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Asher, Neal

Entry updated 9 October 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1961-    ) UK author who began publishing work of genre interest with "Another England" for Back Brain Recluse #14 in Autumn 1989, and who published stories with some frequency in the 1990s, though without gaining much attention; during this period, he published several individual volumes, most of them short, including Mindgames: Fool's Mate (1992) and The Parasite (1996 chap). There were several assemblies of shorter material, the most substantial of these being The Engineer (coll of linked stories 1999), in which various human explorers experience intimately a universe exceedingly prolific of life in every shape; this universe serves as the background for the Human Polity sequence set in a galaxy-wide imperium governed by AIs, which includes many further novels as well as The Engineer and Runcible Tales: Tales of the Far, Far Distant Future, So Convincingly Told, The Reader Will Wonder Why It Isn't Happening Now (coll 1999 chap) – a "runcible" being an interstellar Matter Transmission device which Asher uses throughout to make his farflung universe easily storyable – includes a similar set of stories.

Gridlinked (2001), his first full-length novel, plunges exuberantly into this baroque Human Polity Space Opera arena; action heroes, an Android up to no good, a Time Abyss Alien named Dragon, dozens of interacting emperia sprayed prolifically across the galaxy, and a continuous sense that the universe is fecund (see Biology), characterize this title and, mutatis mutandis, characterize Asher's mature work in general. The planet Spatterjay in The Skinner (2002), for instance, features a quite extraordinarily venomous parasite carrying a virus that confers Immortality (with certain drawbacks), space pirates whose leader has evaded justice for centuries and long spasms of violence; The Voyage of the Sable Keech (2006) is also set on Spatterjay and its direct sequel Orbus (2009) moves the action from this planet into space. Other volumes in the continuing Agent Cormac subsequence that began with GridlinkedThe Line of Polity (2003), Brass Man (2005), Polity Agent (2006) and more [see Checklist] – stir the mix adroitly. A later series, the Owner sequence beginning with The Departure: An Owner Novel (2011), is set initially in a Dystopian Earth, where a Posthuman Superman is being moulded to protect threatened humanity; he soon takes over a massive Space Station where an Faster-Than-Light device has been invented (see Invention), and returns eventually to wreak prophylactic havoc upon the home planet. By the time Jack Four (2021) appeared, the overall Human Polity universe had become sufficiently crowded to need the detailed glossary provided; the venomous Forerunner civilization known as the Jain is here further explored. Cowl (2004) is a rare standalone novel displaying similar baroque exuberance.

In the complicated nest of associations and influences that marks twenty-first-century Space Opera, Asher's work clearly acknowledges the influence of Iain M Banks's Culture sequence, as well as the more intricately Cosmological work of Dan Simmons; but has a velocity all its own. [JC/DRL]

see also: Ansible; Money; Poisons.

Neal Lewis Asher

born Billericay, Essex: 4 February 1961



Human Polity

Human Polity: Agent Cormac

  • Gridlinked (London: Macmillan, 2001) [Human Polity: Agent Cormac: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • The Line of Polity (London: Macmillan, 2003) [Human Polity: Agent Cormac: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • Brass Man (London: Macmillan, 2005) [Human Polity: Agent Cormac: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • Polity Agent (London: Tor, 2006) [Human Polity: Agent Cormac: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • Line War (London: Tor, 2008) [Human Polity: Agent Cormac: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • Shadow of the Scorpion (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2008) [Human Polity: Agent Cormac: hb/Bob Eggleton]

Human Polity: Spatterjay

  • The Skinner (London: Macmillan, 2002) [Human Polity: Spatterjay: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • The Voyage of the Sable Keech (London: Tor, 2006) [Human Polity: Spatterjay: hb/Steve Rawlings]
  • Orbus (London: Tor, 2009) [Human Polity: Spatterjay: hb/Steve Rawlings]

Human Polity: Rise of the Jain



individual titles

collections and stories

  • Mason's Rats (Preston, Lancashire: Kimota Publishing, 1999) [coll of linked stories: chap: pb/Jamie Egerton]
  • The Engineer (Leicester, Leicestershire: Tanjen, 1999) [coll: contains three Owner tales: pb/]
    • The Engineer Reconditioned (Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press/Cosmos Books, 2006) [exp vt of the above: hb/Ian Field-Richards]
      • The Engineer Reconditioned (Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press/Cosmos Books, 2008) [cut version of the above: hb/Ian Field-Richards]
  • Africa Zero (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2001) [coll: two novellas: "Africa Zero", 1994-1995 in Threads, and "The Army of God and the Sauraman": pb/]
  • The Gabble and Other Stories (London: Tor Macmillan, 2011) [coll: hb/Steve Rawlings]


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