Neal Asher's style?


Well-Known Member
Apr 9, 2013
I have a copy of Gridlinked and Cowl, both of which I have not read yet. I`m just wondering what to expect, and what you guys like and/or dislike about these books, and his style in general.

I know Neal Asher is often compared to and put into the same group as guys like Ian M. Banks. Actually, Banks is the one i see most as a comparison to him. I'v read 3 Banks novels: Phlebas, Player of Games, and Excession. I like Banks, but i have a few criticisms; his writing drags at times, with too much description/expositon. This feels overwritten. And his dialogue can often be pretty bland.

The impression I get from the covers and the few excerpts I'v read is that there's more action and has a writing style that's more sparse then Banks. How similar is Neal Asher to Banks?

I'v also seen him compared to AE Van Vogt, an author I'm a fan of. And I'm a giant fan of Philip K. Dick, who is similar to Van Vogt. One thing i love about PKD and Van Vogt are their amazing and unique ideas. In what way is Asher like these 3 authors?
Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Richard Morgan, Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher.

Almost certainly not an 'official' grouping, but I tend to put them all on a similar level.

I've gone through most of I.M.B.'s, missing only 'Feersum Endjinn' due to parts of it being written in a particularly annoying way, all of A.R.'s up to 'The Prefect', R.M.'s up to 'Black Man' ('Thirteen' in the US), and all of P.F.H.'s up to the 'Void' trilogy. Its all grown-up, serious SF escapism, and Neal Asher's output seems to fit in alongside, from what I've so far consumed.

I think his style most closely resembles Banks's from that group, though Mr Banks could occasionally slip into Stephen Donaldson mode and get a bit flowery and over-descriptive.

But the only way to really know is the basic 'suck it and see' method. Only you can decide whether you like it or not.

I know this is an old post of mine, but I felt I needed to add to it.

I'm finally in the middle of Gridlinked and really like it. But I find his writing style to be nothing like Banks'. Banks indeed would get too flowery and over descriptive with his prose. Asher is more sparse in comparison to Banks. And that's probably why I'm enjoying it a lot more than the Banks novels I've read.
I did say Banks was the nearest to Asher from that group, and that Banks differed in his propensity for decorative padding. I think Asher's product is a bit more 'personally' violent, as opposed to the 'impersonal' violence of a 'planet-buster'. More in your face than in your space.

I find Asher to be more pulpy than Banks. That's no bad thing. Asher is fairly direct and action oriented. Banks tended to be more introspective and angsty. I must admit there are times when I wanted Banks' characters to just get on with it already. I enjoy both immensely, but each for different reasons.
I think one of the other reasons they Banks and Asher are often considered similar is that both tend to write on very big canvases and both write most of their work in one universe - Culture for Banks and Polity for Asher (more recently he has started his new Owner universe which is a slightly smaller canvas). For both authors their individual books are pretty much stand alone, however Banks' are more so whilst Asher's, though still stand alone, are slightly more linked with several story arcs linking different series; Cormac, Spatterjay, Polity, Transformation. Note though that Cowl is Ashers only book that sits completely on its own and is very different to the rest (personally I wasn't so keen on that one).

By the way if you dig around on this thread a little you should find a Polity timeline posted here by Asher himself and I'd recommend following that for your reading if you enjoy Gridlinked.
Well, there are a lot of mini-series and trilogies set within the polity, something Banks didn't do.

Above I said I liked Gridlinked. But when I finished it I found it to be kind of disappointed. Although I prefer his prose style over Banks' and authors similar to Banks, the plot itself never went anywhere I found really interesting. I really liked the big dragon alien (forget its name) and a few other ideas. And maybe that's what he was going for: a straight forward futuristic actioner. That's fine. But I was hoping it would go to another level, the NEXT level. But it's a matter of personal taste of course. Ill probably try out another of his sometime.
Dragon is the alien's name. And he/it is much further developed in the Cormac books that follow on from Gridlinked - The Line of Polity, Brass Man (brilliant), Polity Agent and The Line War. The Dragon story arc links all 5 of these books.

There are actually one or two of the Culture books that are linked but certainly, as I said in my post, Asher's polity books do link up more, though I still wouldn't say they are mini series but rather that they do have story arcs that link them.

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