Cowl, Paperback
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


In the far future, the Heliothane Dominion is triumphant in the solar system, after a bitter war with their Umbrathane progenitors.

But some of the enemy have escaped into the past, intent on wreaking havoc across time.

The worst of these is Cowl, an artificially forced advance in human evolution but one who is no longer human.

Polly, desperate to obtain funds to support her habits, is unprepared for her involvement with Nandru Jurgens, a Taskforce soldier, and the killers pursuing him.

Nor can she resist the alien 'tor' which she feels impelled to attach to her arm.

But she must learn fast, as she is dragged back through time, not least that to the denizens of some earlier eras, she is little more than a convenience food.

Initially, the fragment of tor imbedded in Tack's wrist sums up his value to the Heliothane - a point brought home to him with bloody abruptness.

But, as a vat-grown programmable killer employed by U-gov, he is no stranger to violence.

His long journey into the lethal world of the Heliothane is only beginning, the extent of his mission just becoming apparent. Meanwhile, hunting throughout time and the alternates, Cowl's pet, the tor beast, grows vast and dangerous. And the beast continues to feed.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9780330512558



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Meh. I've often wondered about the utility of that word, but now I've found what it's for: it's the perfect description of my reaction to <i>Cowl</i>. It expresses the concept of 'been there; done that ... what's next'. So, the two main characters are set up in an adversarial role, and then thrown into a battle between two tribes of future humanity who are struggling for supremacy in a war to preserve/destroy the human race as they know it. The war involves time travel, with the climactic confrontation scheduled to take place in the distant past where the 'creature' Cowl exists. The episodes as each of the characters skip back in time are quite interesting, and the chapter introductions provide a framing device to paint the big picture. Are the main characters pawns or kings? Which of the tribes are the goodies and which the baddies? These are the questions ... that you end up not really caring about in spite of the pretty decent story-telling. I've only read one Neal Asher collection before embarking on this stand-alone work. (Most of his other stories are set within the framework of the 'Polity', which I've only got the vaguest outline of so far.) That collection was pretty inventive and thrilling, so I was looking forward to something of the same calibre here. You'll have gathered I was let down: I don't think it was by the writing, or the story outline, so perhaps it was just the lack of clarity of what was going on or the convoluted descriptions of what was needed to get time-travel to work effectively. Or perhaps the poor editing with a bunch of typographical errors which hit someone like me between the eyes. On the basis of that other book, and the general high regard in which Asher is held, I'll carry on with acquiring and reading his work. But, sorry to say, it's a 'don't start here' warning from me. In fact, you won't be missing much if you don't start this book at all.

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