I just bought and read Neal Asher’s new novella THE BOSCH. This is a very gripping and entrancing story, and at 2€76 (e-book) for 59 pages it is well worth the purchase.
In discussing science fiction stories about vastly superior alien intelligences or about far future civilisations it is customary to cite Clarke’s Third Law:
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
This law applies to the enunciative content of a story, and signals a tendency towards the convergence of SF and Fantasy. One often forgets to state the corollary of this “law” at the level of enunciation:
Any story about a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from myth, legend, fairy tale, or dream narrative.
THE BOSCH takes place in a far future, “post-Polity”, i.e. in the same universe as Asher’s Polity cycle, but long after the Polity itself has been and gone. It takes place on a planet with at least two moons, a Red Moon and a Green Moon. So not on Earth as we know it.
The two moons Green and Red may symbolise two aspects of the Goddess of this planet, a “Nature” Goddess that corresponds to Gaia for Earth. Her name is “Yoon”. This is the first word of the novella: “Yoon swims towards the lake of the Progenitors”.
(Note on pronunciation: “Yoon” rhymes with “Moon”, but given the prominence of bio-technology, one could also pronounce “Yo-on”, to rhyme with the Greek “zo-on”).
Yoon, a seemingly beautiful young woman, then surfaces from the “pellucid waters” she is swimming in, onto a beautiful beach and all around is pristine and beautiful. However very rapidly this innocence (Green) is violated by a gang of of five outworlders, and an inexorable, implacable quest for vengeance ensues (Red).
These transgressors have violated a Goddess consubstantial with the planet itself, as we soon learn, but as we should have realised from from the realised first paragraph: “She encompasses the world and it lies within her”.
Yoon goes from mode Green to mode Red, and conjures up (i.e. biotechnically engineers) some very creepy monsters, called the “Bosch” as they resemble characters straight from a Hieronymous Bosch painting, and “Retribution” is sought.
The Goddess is a scientific wonder but also an artistic masterpiece, and her retribution will be a scientific lesson in poetic justice, and also in diplomatic relations – for she is also the Sovereign political agent of the planet.
The plot plays out like a Greek myth embedded in a Tragedy embedded in a Lovecraftian horror embedded in a noir detective story embedded in a planetary opera embedded in a nightmare. On her quest for retribution Yoon is more like a Terminator than the naive Venus of the opening paragraphs.
The novella’s story is one of beauty, sex, love, and violence (in fact mostly violence), and the sense of wonder that far future world-building provides, when done well. It is full of ideas, embedded in striking images and teaseful twists.
The waves of invention (Asher’s own Green) maintain the same frenetic cadence as the gusts of violence (Asher’s Red). Catharsis ensues.
Neal Asher’s Blog: https://www.nealasher.co.uk/
Page devoted to THE BOSCH: https://www.nealasher.co.uk/book/the-bosch/