The fantastic fast-paced future adventure that is Zero Point is out now in paperback. We've therefore asked Neal Asher a few questions about his driven protagonist Saul, future technology and what part of the publishing process gives him the biggest buzz as an author. Plus! Here's a free extract from Zero Point to whet your appetites. And don't forget, this is just some of the praise we've seen for this series: ‘Full-tilt action sequences... Delivers plenty of thrills’ SFX, ‘Fast, dramatic stuff … definitely not one for the faint hearted’ and also ‘I had an absolute blast with this book … his work really does get better and better’ FalcataTimes blog. So, over to Neal...

Zero Point by Neal Asher (Book 2 in the Owner trilogy - design by Neil Lang, illustration by Jon Sullivan)1. If you think that each of your different series has a different theme or flavour, what would be your two line description of the Owner series?
Well, straight away I have to use the word dystopia. I’ve just taken a hard look at many of the negative aspects of the world around us and done what SF writers do: extrapolated.

2. As Saul becomes part-man and part-machine intelligence, what do you think drives him to continue to try and help mankind?
Even before the hardware in his skull starts firing up Saul is somewhat emotionally disconnected, then being tortured and scheduled for disposal in a trash incinerator has done nothing to improve his mood. He is driven in essence by what drives us all – a need for security – but in a world dominated by a vicious totalitarian government that simply is not available. He is also driven by vengeance. That he ‘helps mankind’ is almost a side issue of those motivations and the fact that he is extremely capable and ruthless. To draw an analogy: many resistance fighters who fought similarly totalitarian regimes didn’t do so out of any altruistic motive to save mankind as a whole, but to protect themselves and their loved ones.

3. The worldbuilding within Zero Point is so sharp, the future scenery so clearly visualised, I found it almost filmic. Do you think you are influenced as much by SF on the screen as on the page, or do books have the edge?
All the wonderful SF books I’ve read influenced me in the beginning and I’m certainly influenced by SF on the screen now that the effects have finally caught up with the vision of those books. I’m also a ‘visual’ writer and have the scenes playing out in my head while I’m tapping away at the keyboard – occasionally pausing to deliver a karate punch to some opponent only I can see.

4. Which aspect of future technology that appears in the Owner series do you most wish we had now? Big or small?
It would have to be the possibility of being backed-up and then, should you die, being revived in a clone body: immortality. With that everything else becomes possible. Running a close second would be a functioning Alcubierre drive. All respect to you Mr Einstein, but we’d really like a way round the limits you’ve imposed.

5. What gives you the greatest buzz in the writing or publishing process?
While writing it’s those moments during the grind when everything takes off; when I’ve been chewing over a problem, mostly in my subconscious, and it solves. Moments of epiphany.

In the publishing process it has to be the moment I’m holding the book in my hand. Until then, everything is out there, in pieces, but at that moment those pieces have all collapsed together into the solid reality of a book.