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The Skinner (Spatterjay #1)

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  3,331 ratings  ·  155 reviews
Neal Asher, whom Tor introduced to the American audience with Gridlinked, takes us deeper into his unique universe with an even more remarkable second novel, The Skinner.

On the planet Spatterjay arrive three travelers: Janer, acting as the eyes of the hornet Hive mind, on a mission not yet revealed to him; Erlin, searching for Ambel -- the ancient sea captain who can teach
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Tor Science Fiction (first published January 1st 2002)
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Ready Player One by Ernest ClineThe Martian by Andy WeirOld Man's War by John ScalziThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsAnathem by Neal Stephenson
Best Science Fiction of the 21st Century
77th out of 438 books — 4,545 voters
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16th out of 35 books — 61 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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A 700 year old ECS agent who happens to be a resurrected corpse
A “perpetual” tourist working for the Hornet Hive Mind
A Planet so dangerous that it can give wedgies to Harry Harrison’s Deathworld
A virus that grants virtual immortality and indestructibility
A centuries old AI war drone with an attitude and “authority” issues
An ancient enemy of humanity looking to start smack and raise a ruckus…
A psychotic, sadistic bitcharoony with a serious case of the crankies.
Oh…and...THE SKINNER!!

4.5 Stars

The Skinner by Neal Asher is one hell of an awesome creature feature meshed in a hard science fiction world.

“The Skinner was complete again and Janer had never before witnessed such a terrible sight. For here was a real monster: a blue man four metres tall and impossibly thin, hands like spiders, a head combining elements of warthog and baboon with much of a human skull, evil black eyes and ears that were bat wings, spatulate legs depending underneath the long jaw like feelers and, when
Mark Lawrence
I really enjoyed this book. I don't read a lot of sci-fi but I thought this was a very good read. For me this wasn't so much a book about characters as it was about the things they do and the world they inhabit. Fortunately the world/s they occupy are full of fascination of both the biological and technological varieties and there's a complex and fast moving plot. So whilst I didn't feel a great emotional investment in any of the characters, I was very interested in reading what happened to them ...more
Every time I pick up a book by an author I have never read before I always hope to find a “new favorite”, most of the time this does not happen. I mean what are the odds? If I find a “new favourite” author every month I would not be a very discerning reader. The best I can realistically hope for is to discover a new author whose back catalogue I am keen to investigate. Still, occasionally I strike gold, I think I just did.

There are zillions of genre authors vying for my attention when I browse
Dirk Grobbelaar
I don't know where to start. This book was bloody marvelous. It is dark, violent and entertaining. It is complicated and satisfying. It weaves many, many threads that culminate in splendid conclusions. The huge cast of characters, from the 700-years dead Sable Keech right through to the spunky submind/drone called Sniper, are all awesome. If you are interested in reading a book about killer fish, killer aliens, killer hornets, killer decapitated heads, killer AIs, killer crustaceans and all othe ...more

The word for world is ... Ocean (apologies to Ursula Leguin). This is Spatterjay, a waterworld populated by decidedly hostile fauna, backdrop for a richly imagined multi-threaded story that rivals the best SF books of the 2000s. Quite a tour-de-force worthy of multiple re-reads, and deserving of the lofty 4+ rating on Goodreads.

Here we meet Sable Keech, the most interesting of a long list of characters, a reification (resuscitated dead person), following the centuries old trail of a criminal. An

I tended to consider Neal Asher as "ersatz Iain M. Banks". Good enough to give me a dose of Space Opera adventure with some brains, while waiting for a new Banks book that usually made me think harder.

This is the book that changed that view. The Skinner follows many of the Space Opera conventions, including big adventure, big guns and bigger than life characters. Much bigger than life in this novel, as coping with inmortality, and boredom, and past mistakes and crimes, is one of the common threa
I really thought I was going to enjoy this book. It is full of so many ideas: virus's that give the victim immortality, massive pirates with muscles so big they have to be careful they don't accidentally rip other people apart, weird aliens, bodies resurrected with the use of AI software, hive minds and sentient computers. I just didn't like it. I am sorry to say I read just over 100 pages then just couldn't take any more. I kept reading page after page thinking it was going to get better but it ...more
I was so excited about this book. Sailors! Viruses! Sea creatures! Oh my... A Caroline bonanza book. And for the first few chapters, it totally delivers. Wacky characters strengthened by viruses sail across salty, windy seas with alien creatures trying to take chunks out of them. Sea creatures wriggle and writhe and swim their way through in the oddest of ways. It's wonderful.

And then I seriously think someone took Asher aside and shook him by the shoulders, yelling at him, "Get down to business
Harold Ogle
This is a great post-nanotech thriller/adventure SF story. Say that five times fast.

It's also the first Asher I've read, and I find his writing broadly similar to both Alastair Reynolds and Iain M. Banks in the setting and even type of story being told. That said, it's definitely distinct from either of those, most notably through the heavy reliance on nanotechnology and the different approach to Artificial Intelligences (the ones here are more similar to Banks' Culture drones, but they're much
4.5 stars

Spatterjay is a water world with extremely hostile fauna and was once a site of a terrible war crime - a group of criminals exploited the local virus that turns humans into hooders, making them nearly indestructible. Then they sold them to the alien Prador to become the slaves - blanks with their minds destroyed - or food. For seven hundred years, a Polity cop turned into a reification - basically resurrected corpse - had been hunting them throughout the universe. He, an adventurer work
This is the forth Polity novel I've read and I think...I think I love this universe almost as much as Banks' Culture. (I never thought I'd say this.) The Skinner takes place on Hooper (aka Spatterjay), a planet not entirely under polity control and infested with the most aggressive fauna I've ever come across. Not surprising, then, that it's the fauna (and the virus it transmits, making humans near-immortal and virtually indestructable) that is the basis for the entire plot: a dead guy, a biolog ...more
Although I have enjoyed all the previous books on The Polity(I am reading the books by the order they were published) up to now this is my favourite one.

In this sea world planet we have a virus that grants amazing strength and regeneration capabilities(virtual immortality) to every being that comes to be infected with it via a leech bite - the world is packed full with them leeches! Beware that the virus can have a very adverse effect on humans if they don't take certain precautions - it is sai
On Spatterjay it's eat or be eaten. Everything is on something else's menu, no exceptions. The leeches that infest the ocean and the land carry a virus that repairs injury and prolongs life - nothing like an endless supply of food for these leeches.

Three humans have come to Spatterjay, each with their own agenda...Sable Keech, a Polity monitor dead for over 700 years but still seeking the last of the eight people he swore to bring to justice for crimes against humanity during the Prador war; Erl
Ole Imsen
This is one of those SFF novels that can be hard to define into a sub-genre. There's no doubt that it is Science Fiction, but much of the story is set in an environment that is much more typical of Fantasy. Ships sailing on an ocean is usually something that you find in Fantasy, or perhaps more often in Historical Fiction. Added to that there is also an element of Horror here. Not only in the titular character, but in many of the indigenous creatures of Spatterjay.
So the question then is if th
What do you get if you whizz together the Boys Big Book of Science Words, a comic book about Pirates and Monsters, and some of those pre-war action-adventure stories which are now just politically offensive? A Neal Asher novel, that's what. Set in the now standard space opera trope of a galaxy-spanning civilisation ripped off from Banks, linked by what LeGuin called an ansible but he inexplicably calls a runcible, this particular yarn is much like all his others. Cartoon villains dedicated to in ...more
For approx. the first 50 pages of this book I was hella confused. Like "Who the f are Hoopers?" "Should I already know who any of these people are?" "What the??". Basically it was a bunch of confusion for me, muddling through large dumps of info that didn't feel connected to anything yet. Didn't expect such confusion as I've been pretty hardcore reading me some Asher over the last few months!

Once I got past the forest of confusion I did start to get into the story. It was a bit more swashbucklin
Book Review: The Skinner by Neal Asher

Published in 2002 by TOR Books

Cover Illustration by Jim Burns

Artwork located via

It was not until half way through the novel, which clocks in at 424 pages in the edition owned, that the name of the planet Spatterjay was read correctly. It kept looking to be Splatterjay up until that point. In the context of the novel, either could work superbly. Spatterjay evokes a more artistic element, which as the book progresses is slightly more disturbing, and
By far the best book that I have read this year! Seriously...Neal Asher has a penchant for world-building that puts most writers (myself included) to shame. The characters are fantastical and multi-faceted and I had more than a few favorites, but the world of Spatterjay in Asher's 'Polity' universe takes precedence in everything both macro and micro. The story, if such a loose term could be used, is about a crime that needs to be avenged. It revoles around the epic seas of Spatterjay, the Spatte ...more
I generally "blind trial" a handful of new authors each year, and in this case bought the Kindle edition because it was offered at a discount.

The first thirty pages seemed to offer little in the way of innovation, and Asher's writing style seemed pedestrian, but the more I read the more his style seemed to suit his subject.

This is not thoughtful sf but it IS kinetic, visceral and thrilling. The world on which this story takes place is a brutal and hostile environment, and Asher does a first rate
Luke Burrage
Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #206.

Reading updates from

09/22 marked as: currently-reading
25.0% "Going okay. It feels like the middle of a story."
35.0% "Chugging along. I can't wait for the story and action to really kick in. Fun character, though it feels like I'm missing a lot of their backstories and what makes them so cool."
50.0% "Okay, the story has really kicked in. It's a pity I was advised to start reading Neal Asher here though, as I have a
Okay, so I kinda liked this book. It was my first real sci-fi novel and I enjoyed it. But it was far from perfect.
Throughout the whole book I felt that it could've been shorter. Plus the enormous amount of characters didn't help one bit. It was hard to get attached to anyone or to even imagine what they looked like.
I will say, though, that I liked Sniper a lot and I hope to see him again. He was quite funny and rather sarcastic, which I appreciate a lot. A lot.
I didn't care much for the
Wow, what a world and what a cast!

As fast paced, techno-military sci fi goes, this is one of the most satisfying I have read in a very long time.

Looking forward to seeing how the others in this series play out.

P.S. Don't swat any hornets...
Ben Hatfield
About as much fun as a book can be. Reminds me a lot of top shelf Jack Vance. Science fiction universe on a rugged planet. A great mix of technology and a brutal alien world full of dangerous fauna. There's a lot to this book, but any analysis gets into spoiler territory. I will say that the characters grapple with great longevity; life spans extended by nature of planet on which they live. All of the AI characters (drones, robots, and planet overseer) are portrayed strikingly like the biologica ...more
I am ambivalent about this, so bare with me:

Neal Asher is a great visionary, maybe an acceptable writer, certainly not a poet: the joy in reading Asher is in the worldbuilding, strange ecologies and technological visions.
where it isn't that great, can get outright painful in fact, is in the writing itself: characters are flat and we are not sure we should or want to care for them, plot is secondary, often convoluted, language is at least tedious, at worst grammatically incorrect. Also, Mr Asher
Tak Stahovače jsem přečetl na doporučení Good reads a musím říct že tak drsnou psychedelickou jízdu jsem naposledy zažil u Vurtu Jeffa Noona. Jedná se o náhled na budoucnost galaktické civilizace, konkrétně na jednu planetu Spatterjay, kde velmi podivní virus zajišťuje lidem zdánlivou nesmrtelnost. Kniha obsahuje velmi rozdílné hlavní postavy – služebníka úlu, vzkříšenou mrtvolu, planetární UI nebo například tisíce let staré kapitány. I když je hlavních i vedlejších postav přehršel jsou všechny ...more
Peter Bugaj
"The Skinner" is written in the form of an interesting adventure where a group of humans, mutated and strengthened by a virus, end up chasing an ancient villain called the Skinner. Through out this adventure, great detail is given about the environment of this world, and the brutal hell that is already taking place on it. For this I would rate the book five stars alone, as its a great inspiration to write very creatively. At times I wonder if the author, after finishing the book, purposely when ...more
Anthony Wilson
A great read with a superbly imagined setting and good pacing.

I am a bit of a sucker for books featuring thought-provoking alien ecologies, and this certainly qualifies. Spatterjay is a planet in flux; its entire ecology is still adapting to the appearance, millions of years ago, of a virus which essentially makes everything on the planet (including people) immortal and able to regenerate from severe injury. To drive home the implications of this the book contains a lot of casual violence, which
What a fantastic creative mind must be behind such a world a Spatterjay.
(view spoiler) ...more
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Where to go from here? 4 21 Mar 25, 2014 07:10PM  
Sable Keech is a great character... (Spoiler) 1 17 Oct 24, 2010 07:53PM  
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I’ve been an engineer, barman, skip lorry driver, coalman, boat window manufacturer, contract grass cutter and builder. Now I write science fiction books, and am slowly getting over the feeling that someone is going to find me out, and can call myself a writer without wincing and ducking my head. As professions go, I prefer this one: I don’t have to clock-in, change my clothes after work, nor scru ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Spatterjay (3 books)
  • The Voyage of the Sable Keech (Spatterjay, #2)
  • Orbus (Spatterjay, #3)

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“Satisfaction, for us, is only a brief thing. The man who acquires wealth does not reach a point where he has enough. Success for us is more like acceleration than speed. Interest cannot be maintained at a constant level.” 7 likes
“Satisfaction, for us, is only a brief thing. The man who acquires wealth does not reach a point where he has enough. Success for us is more like acceleration than speed. Interest cannot be maintained at a constant level.’ Let it wrap its antennae round that one, Janer thought. But the mind was quick with a reply. ‘You cannot stop, then?’ said the mind. ‘No,’ said Janer. ‘Except to die.” 0 likes
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