Thursday, January 19, 2012

More on the Departure

Having gone ‘ouch’ a few times after daring to venture a peek at the bad reviews on amazon and elsewhere, I’ve been having a little think. One of the main criticisms of The Departure seems to be the ‘political diatribes’ (or in one case ‘Thatcherite propaganda’) in my chapter starts. Admittedly I should have attributed them rather than let them stand, since some of them are from subnet bloggers and some from govnet bloggers. Anyway, that’s beside the point. I decided to do a little experiment with one of them by just changing a few words. This first one is directly from The Departure (shortened a little):

Once the Committee had firmly tightened its grip on Earth, it distributed wealth only on the basis of its own survival. In the beginning, ‘zero asset’ citizens received just enough to keep them fed, clothed and housed, whilst ‘societal assets’ could receive considerably more, calculated on the basis of their use to the Committee and how much more of a contribution could be derived from them by allowing them more. But the Committee itself sucked up the bulk of world wealth through building the infrastructure of utter control, and by maintaining its upper executives at a level of luxury never before witnessed on Earth.

And here’s another version:

Once the corporations and bankers had seized control of Earth from democratically elected governments, they distributed wealth only on the basis of their own survival. In the beginning, unemployed citizens received just enough to keep them fed, clothed and housed as a ‘labour pool’, while those employed in the corporations could receive considerably more, calculated on the basis of their usefulness and how much more of a contribution could be derived from them by allowing them more. But the corporations sucked up the bulk of world wealth through building the infrastructure of utter control, and by maintaining their upper executives at a level of luxury never before witnessed on Earth.

It would take me at best a week, mainly using find-and-replace, to completely flip this book over into the realms of ‘acceptability’. Sad but true.


David Farmer said...

I like it just the way it was published, Neal. I wonder if some didn't like it because it wasn't a -Polity- novel.

Neal Asher said...

A combination of 'it wasn't a Polity novel' and 'it wasn't my politics'.

Klimax said...


I'd say both version are more or less not far from reality.

And that I'd say is sad.

Graeme said...

Fuck em... armchairs authors what do they know ???

In fact what do I know? I haven't read it yet. Bloody hard backs pain in the arse. I think I'll go on Amazon and criticise it for not being a comfortable fit for my back pack.

Shaun said...

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

George Orwell.

Man was right.

You are presenting, even in fiction, an idea that cannot be tolerated in some people's version of reality. The one that runs in their heads and that they parse our 'meta-reality' through.

Unable to cope with cognitive dissonance, they are compelled to spit out, into the public domain, that you are a 'c*nt'. Or a Thatcherite. Not sure which gets the asterisk anymore but that's a sign of the times. Anyway...

So yeah, you don't even have your fiction written from or acknowledging their chosen reality so you must be defective. Meanwhile, life goes on. Over here. Away from them.

Neal Asher said...

Klimax, it sure is.

Careful Graeme, you might be swearing at me once you dip into the paperback.

Shaun, what a perfect quote. That could do with going in the dedication or acknowledgements pages!

Shaun said...

It's one of my faves, standing in steadfast opposition to any and all attempts to proscribe free expression.

The problem, I fear (in my more melancholy moments), is that like the proverbial frog, we have not noticed the temperature of censorship and content-shaping rise around us and now we are almost boiled.

ManuMatt said...

Leave it as it is...I'm only a few chapters into it (been hard to find here in Canada), but it rings true--esp after my ten years in the UK. The closes to the current truth you hit, the more they'll complain. I can really see it as the way the UK is going at the moment. Shame.

AnIgMa said...

It's interesting that "The Departure" has more comments on Amazon than any of your other books.
And it almost looks like a campaign to put the bad reviews at the top.
I tried to redress the balance by clicking on the "Yes" button to "Was this review helpful to you?" for all the good reviews, and "no" to all the bad reviews.
At least it got the big bad reviews off the top of the reviews, but more work needed by others, I think!

ollie said...

The polity is an exceptional universe cultivated and refined over many years. Can you blame fans for finding the departure a bit heavy compared to Neals polity books? Whilst Neil sneaks in social commentaries in the polity books it's almost done causaly and probably goes over the heads of many readers. The departure was too confrontational and obvious. Can't wait to see how Neil explores the dark psyche of penny royal though!

Thud said...

I finished the book last week and enjoyed it immensely, the politics seemed more than integral to the plot and given the way things seem to be heading not too implausible...please continue.

Laszlo said...

Version 1 hits a little too close to home for the liberally minded Neal. While version 2, as much as they'd like it to be true, is simply unrealistic i think. If corporations have built their wealth and power on a middle class with disposable income, the majority, then wouldn't reducing that majority to zero asset status also destroy the corporations?
A catch 22 or am i missing something?

Neal Asher said...

Shaun, I have definitely noticed the boiled frog effect. If I had, for example, touched on climate change in this book, I would have been toast.

Manumatt, I've no intention of changing anything. The whole trilogy is a done deal now. Incidentally, have you tried Free shipping.

AnlgMa, yes, it would be easy for me to get paranoid about that seeing as most of the reviewers have never reviewed there before.

ollie, it's a shame some cannot handle 'confrontational'. It's called denial.

Thud, that was the point: extrapolation. Obviously some don't like seeing their dogma questioned.

Laszlo, I know version II is simplistic and wouldn't really fly. Corporations are about profit and though they make some silly decisions, don't like to kill the goose. It's only parasitic governments that do that.

Interesting. Only three of the haters have commented on my books before and only one of them with an above 'it's okay' level of appreciation. A couple of them only seem capable of giving one-star reviews to any book, while most of them have never reviewed anything before. I have to wonder where all of these were when they 'really enjoyed the Polity but...' Now I could get paranoid about that, but a sad fact of life is that it's easier write negatively about ANYTHING and I'm as guilty of that as anyone.

robann said...

Your little rewrite experiment reminds me of an incident at University. A student, who wrote for the student newspaper, took some statements and policies from the students union's "women's committee" and simply swapped the words "woman" and "man". The result was quite stunning and it sounded like the ranting’s of an ignorant bigot. His point was that if we pursue equality then any rights or statements made for one group should be applicable to any other group. I thought he was making a good defence for freedom and equality but of course the women's committee tried to get him thrown out of the university.

Neal Asher said...

It's an interesting experiment to do with a lot of things. Just about every argument and label used by the global warming faithful against the 'deniers' can apply equally in the opposite direction. It certainly applies to all the race stuff: positive discrimination if applied to someone white becomes racism. In politics both right and left label the other side fascist while the further along their ostensibly separate paths they go the more fascist both become.

Neal Asher said...

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery - Winston Churchill


Swainson said...

I think a trip to Waterstone's in the morning is in the offing. Must see what the fuss is about.

Neal Asher said...

As my editor pointed out to me:

"You can check out what reviews they have posted for other books and if none, you can smell ‘spoiler’ writ large."

Most of the one-star reviews are from people who've never reviewed before.

dangerman said...

Neal, my twopence worth.

its a story, a good one in my view with some thought provoking concepts of government and society. I see no political agendas in it, only a damn good yarn that I can use to switch off from the crap that is life in UK at the moment. Im looking forward to the next one so get scribbling... !.