The Skinner

Neal Asher

Tor Books

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 her how to live; and Sable Keech, on a vendetta he cannot abandon, though he himself has been dead for 700 years. This remote world is mostly ocean, and it is a rare visitor who ventures beyond the safety of the island Dome. Outside it, only the native Hoopers dare risk the voracious appetites of the planet's wildlife. But somewhere out there is Spatterjay Hoop -- and Keech will not rest until he brings this legendary renegade to justice for hideous crimes committed centuries ago during the Prador Wars.

While Keech is discovering that Hoop is now a monster -- his body and head living apart from each other -- Janer is bewildered by a place where the native inhabitants just will not die and angry when he finally learns the Hive mind's intentions for him. Meanwhile, Erlin thinks she has plenty of time to find the answers she seeks, but could not be more wrong. For one of the most brutal of the alien Prador is about to pay the planet a surreptitious visit, intent on exterminating all remaining witnesses to his wartime atrocities. As the visitors' paths converge, major hell is about to erupt in a chaotic waterscape where minor hell is already a remorseless fact of everyday life . . . and death.

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Read an Excerpt

1In any living sea on any world there are always creatures whose fate is integral to the gastronomic delight of other ... creatures. Boxies might more correctly be described as lunchboxes, such was the purpose they served in the sea--and they knew it. Feeding upon occasional shoals of vicious plankton--which would make the experience of swimming for a human akin to bathing in ground glass--and the dispersing remains of those many other creatures which, at some point, always served as an entrée, the boxies swam at high speed and with a kind of nervous determination. Only by


Praise for The Skinner

"Dune meets Master and Commander . . . This sprawling tale boasts baddies who deserve their torturous fate and heroes who merit further evolution."-Entertainment Weekly

"Every age gets the science fiction it deserves. Neal Asher's grimly assured novel The Skinner projects the terror-haunted sensibility of our time into a future of limitless brutality. . . . Asher displays great virtuosity in dramatizing Spatterjay's eat-and-be-eaten ecosystem . . .
Asher keeps raising the stakes so that despite the repetitive nature of the violence, it never becomes merely formulaic. You may not relish your stay on Spatterjay. But you won't easily forget it." -The New York Times Book Review

"A rousing space opera . . . Asher will definitely appeal to connoisseurs of sophisticated adventure-oriented SF."-Publishers Weekly

"[A] riotous far-future SF yarn . . . The whole impressive, ingenious enterprise hurtles along at a high-octane clip while swinging with nonchalant abandon between horror and comedy: call it black slapstick. In sum: a blast."-Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review]

"Moby Dick meets Philip K. Dick . . . [A] summary does not begin to do justice to the sheer twisty exuberance and witty inventiveness of Asher's plot. . . . it is easy to believe that no lesson in the art of writing vivid and entertaining science fiction as practiced by [the] masters was lost on him.

"This book has got it all. Cute but vicious creatures that seem to have been devised through some unholy combination of exposure to Walt Disney-style animation and bad acid. Wisecracking AIs that use their advanced intellects to scheme against each other and pursue the main chance. Scary and believable aliens. The clash of complex cultures. World-building with a vengeance-literally. And a contagious sense of fun.

"As if that weren't enough, Asher's characters, alien and human, are drawn with care and depth. Even minor characters . . . are distinctive and engaging, with fully developed personalities. Thanks to Asher's prowess with character, The Skinner, for all its violence, good humor and zestful creativity, is also a poignant, emotionally satisfying read. This is only Asher's second novel, but it serves notice that a talent of the first order has arrived."-SF Weekly

"This is a stunning piece of work. . . . The Skinner is a hugely engrossing read and simply a fantastic piece of entertainment that deserves serious consideration for the Arthur C. Clarke award. I strongly recommend it."-SFRevu.com

"Crammed full of inventive technology, organic and artificial intelligence, horrible monsters, and a thick mesh of storylines . . . extremely hard to put down."--SFX

"If anyone still imagines that likening an SF author's work to action-thriller-horror genres means that it can't really be SF, or that it can't be good SF, then they need to pick up one or both of Asher's novels. Gridlinked and The Skinner demonstrate that zombies, mutants, killer leeches, spies and assassins can all be placed within detailed, scientifically, underpinned and extrapolated worlds, with the strengths of SF literature being used to resurrect dead clichés of popular narrative."-Interzone

"An exhilarating tour through one of the most ingeniously, elaborately deadly worlds since Harry Harrison invented Deathworld in the 1960s."-Locus

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Neal Asher

  • Neal Asher lives in Chelmsord, Essex, UK.. This is his second novel.
  • Neal Asher





    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Skinner

    Neal Asher



    Tor Books