The Departure

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 16, 2013

The Departure by Neal Asher

Eight people attended this discussion, and another submitted comments by email. Our topic was Neal Asher’s The Departure, a story set in a dystopic future Earth. Only one person present had read the author before. All of us started the book, but only four finished. Five of us read the novel electronically.

A couple of us had trouble getting into the book. One person complained that the huge amount of infodump in the first chapter kept putting him to sleep. Another complained of “odd diction” and “clunky sentences”, and said that he was “tempted to throw the book across the room, but it was an e-book”.

Those who got a bit further into the book enjoyed it more. One reader called it “a fun romp with a well-developed social setup”.

Many in the group remarked on the high level of violence in the book. Comments included “this author likes blowing things up” and  “this is almost an anime level of violence.”

The protagonist is a superhuman cyborg. We found it hard to relate to the character or root for him.

There were several criticisms of the author’s world-building. The technology professionals in our group found much of the scientific extrapolation to be implausible. One even said that the “the technology is more like fantasy.” Another said that “this is a cockeyed future where fusion reactors coexist with starving people.” A couple of readers simply could not see how any series of political and economic events could turn our world  into the situation portrayed here.

The story emerged as a vehicle to showcase the author’s right-wing political views.  The horrible world of this book is what the author imagines would happen if people who disagree with him ran the world.  Our members’ feelings about this aspect were divided largely along their personal political affiliations.

Overall we did not find this to be a strong novel. There were too many problems with the writing and world-building. Even those of us who agreed with the author’s politics found the writing too weak to recommend the book. But we did have a nice discussion.

After the meeting, many of us got together for a nice dinner at P. Terry’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III