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Cowl by Neal L. Asher
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765315122
Date: 01 May, 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Polly, a young heroin addict hooker, ends up with one of these Tors and begins shifting back through time, at first involuntarily but then under more control. She flits through a number of time periods eventually ending up where Cowl and his torbeast reside. But, instead of becoming food, Polly is rescued and enlightened. While all of this is going on, the Heliothane Dominion is searching for Cowl, sending their own agents through time to try to stop Cowl and his beast and waging war as Cowl sends troops up the timeline the entire time.

You may have picked up that this is a bit of a convoluted story here, and, yes, it is. But Asher does an excellent job of breaking down the plot segmnets into understandable chunks, interspersing the narrative with enough action to keep it moving at a pretty stiff pace. Asher's characters are well developed and fitting for the time periods they initially inhabit. If anything it's the torbeast and Cowl who remain somewhat of an enigma throughout the book, even though it's all explained in a satisfactory manner in the end.

I generally liked the book. I did have to push myself a bit to get through the middle which slowed down somewhat as Asher began to develop a sub plot of treachery and deceit. I thought the time travel ideas worked pretty well and while I would have liked to have learned more about Cowl it also worked to have this being remain pretty mysterious and menacing so Asher probably made the right choice in the end as far as that goes. Well written as far as dystopian dark comedies go.

For another opinion on this book, check out UK contributor John Berlyne's review from March 2004.

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