Recommendation: Prador Moon

I’ve recommended Neal Asher’s books before.  This one is pretty much cut from the same pattern: superhuman AIs, fearsome aliens, exotic future technologies, and epic space battles covered in detail.  In terms of the chronology of his Polity future universe, Prador Moon is the earliest story, although it was written after several other books and stories in that universe.

This book covers the first encounter between humans and the prador, the fierce crab-like species that is featured in so many other stories.  This first encounter immediately leads to war.

The prador have no empathy, either with each other or with other intelligent aliens.  They have no problem eating each other, and discover in the story that they like the taste of human flesh.  They also have no problem experimenting on their own children and, of course, on humans.  They’re pretty much the epitome of the evil space opera aliens.

(Their depiction in later books I’ve read and reviewed is a bit more sympathetic, but only because the specific prador in these books are “modified” from the natural versions portrayed in this book.)

My only real disappointment with the book is that it’s short in comparison with Asher’s other books. (Although as of this post, it’s priced lower than most of his stuff.)  It felt like the story of one of the chief protagonists, Jebel Krong, could have been explored in far more detail.  He is referenced in other books, most of which I might not have read, so readers familiar with most of Asher’s work might have already had an impression of his overall biography.

So if you like space opera, might be worth checking out.

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12 Responses to Recommendation: Prador Moon

  1. john zande says:

    Reading The Soldier now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wyrd Smythe says:

    “Evil space opera aliens” aren’t really my cup of tea, but interesting aliens can be. It would be interesting to make these prador legitimate as an alien species who sees things differently than we do, and challenges our assumptions of right and wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There actually are several prador who serve as viewpoint characters, which does make many of them more sympathetic. And you can see how they might have evolved with the traits they have, particularly if you know how Earth crabs treat each other. It doesn’t so much challenge our assumptions of right and wrong, as demonstrate that right and wrong can be very species specific.

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      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        Well, that pretty much amounts to the same thing in my book, although the challenge can come from things we treat as objectively right — how we treat children, for instance.

        I very much had Earth crabs in mind. There’s even a phrase, “crab bucket mentality” that I wonder if the author had in mind. Seems he must have.

        As a vaguely related aside, Harry Harrison wrote the Eden trilogy in which the dinosaurs were never wiped out and achieved intelligence. Humans also evolved, but dinos ruled all the Americas. As I recall, Harrison did a good job of imagining what a lizard intelligence might be like. They also lived according to very different standards.

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        • The prador treatment of their children is an ongoing motif in Asher’s stories. Essentially there are only a few prador adults, who rule over their children using pheromones. They generally treat their children as tools, including making the brains of some of them the control units for robots and spaceships. They also sometimes eat their children, who also eat each other at times. (The prador are puzzled when human captives refuse to eat human remains.) Occasionally the adult kills the strongest “first child” if there is any danger that they might supplant that adult. Presumably when an adult dies, the strongest first child at that point takes over. Sympathy or sentimentality is not a thing for prador.

          I never read that Harrison trilogy. Sounds interesting.

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  3. Callan says:

    Is there much explanation for how the crabs actually cooperate enough without empathy to form any actual military threat? I have the impression that if a race is a bunch of sociopaths then they’ll just stay in the stone age. The irony, IMO, is to present a violent threat you really need some love behind it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question. We see the dynamics between a prador father-captain and his children, but we never see how their overall civilization works. It is stated that the prador king is basically the strongest and most aggressive adult, essentially an alpha-male sitting on top of an ultra-feudal system. But even feudalism, at least in human societies, depends on some sort of social instincts.

      This is similar to us never seeing the Klingon hairdressers, accountants, or janitors, even though their civilization couldn’t work without someone fulfilling those functions.

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      • Callan says:

        Klingon phone sanitisers…

        It’s a bit of a cheat, but the Sranc from the prince of nothing series are kind of effective at being evil because they are genetically designed to basically become psychopathic when in the presence of humans. When not near humans they actually have a primitive and sometimes fairly complex society. But they become mobs of monsters when they get near humans.

        But with Klingon’s there’s some kind of honour system going on that is generally followed (or fought over ritualistically). Probably a nasty one that makes janitors out of the dishonoured. Not sure they need hair dressers though – cut their own hair with a dagger, because hard core!

        But to me there’s a pattern in the series – the Klingons were slowly humanised (or having a structure that we can relate to and see function in). I presume that’s why they brought in the Borg, because the character development arc of the Klingons was basically done (only rogue elements in their society are really an issue AFAICT…and that goes for humans sometimes as well).

        But yeah, the Klingons were basically just uncivilised and committing evil (which is close enough at first blush to being evil). Were they every really evil in star trek? Certainly assholes and committing evil, yes.

        I just think it’s hard to really make a true sociopathic and evil enemy who can actually organise itself. It’d have to be one entity that can/is a military star fleet. Maybe that’s another reason for introducing the idea of the Borg?

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        • “Not sure they need hair dressers though – cut their own hair with a dagger, because hard core!”

          The argument I read a while back is that Klingon hair is actually often groomed, sometimes braided, or done in other high maintenance manners. A society that does that is probably one that has people to help with it.

          But I’m with you. A non-social species seems like it’s at a major disadvantage in creating a civilization. On the other hand, we should be open to alternate ways of producing societies. Asher’s books talk about the pheromonal control adults have over their numerous children. There may be something like that at the adult level, or some other social-like instinct, one that wouldn’t seem social to us but nevertheless enables a society. Evolution, even on just this planet, often shocks us with its ingenuity.

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