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Even Dogs Have Had It (via Neal Asher)

Even Dogs Have Had It (via Neal Asher)

I went after Neal Asher hoping to get a blurb from him, but he’s not in the reading mood for excellent reasons. His Owner series is both really good and features a villainous EU superstate, which looks like an even worse version of Red Queen’s velvet-gloved tyranny.

It’s interesting to note that his depiction of a murderous future EU triggers an urge by some readers to downgrade the books on Amazon. The safe choice of setting your story in some far future with no resemblance to current politics lets those who are strongly partisan avoid seeing any of their own beliefs as responsible for the villainy, and likely increases the lifespan of the book’s sales since events are unlikely to date the book, but loses a lot in immediacy. Thrillers set in the present tend to rely on conspiracies to explain how evil can exist in supposedly democratic societies, but the really interesting question is how evil arises from those very democratic impulses under the influence of media and partisan propaganda.

One of the things I’m trying to do with Substrate Wars is show that even people who mean well and are acting morally within the framework of their societies end up enabling evil under the pressure of incentives and tribal loyalties. As a current example, we have the attempt to scapegoat CIA workers implementing (sometimes badly) “enhanced interrogation” techniques on a handful of jihadists, which is reason enough for partisans to call for war crimes trials. Meanwhile, the current administration is responsible for the deaths of perhaps 2,000 civilians in faraway places like Pakistan, which is apparently fine by those partisans. Jail and mistreatment for a few people, or death from the sky for thousands? Either both are war crimes, or neither is.

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