Zero Point by Neal Asher
Zero Point, the second novel in the Owner series, continues the story about Alan Saul, his war against the Committee, and his search for his sister. Having destroyed much of the government and their military power, he brings his station on a course away from earth and the danger it might pose. And on earth, the struggle for power is already commencing, with the slaughter only hours past.
The peace is fragile in this book. Alan Saul stays removed from ordinary humans, but has the station in a tight grip. He’s the Owner, but he doesn’t want to simply become a replacement for the Committee. Trying to consolidate his power, he has overlooked something small which leads to disaster. With his last strength, he brings matter into motion, but the human component of his space station is brittle. They can’t understand what he’s done and mutiny might brew under conditions Saul cannot influence.
He was the ruler here too, he was the Owner, and it seemed necessary for him to begin showing his face to the human population again so as to establish firm personal control – to remind them to whom they owed their lives, and who could take away those lives in an instant.
It’s a book that triggers the real war between Saul and the Ruler of Earth, Serene Galahad, where Saul’s initial attack was but the preface. Galahad paints Saul as the enemy to humanity and mounts a pursuit, headed by the spaceship Saul’s sister had built in secret. It’s full to the brim with Committee soldiers and bristling with weapons, something the space station sorely lacks. It’s a thread that will take every bit of finesse from Saul to overcome, but our hero has more to fight against than pursuit from outside.
If you’re still here, the emotionless superhuman Alan Saul won’t bother you and you’re here to stay. The second book in the series has less of Saul, at least in the first half, and more of our new Antagonist, Serene Galahad. And she’s one of the most deranged bad guys I’ve ever seen. If I wouldn’t hate her so much, I’d be forced to be impressed with her efficiency. She’s brilliant in reducing humans to mere numbers and getting her way by any means necessary. Without a doubt, this woman is the worst thread Saul will have to face.
With the focus on earth a lot, nothing that much happens on the space station for some time. Things are set in motion by Saul, with the populace unable to guess what his motives are. They get restless, understandably, and while Saul is absent, Hannah has to hold down the fort. And the secret she’s guarding could make all of their work undone. Mars is in a similar state of danger, with Saul’s sister at the thick of it.
It’s another excellent part of the series and I’m especially impressed by the tension Neal Asher can produce. Many books, even with world-ending scenarios, lack that kind of tension, because you know the heroes will win in the end. While this is not fully gone here, Asher strings actual dangers together to situations where one wrong steps spells doom, creating a book that will have you gripping the pages harder, wondering what the story has in store for us.
Concluding: Even with all the death in the first book, this book is even darker, and from the start it seems like the Owner’s situation and that of his passengers has not improved in the slightest. The book finally introduces a real antagonist, gives the dreaded Committee a face so twisted you’ll be glad that this is only a story. But the space station has more problems than just a vengeful earth, as trouble brews within. These threats shroud the whole book in a cloud of tension that never dissipates. It’s a great sequel and will have you need to read the third book in the series too. If you’ve read the first part of the story, continue on, you have nothing to fear!