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The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher
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The Gabble and Other Stories (2008)

by Neal Asher

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Polity Universe (5)

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The Gabble and Other Stories is a collection of short fiction set in the universe of the Polity series by Neal Asher. I’ve been curious about his books for a long time now, especially since his work has been described as being close to Splatterpunk, a sub-genre often characterized by its depiction of gory graphic violence, fast-paced action, and a tendency to push the boundaries especially in horror-themed sci-fi.

I was not disappointed! Indeed, The Gabble ended up being a lot of fun and I enjoyed a lot of the stories in here. Being an anthology, I also went with the assumption that this book would work well as a stand-alone read, and thus a good place to jump on board. I think for the most part my instinct was correct, though I do have more to add to this. I will go into the details below in my in-depth analyses of each story, but I did notice a couple trends in my overall experience:

1) My favorite stories tended to be shorter ones, while the longer novelettes are perhaps too steeped in the Polity lore for me to get into as easily.

2) If the main focus of a story is aliens or alien culture, there’s a good chance I really liked it!

Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck – 4 of 5 stars
A pair of incestuous siblings hires a guide for a killer safari on the planet Myral in this adventure tale that ends in terror as a Gabbleduck appears through the mist and hunts them in return. Honestly, you couldn’t have found a better opener for this book of short stories. The Gabbleduck is of course the creature featured on the cover, a cool and scary looking thing with too many limbs and a duck-bill like mouth full of sharp teeth. Its comical appearance belies its deadly predatory tendencies, and should at once tell you what kind of bizarreness you’re in for. Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck is a fantastic introduction – to this anthology, to Neal Asher’s writing style, to his world of Polity, to the eponymous alien, and heck, just to everything! I wish more of the stories were like this one.

Putrefactors – 5 of 5 stars
A bounty arrives on a planet to kill his target and instead uncovers a corrupt plot that spells dire consequences for the colonists there. By the time he realizes he himself is caught up in the conspiracy’s net, it is too late. Hands down, this was my favorite story in this collection. It was totally awesome, featuring concepts that will leave you feeling truly horrified. Not to mention, I will never look at the phrase “a good friend” the same way again.

Garp and Geronamid – 3 of 5 stars
Garp is a former policeman and a reification, a corpse kept alive through advanced tech because he simply could not stop doing his job even after death claims him. Geronamid is an AI, who in this particular story is implanted into a body of an allosaur. Yes, you read that right. An allosaur. Very cool ideas in this very cool story, but the heavy involvement of things like politics and the underworld drug trade made this one harder for me to follow. It’s got some great twists and turns though, and a sensational finish.

The Sea of Death – 3 of 5 stars
Two characters discuss the millions of frozen sarcophagi found below the surface of Orbus, each filled with the remains of aliens that bear some resemblance to humans. This is one of the shorter stories in this collection and can truly be read as a standalone, albeit it is not very exciting and ends quite abruptly. Not bad, but with such an interesting premise, I’d hoped for a bit more.

Alien Archaeology – 2.5 of 5 stars
Another tale featuring the Gabbleduck, Alien Archaeology is a novella – and therefore the longest story in this collection – that greatly expands our understanding into the history of alien life on the many worlds of Polity. But what should have been an exciting plot and engaging experience instead left me feeling cold. I could barely keep myself focused while reading, and felt no connection to the characters. The title and some of the mildly cyberpunkish themes of the story intrigued me, as well as the idea that Gabbleducks are actually the “devolved” descendants of the Atheter race. But I just couldn’t get into it. I can definitely see someone who is more familiar with the Polity universe or Neal Asher’s work liking this one way more than I did, though.

Acephalous Dreams – 2.5 of 5 stars
Another story featuring the A.I. Geronamid. After the discovery of a Csorian node, a death row prisoner is offered the chance to clear his sentence if he agrees to test drive the device. Having a bit of alien brain implanted in your head versus execution. Should have been an easy choice, right? This is another story that should have been awesome, but again it didn’t quite grab me. I liked it, but with such an ambitious plot, I think this one would have worked better given more pages to develop. I might have enjoyed it even more if it had been a full-length novel.

Snow in the Desert – 4 of 5 stars
Snow is an albino living in the desert…and everyone wants his balls. Literally! His unique DNA means that he has an exorbitant bounty placed on his testicles. While everyone is hunting him, Snow does what he can to survive the numerous attempts on his life as well as the dangerous conditions of his hot, arid planet. I really liked the crazy, over-the-top premise and nature of this offering. A fun and action-packed novelette.

Choudapt – 3.5 of 5 stars
Perhaps a cautionary tale into the dangers of mixing alien DNA just to gain an edge. We venture a little into horror territory here. Truly terrifying. Truly enjoyable. Don’t want say anything more than that, for fear of spoilers.

Adaptogenic – 3 of 5 stars
It all began with an auction. Two relic hunters go searching for a missing piece of a puzzle, and their efforts land on a planet at the worst time possible. An enjoyable yarn, but not the most memorable. I had to go back to the book to remind myself what happened because I can hardly remember the nitty-gritty of it, especially since some of the better stories have gone ahead, and the bar to impress me now is set pretty high at this point. Not bad though, and I don’t remember disliking the story when I read it.

The Gabble – 4 of 5 stars
We end the same way as we began – with a Gabbleduck! Researchers want to uncover the secrets behind these mysterious and frightful beings. Like Alien Archaeology, this story concerns itself with revealing a little bit more about the history and connections between different species, especially when it comes to Gabbleducks and Hooders. The Gabble is a great closer for this collection, wrapping things up with a solid tale that ties together some of the threads introduced in some of the previous stories in this book. It’s not an overly powerful or profound offering, but it cuts deeply all the same, making it an apt conclusion.

On the whole, this is a great collection. Like all anthologies, it has its ups and downs, i.e. some stories are better than others. I’m admittedly not a big reader of short fiction because I so often find stories to be too short (“I want more character development! More world building!”) or too long (“Wait, what’s going on? Am I supposed to understand this part? But I haven’t read the original series, there’s just too much I don’t know here!” etc., etc.) My experience with The Gabble was not so different, but I did enjoy myself a lot more than expected.

I think this is a decent place to start if you’re curious about Neal Asher’s work and want to give it a try, or if you want just a taste of what Polity has to offer before taking the full plunge. Being new to this universe, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the stories here, and if you’re already familiar with Asher’s Polity series, you’ll probably enjoy it even more. My interest is piqued now; I just might have to check out his other books. ( )
  stefferoo | Apr 16, 2015 |
There is something grand about the imaginative and interlinked space operas Neal Asher writes. These short stories, some of them not very short, complement the novels by exploring some of the creatures and ideas found in his longer work. This collection features several stories about gabbleducks, one of his weirder and more fascinating creations. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Book Recommendation of The Gabble and Other Stories by Rafael Ng Year 8
Neal Asher's 'The Gabble and other stories' is the latest of a line of books set in the Polity. Neal Asher is an English science fiction writer with lots of experience in his field and it certainly shows in this collection of short stories. The first Polity novel he wrote was Gridlinked (2001) and since then the majority of his works have taken place in the Polity.
The Polity is the fictional future where anything could happen, from alien archaeologists and extinct alien civilizations to gory assassinations by drug cartels to an immortal albino and his robot girlfriend. The daily lives of the people living the Polity are generally very different from our lives in the present. For example, the government is run by Artificial Intelligences and people can be brought back from death as cyborg zombies. Because the novel is made up of stories that, for the most part, have no relationship with each other, you get to jump around a lot and you can explore more of the Polity. I found the constant change of scenery refreshing as one moment I could be finishing a story about a guy turning into a crustacean and then I could be reading about a scientific expedition on a planet that people only have scant knowledge of.
The characters in each story fit into a wide spectrum of archetypes, for example, a person who wants revenge, or a person who just wants to be left alone but everybody’s trying to kill him for some reason, or a person who just wants to make a living. Asher also switches from 3rd person to 1st person in some of the stories.
The Gabble introduces us to a variety of ideas, such as what might the world be like in the far future? Would it be run by Artificially Intelligent robots? How would the social structure of human society change with advances in technology? The way these ideas are handled make this a great book.
  VeronicaCrothers | Dec 4, 2012 |
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Rawlings, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Peter Lavery and his scary pencil. Happy retirement!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330457594, Paperback)

'What has six arms, a large beak, looks like a pyramid, has more eyes than you'd expect and talks nonsense? If you don't know the answer to that, then you should and you haven't been reading Neal Asher (see point 1)' - Jon Courtenay Grimwood. In the eight years since his first full-length novel, "Gridlinked" was published by Pan Macmillan, Neal Asher has firmly established himself as one of the leading British writers of Science Fiction, and his novels are now translated in many languages. Most of his stories are set in a galactic future-scape called 'The Polity', and with this collection of marvellously inventive and action-packed short stories, he takes us further into the manifold diversities of that amazing universe. No one does monsters better than Neal Asher, so be prepared to revisit the lives and lifestyles of such favourites as the gabbleduck and the hooder, to savour alien poisons, the walking dead, the Sea of Death, and the putrefactor symbiont.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:07 -0400)

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Ten tales from the Polity, an alliance of humans spanning the galaxy and governed by artificial intelligences while under constant threat from alien technology.

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