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Set in a lethal waterworld, The Skinner is the first novel in the far-future Spatterjay series by Neal Asher.
The savage ocean planet of Spatterjay draws visitors with very different agendas. Erlin is immortal and seeks a reason to keep living. Janer hosts a hive mind, which paid him to find this planet. And Keech is an agent of Earth who’s been dead for seven hundred years – but still hunts a notorious criminal.
On Spatterjay’s vast waterscapes, only the Old Captains risk the native life forms and their voracious appetites. However, they are now barely human. And somewhere out there Keech’s target – the Skinner – runs wild. Keech pursues the Skinner for atrocities committed in a centuries-past war, fought with the alien Prador. But one of these Prador is fast approaching Spatterjay to exterminate witnesses to his own war crimes. And he won’t spare its visitors.
Continue the science fiction adventure with The Voyage of Sable Keech and Orbus.
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.