Woodge's Reviews > The Skinner

The Skinner by Neal Asher
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's review
Apr 08, 08

bookshelves: sf, fantasy, recommended, to-re-read, favorites
Recommended to Woodge by: NYT book review
Recommended for: looking for rollicking adventure
Read in May, 2005

Never a dull moment in this wicked fun tale. The story is sort of mix of Dune, Moby Dick, Star Wars, and The Thing. The action takes place on the dangerous planet of Spatterjay. With the exception of a few islands and tiny atolls, Spatterjay is mostly a vast ocean teeming with very hungry, very aggressive wildlife. One of the most common life forms on Spatterjay are the leeches. The leeches are anywhere from finger-sized to elephant-sized things who want to eat anything and everything. If you spend longer than a few seconds in the water you're going to have some chomping on you. (Spatterjay doesn't do well as a vacation destination.) To get bitten by a leech is to become infected with a virus. One of the side-effects of this virus is near immortality. And wounds seems to heal extremely quickly. But if you're then not too careful about your diet you'll find yourself slowly turning into a leech. It's happened. These immortals, known as Hoopers, are very tough to kill and the older they are, the stronger they are. Spatterjay was named after a pirate named "Spatter" Jay Hoop, a man hated by everyone for reasons I won't go into. About seven centuries ago, Hoop and his crew did some very bad things and one man, Sable Keech has been relentlessly hunting them down ever since one of Hoop's crew killed him. Huh, what? Yeah, Keech is a corpse, a reification who has some of his original brain left and one eye and the rest of his body is kept from rotting away by a special filtration system. He's sort of a cyborg-corpse and very dangerous (as some contract killers find out). Keech is intent on finding Hoop himself who is known as the Skinner for gruesome reasons you could probably guess at. And get this, the Skinner's head and body are living apart. I could go on and on about this cool book. Some other elements in it involve some nasty aliens, war drones, a planetary AI monitoring system, an intelligent hornet hive mind, dragons that work as sails for the Old Captains of Spatterjay, and some very tricky characters and nasty villains whose paths all intersect in one crazy, exciting sci-fi yarn, that's equal parts adventure, revenge tale, and horror story. What a rush. I loved it.

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