Book Review – The Departure by Neal Asher

The DepartureThe Departure by Neal Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Saul wakes to find himself in a crate on the conveyor belt heading to the Calais incinerator for disposal. He doesn’t fully know who he is, or how he ended up on there, but there’s some sort of AI, Janus, in his mind, along with fragments of memory, the recollection of his torture and the name and face of his torturer.

Earth is a dystopia, the corrupt Committee oppressively controls the population through invasive surveillance, resource control, ID implants and automated ID scanning gun toting robots. With significant over population, the Committee plan to eliminate twelve billion of the “useless”, in order to stabilise the planet. Saul would rather destroy the planet than let the Committee have their way, but first he has to find and terminate his torturer.

The first in a new series from Asher, comes this near-future dystopia of beta AI implants being waged in a rather gruesome battle between an oppressive regime and a psychotic vengeful genius.

I found the book rather slow to get into at first (and so grim!), but it rapidly picked up the pace and had me hooked. This is a very different book to those in the Polity series, dark and gritty with the high levels of violence and waste that occurs when power corrupts humans and they battle each other to enforce their point of view.

The characters are a little difficult to empathise with, either the villains or our psychotic protagonist, so this may not be your kind of book. I was carried along by the plot and the frighteningly realistic portrayal of a world where a small oligarchy control all the resources and technology, with no care for the mass of humanity. It’s not difficult to imagine an America where gated communities are patrolled by armed robots, and any infraction is responded to with lethal force. This book is the story of that world writ large, and a big warning which will likely remain unheeded by those who could act against it, whilst acting as a blueprint to those in power. Frightening times…


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