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Cowl (2006)

Cowl (2006)
3.67 of 5 Votes: 3
0765352796 (ISBN13: 9780765352798)
tor science fiction
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Cowl (2006)
Cowl (2006)

About book: Damn.This was a good book, however there was something that ruined it for me. I'll list that at the bottom of this review so you can skip it if you haven't read the book yourself or are not familiar with Neal Asher.Ok, so last year I tried to read one of Asher's other books, The Skinner. There was something about the simplistic writing style that bothered me. I guess it felt amateurish. Since then I found out that Asher has in fact improved a lot so I decided to give him another shot, after all everyone kept mentioning the guy in the same light as Reynolds, Stross and Banks - authors that I admire greatly.I started reading Cowl and I just couldn't believe it - it was everything I wanted from a book. Futuristic battles, time travel, argumentation, beings so intelligent it makes your own brain hurt just thinking about it, plenty of action and enough clever stuff to make you wonder what's going to happen next. The book got better and better until the end and my only real criticism is that at times it was a little tricky to know what was going on. The book is essentially a time travel story, but set in a sci-fi universe kind of reminiscent to that of the one created by John Scalzi in Old Man's war. There is a strong military theme but it's not too heavy.Anyway, I was reading the book amazed that I had turned my nose up at such a great author for so long. I decided it deserved an easy 4/5 losing a point because of the occasional lack of clarity and confusion. But then something happened!SPOILER ALERT!! Do not read past this if you have not read anything by Asher or intend to read plenty more of him!When I find an author I like, I tend to research them. I found out Reynolds was an astronomer, Stross a pharmacist and computer programmer and Orson Scott Card was a Mormon. A Mormon I can just about put up with - like I suspect with most other sci-fi fans, I am not a religious person but I managed to tolerate the man's lack of logic in his own personal life. I did occasionally get little hints of his religious philosophy poking it's head into his books but I could just about put up with them since on the whole Mormons are a peaceful people. What I didn't like to find out about Asher though is that he is politically very right wing and more than happy to share his views. On his site he has links to the UKIP party, kind of a watered down version of the BNP - Britain's shameful racist party. The UKIP party wants stronger immigration laws, us to leave the EU and basically keep away from foreigners unless we rule them. Many conservative people look at the UKIP party as too extreme, and as a liberal minded person I find that unacceptable. On his blog he goes on and on about it - these pages have been removed presumably at the request of his publishers now but you can still see some of the posts on googles cache. This guy explains it better than me.Anyway, the book is still a great book and I'm still giving it a 4/5 stars. I just won't be able to read any more books by him knowing what I do now. It's sad really, I know. Try to imagine your favourite book, and then you find out that the person who wrote it was actually Adolf Hitler acting as a ghost writer, this is kind of how I feel. Maybe I should be bigger and better than this, but when I read a book it is like a personal, intellectual connection is made and considering I am unable to tolerate having a pint with a racist, why should I read one of their books? Ah well. Back to my old favourites. :(

Revisiting an old favourite by a favourite author. Cowl is a time travel novel with the usual Asher twist (it's bloody, intelligent, often blackly humorous). When teen prostitute Polly and brainwashed government hitman Tack get caught up by an organic time machine that will only travel backwards, to the point before complex life on Earth arose, they're due to be genetic samples for Cowl, a genetically modified future human. Things get a bit sticky and it doesn't work out as planned, things get blown up and shot up, people get chased by extinct animals and rampaging future humanity who are hopping backwards and forwards hoping to push their enemies down the entropy slope and trap them in time.Asher is an excellent SciFi author, British with a sense of understated irony and black comedy which segues off into almost-splatterporn, then hard science, well researched extremely down to earth history, and a lot of big guns and big explosions. A huge amount of fun - one of the very few authors I buy in hard back, as I know I'll just keep reading them over and over again.
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Interesting story based around time-travel and long exhausting war that spreads millions of years starting from the future backwards - yup you read it well, backwards :)[return][return]Characters are great - maybe not too fleshed out but nevertheless very well portrayed. Main characters seem to be of the Asher's favorite type - good person forced to live at the edge of society and do things that others find awful and distasteful and the brutish merciless one, perfect killing machine bred for war, assassinations and combat who finally discovers himself to be a person - not a robot. Now mix this with the most unexpected sort of time travelers and you are in for a treat.[return][return]Great read. Recommended.
I'll start off by saying that I found the basic premise of this book to be really fantastic. The approach to time travel and alternate histories and such was really well thought out and not like anything I'd read about before. Or perhaps, he took the concepts further than anything I've read before.The pace was good. I didn't ever really find myself bored. Inherently with books involving time travel and such, you're invariably going to end up having to think a bit harder about what things are happening when, but some of the limitations the author placed on that helped keep it manageable. I think I would have been better served reading this one in larger chunks. I was reading this in roughly 30-60 minutes chunks over a month or so. I found myself having to go back a few times and familirize myself with characters that were mentioned previously. That continuity wouldn't have been an issue if I'd read it with fewer interruptions.I like authors that aren't afraid to focus on bad guys. Or even, have protagonists that are, like everyone, flawed in one or many ways. It feels more natural and real to me, and allows me to suspend disbelief less often. The characters developed well, and in ways that made sense. There were a few bits that made were choppy that could have been handled more slowly and deliberately, but that is probably nitpicking a bit.I think I would have liked a bit more time spent on some of the Heliothane characters to give more context once their story starts to get threaded in. The author does make an effort to explain some of that history, which was fine... but I found myself suddenly dealing with a few more main characters that were never really introduced well. I think that might have been intentional, given the overall plot, but it was a bit jarring.An excellent read overall, and I'm looking forward to digging into this author more in the future.
Sarah Beaudoin
I really struggled with Cowl. The story itself seems interesting - a war of sorts between to different types of creatures, lots of awesome traveling backward in time, and snippets involving dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. But no matter how much potential the plot has, it couldn't escape Neal Asher's writing. The narrative moves slowly, the characters are flat and uninteresting, and there was nothing at all compelling about it. By the time I had read the first few chapters I realized I didn't care how it ended. Great sci fi is hard to beat, but bad sci fi is painful, and Cowl certainly feels like bad sci fi. I was already pretty sure I disliked this book by the time Asher described a monster as "vaginal" in appearance, but that was certainly the final nail in the coffin. If I ever feel like reading another Asher book I think I'll skip it and pick up something by Marge Piercy instead.
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