is in any doubt which is a bit sad in an otherwise excellent story. I can live with that and still enjoy the story but I have a high tolerance for characters like that.

The Departure is a good first novel in the Owner trilogy and the significance of that name for the series intrigues me. I want to know what happens next. I don’t think The Departure is for everyone but it is a good standard fare science fiction with a bit of social critique and a lot of action.

The next book in the series Zero Point will be out next year probably around the same time as this one.

Book information

The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1) by Neal Asher (Tor UK 2011) – Amazon US | UK

Visible in the night sky the Argus Station, its twin smelting plants like glowing eyes, looks down on nightmare Earth. From Argus the Committee keep an oppressive control: citizens are watched by cams systems and political officers, it’s a world inhabited by shepherds, reader guns, razor birds and the brutal Inspectorate with its white tiled cells and pain inducers.

Soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human being need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online . . .

This is the world Alan Saul wakes to in his crate on the conveyor to the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Informed by Janus, through the hardware implanted in his skull, about the world as it is now Saul is determined to destroy it, just as soon as he has found out who he was, and killed his interrogator . . .