Gridlinked by Neal Asher

I’ve been trying lately to pin down, in some quantifiable way, how I read books. When I first started my blog I started giving everything a rating. It didn’t make sense after awhile so I abandoned it. I decided that my reviews have to stand on their own. So I’ve been trying to find a way to describe why some books fill me with pure hatred and others with pure glee. For instance I don’t know why I love Robert Jordan’s books but read Dan Brown with the kind of loathing that is actually joy at all the horrible things I have to say about it.

Everybody has a limited attention span. Some people it’s longer than others. When I’m sitting in class it takes about ten minutes for me to start thinking about something else. Other people have shorter or longer attention spans. They say for children that the rule of thumb is about one minute per year of age – so I have the attention span of a ten year old – or something. At some point that breaks down. However, when I’m reading a book that I like reading my attention span becomes hours.

So I’ve started to pay attention to how I read a book. Do I look at my watch frequently, or look up or stop to count the pages until the end of the chapter? Do I sometimes read twenty minutes while thinking about something completely different and have no idea what I just read? Those are all signs that something is not right with this book. Sometimes I can identify what it is that is keeping me from really getting lost in the words. Sometimes I can’t.

Very few authors can achieve this to the extent that I lose track of time. I could probably list them all on my two hands – though it would take awhile to scrub the ink off.

Gridlinked is one of those books that I just couldn’t get into and I think I know why.

The story is about Ian Cormac, legendary ECS agent and the psychotic killer who is hunting him down. There’s also a bit about some weird aliens and giant explosions. Ian Cormac is basically James Bond in the future. He goes undercover by using his real name – even though he’s famous all over the galaxy and he stands in the middle of a hail of bullets and shoots the bad guys right in the face without ever getting hit once.

Sometimes I get the idea that the whole thing is supposed to be a farcical play on spy movie tropes but if it is it’s too buried for it to be clear. It feels more like it’s just a series of those tropes glued together in a science fiction universe – albeit a well thought one.

The writing, though, is probably the most atrocious thing about this book. Many of the sentences were so awkward that I had to read them twice before I believed that they actually passed an editor. There’s a great deal of maid-and-butler dialoge only thinly disguised as ‘explain it to me again’ which is dull and annoying. Other than the three or four main characters the rest are all indistinguishable from each other and serve only to either get injured or make awkward narrative suggestions such as ‘lets start calling this alien Scar so we don’t have to keep saying “the other alien” all the time.’ Yes this really happened.

The bad guy is an evil psychopath who kills anybody whenever he feels like it a la Darth Vader except when they are characters that we are supposed to care about, and then he miraculously lets them live when they offend him. He even has some kind of giant metal brain attachment on the side of his head and sticking out his eye so that he will look all villainy.

This book suffered a lot in translation as well. It was written in English and I read it in English but it was written in British English and I don’t read British English. Words were misspelled and every past tense verb ended in –t instead of –ed. These aren’t the author’s fault as much as the editor and publisher but they made it harder to read. In American English saying “he leant against the wall” means he borrowed something with the wall as collateral.

Many of the chapters started with short descriptions of the technology in the book in the form of excerpts from fictional encyclopedias and journals. These were actually quite interesting and entertaining. I found myself frequently looking to see when the next chapter started so I could read another of these sections. Which is another problem, I suppose. The pre-chapter discussions were more interesting than the book.

In all I don’t think I will read this author again. His style is so over the top that he made me think I was reading a Dan Brown science fiction novel. At least he didn’t have the half-page cliffhanger chapters. Small mercies.

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2 thoughts on “Gridlinked by Neal Asher”

  1. Do they usually translate books into AMerican English from the British? I had never considered this. Jane Austin is not like this. Translated?

    1. I don’t know about classics because I think the English spoken and written a couple hundred years ago is much closer to what we speak in the United States. Most books published in one place have to be translated when printed in the other. I understand the Harry Potter books required enough translation that many American’s who try to read the UK release find it difficult to understand.

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