Review | Zero Point by Neal Asher (Tor)


Title: Zero Point
Author: Neal Asher
Publisher: Tor UK
Format: Hardback
Release Date: September 2012

Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
MANKIND STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM

Earth’s Zero Asset citizens no longer face extermination. Thanks to Alan Saul, the Committee’s despotic network is in ruins and its robotic enforcers lie dormant. But the ruthless Serene Galahad sees an opportunity to grab power.

On Mars, Var Delex fights for Antares Base’s survival, while the Argus Space Station hurtles towards the red planet. And Var knows whomever, or whatever, trashed Earth is still aboard. She must not only save the base, but deal with the first signs of rebellion.

And aboard Argus Station, Alan Saul’s mind has expanded into the local computer network. In the process, he uncovers the ghastly experiments of the Humanoid Unit Development, the possibility of eternal life, and a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight. But Earth’s agents are closer than Saul thinks, and the killing will soon begin.

Zero Point is the second Owner novel from Neal Asher, following on from The Departure. While I enjoyed the opening novel in the Owner series, The Departure didn't work quite as much as I would have hoped - it was more a novel of setting things up, establishing the setting, and moving pawns in to place. My closing sentence in my review of The Departure was:

"Now the setting up is done I expect much more from the sequel, Zero Point, and I won't be as forgiving if it doesn't meet the expectations I have."

So, the only question that really matters is whether it met those expectations, or did it fall flat in the attempt? Fortunately Zero Point built on the foundation laid out in the series opener, adding plenty to the story that kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Zero Point picks up events immediately following the ending of The Departure. Alan Saul, the Owner, has captured Argus Station and controls it in its entirety, has wiped out a large proportion of the Committee's ruling Delegates on Earth, and is now looking ahead as Argus travels towards Mars. Var Delex is now in charge at the Antares Base on Mars, trying to use everything at her disposal to ensure the long term survival of the base, though not everyone agrees with her views. Earth is in the throws of change with Serene Galahad taking control of the Committee, setting her targets on a reduced population that cannot bode well for the zero assets. And when she discovers what the Owner is up to on Argus Station her focus to eliminate him only increases...

Following on from an action packed finale to The Departure, Zero Point doesn't wait around to get its breath, instead jumping straight into the meat of the story. We see the Owner investigate Argus Station further, digging up some very interesting hidden research that Messina, former head of the Committee, was working on. The research ranges from android/cyborg experimentation through to zero point energy of the title. It's a very interesting and enjoyable read while this is ongoing, with some rather intriguing possibilities from this research.

Zero Point carries the story along at a good pace early on, with the above mentioned happenings on the Argus Station making for the most engrossing. The Mars colony is another important aspect of the story, one that moves along at a slower pace, but always relevant and adding to the whole. As for Serene Galahad and her movements on Earth - that's on another level again. Seeing someone rise from the ashes of the Committee to assert control and begin a ruthless and focused re-build of the planet raises many questions in itself over the outcome, but it's an aspect of the story that I wouldn't have missed a second of.

I had one minor issue with Zero Point, and it was more one of pacing than anything else. A short way into the story an event happens that puts the brakes on the momentum that had been built up, essentially putting many of the most interesting aspects on hold for a good portion of the novel. It does allow other aspects to come to the fore and Asher adds more depth to the story, but it changes the pacing of the book and slowing down the events.

On the plus side, Zero Point is a thoroughly enjoyable novel with some very interesting ideas. Asher doesn't fail in making this second volume of the Owner trilogy a step up from The Departure, adding in plenty to keep the pages turning. For those familiar with his Owner short stories there are some nice treats in store, and for those that haven't.... well, what are you waiting for? In short, Zero Point is well worth reading, and I will be very much looking forward to Jupiter War!

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