Tired of the same old worn-out time-traveling clichťs?
Looking for some over-the-top, hyperviolent action?
Seeking darker Sci-fi?
Like the grimmer side of fiction?
If your answer to all these questions is a resounding yes, then Neal Asherís (Africa Zero, The Skinner, Gridlinked, The Line of Polity) latest novel Cowl will be right up your alley. Itís the story of Polly, a drug-addled prostitute who lost her virginity at the not-so-tender age of eleven, and Tack, a government-trained (and programmed through the surgically installed interface plug at the base of his skull - oh yeah, he was cloned, too) assassin who are stuck in a war between super-enhanced humans from the future, the Heliothane and Umbrathane.
The kicker in all this is, of course, Cowl, a more advanced being that is the leader of Umbrathane. Cowl -- who is on a mission to destroy -- has let loose his huge, menacing torbeast, and the Heliothane send an agent to reprogram Tack, giving him more free will. Eventually, Tack and Pollyís paths cross in hopes for Cowlís demise.
Cowl is, if nothing else, a sprawling time-travel epic. The characters are developed enough, but there isnít much in the way of sympathy for anyone in the book. But thatís the point, I think: itís supposed to be a harsh world inhabited with vicious characters - a theme Neal Asher continues on from his previous work, which is to say that Cowl is an even harsher world with a bleaker future. With that said, the overall dark feel to the book will appeal to the fans of the genre, but the style of writing leaves kind of a stale taste in my mouth; you know what they say Ė one manís junk is another manís treasure.
Overall, this is a fast paced sci-fi adventure with good battle scenes and great imagination.