Ancestral Night

Ancestral Night

by Elizabeth Bear


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Ancestral Night 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous 5 days ago
CaptainsQuarters 28 days ago
Ahoy there me mateys! I have really been enjoying my foray into Elizabeth Bear’s works and this was no exception. This story follows Haimey Dz who is a member of a three person salvage crew. A routine salvage trip turns to disaster when the ship they attempt to retrieve is a crime scene. And Haimey also catches an unknown alien virus. What results is a foray into ancient alien technology, dealing with space pirates, and exploring Haimey’s own past. While I enjoyed this book, it was a very odd read to me. Part of this stems from the fact that there is a lot of physics in this book about the folding of space time and travel. As I continue to state, physics and I are not friends. There was also a small section about music theory that went over me noggin. But most of me personal problems stem from the world-building and plot pacing. Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy series are dense in descriptions and ideas that make the fantasy worlds feel real. The plots are meandering and slow-paced. The action sequences are spaced out and a lot of the information feels like filler that is super fun but could be removed. I loved it in her fantasy books. This space book had all of those writing hallmarks but the sequences failed to capture me fancy in quite the same way. I had to put down the book at several points because I was slightly bored with the descriptions of the tech or philosophical platitudes. In fact, I really would categorize this book more as a character study. The sections regarding Haimey and how she deals with the “sexy pirate” or the uses of her internal brain computer or her memories to be the highlights of this book for me. I also enjoyed what existed of the interplay being Haimey and her crew. The psychological effects of Haimey’s entire journey is really what kept me reading and what interested me the most. This book will not suit every reader. While the plot is character driven, this is a book of ideas at its core. There are philosophical conundrums like how to run a society, the responsibilities of individual, the uses of technology, the applications and rights of artificial intelligence, genetic modifications, the fundamental nature of personalities, etc. I stuck with this book because I know that the endings of Bear’s books usually pan out and make the journey worth it. This was no exception. Plus there is a giant praying mantis space detective. Apparently this is the first in a duology. Though in Bear’s interview with Barnes & Noble she states that “It’s not exactly accurate to call it a duology, however. It’s two related books, which will have some continuing characters, but each one should stand on its own as an arc and a story . . . The second book, which is titled Machine, is about a woman is a space trauma rescue specialist for an enormous multi-species medical center.” Sign me up!
gctogs 6 months ago
An early moment in Elizabeth Bear’s expansive new space opera Ancestral Night has narrator Haimey Dz offer a meta-commentary on the ancient, 19th century novels she reads during the long hours spent drifting through space: “They’re great for space travel because they were designed for people with time on their hands. Middlemarch. Gorgeous, but it just goes on and on.” Ancestral Night is a busy and boisterous novel, complex and beautifully composed, but also has a tendency to labor its points. Haimey and her team of salvagers spend their time searching for derelict ships and abandoned tech in “white space”, ripples in space-time that enable faster than light travel. On their latest job, a nano-parasite created by a mysterious, long vanished race called the Koregoi infects Haimey, guiding her mind to an advanced Korogoi ship hidden inside a black hole. They aren’t the only salvagers who know about the ship, and Haimey finds herself on a collision course with some very dangerous revolutionaries willing to use the ship to settle their score with the far-reaching galactic society known as the Synarche. Recalling the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks, Bear depicts a space-faring civilization made up of a multitude of alien cultures and intelligences that uses advanced technology to care for its citizens needs. Differences compound the deeper Bear takes us into her world: unlike the Culture with its artificial Minds, the Synarche chooses its civil servants by draft lottery, doing away with the corruptible governing elites that less enlightened societies create. Bear also takes technological augmentation to a new level. Haimey, like most of the Synarche’s citizens, has implants that allow her to interface with technology as easily as most of us breathe. These implants also allow her to turn emotions on and off and even alter her personality and psychological makeup at will. The cultish creche that raised her used them to brainwash her and make her complicit in their crimes, and later the Synarche uses them to remove her memories of those crimes. Bear highlights the philosophical conundrums inherent in these technological and social innovations and the complicated notions of consent that attend them. Ancestral Night is saturated with moral and political ambition. Rich with conflict and action, though often slowed down by explication and discourse, the story sometimes loses its momentum. I look forward to the second volume in this planned duology with the hope that it moves at a more studious pace.
Anonymous 4 months ago