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Ancestral Night

Written by: Elizabeth Bear
Narrated by: Nneka Okoye
Length: 16 hrs and 48 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)
Price: CDN$ 35.52
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Publisher's Summary

A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Halmey Dz and her partner, Connla Kurucz, are salvage operators, living just on the inside of the law...usually. Theirs is the perilous and marginal existence - with barely enough chance of striking it fantastically big - just once - to keep them coming back for more. They pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human and alien vessels. But when they make a shocking discovery about an alien species that has been long thought dead, it may be the thing that could tip the perilous peace mankind has found into full-out war.

Energetic and electrifying, Ancestral Night is a dazzling new space opera, sure to delight fans of Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, and Peter F. Hamilton. 

©2019 Elizabeth Bear (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

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  • Lisa Davidson
  • 2019-03-09

My Favorite Elizabeth Bear Novel!

Long a fan of Bear's intricately detailed and moving short stories, I felt a new surge of intrigue and power in the plot and characters of her latest novel. In a complex and exciting universe of many alien species and AIs, Bear's most amazing accomplishment is her analysis of the deep motivations and emotions that are ultimately most human.

Despite lifelong trauma and pain, our protagonist confronts the most ancient aspects of her mind and psyche to define and redefine the current self she chooses to be. The philosophical questions are fascinating. I will definitely listen to _Ancestral Night_ again, as I was so immersed in the suspenseful execution that I need to consider the deeper societal implications with a second reading. Fascinating.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Hartmann
  • 2019-03-13

Wow ! Elizabeth Bear Sure Can Write !!!!!

She is a HIGHLY awarded science fiction author (see below) but for some reason I have not connected with her works in the past. This one is a real revelation. The writing is tight and clever -- and the plot is fine sci-fi. There is a ship, a couple of great protagonists and a fun story. It all gets very meta at points....philosophy, human/machine linked memory, personal freedom and cats--BUT the performance is so VERY fine that it works out nicely.

Her bio from Wikipedia: " She won the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "Tideline", and the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Shoggoths in Bloom".[1] She is one of only five writers who have gone on to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (the others being C. J. Cherryh, Orson Scott Card, Spider Robinson, and Ted Chiang)."

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharon A. Leahy
  • 2019-04-18

It may be worthy, but I can't take anymore.

One of my biggest pet peeve plot styles in novels is one character dominating the book with internal, in his/her head musings, worries, mulling, and generally blathering on in their head. I was ten hours into this book with seven left to go, and if there had been one hour of conversation involving more than just the central character chatting with her own head, I'd be surprised. It's almost entirely the internal mental musings of the female lead character, who, to be fair, is in a very unique and exotic position, but is put into situations where she is alone for extended periods thinking about doing something, how to do it, whether to do it, if it is societally justified to do it, how the ancients would have done it, how another person might do it, and on and on and on, all in her head droning on for literally hours. I can't take it any more. As worthy as some of the mental health related concepts, and societal observations definitely are, and I have to hand it to Elizabeth Bear for being a profound thinker, this book definitely needed an honest editor willing to tell her this book is boring, mind numbingly boring.

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  • Oliver bowdoin
  • 2019-03-16

Pretty good space adventure.

There are some really good, intelligent scifi ideas. I can see why there were some references to banks and reynolds. But, definitely had some slower sections and never really took off the way you felt like it would. Narration was excellent and overall, worth my credit.

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  • Rich
  • 2019-03-13

Interesting premise horribly executed (spoilers)

To reiterate what is stated in the headline, there are spoilers in this review.

I purchased this audiobook based on positive reviews and seeing how many awards the author has won over her career. After listening to it I have have to wonder what the reviewers were thinking, and seriously reconsider the weight I give to winners of the Hugo award. I have been an audible customer for years and have disliked many books enough to get a refund. This is the first one I have disliked enough to give a review for.

The book opens with the overused "the ship didn't have a name, but we named it" trope, with an explanation as to the why for both that went on for way too long, and neither has absolutely any impact on the story, nor did it add any flavor to the universe. Already rolling my eyes. Not a good sign. Then first chapter progresses into infodump mode. Really? It's a 16 hour audiobook. You can't weave the history and flavor of the universe into the crew conversations? Of course not, those are reserved for endless discussions about the will of the governed. The first chapter closes with the "I don't know why I'm making this journal, except that in case it ever gets found by (insert), then (insert), and provides numerous (inserts). Ah, so she's stranded (but alive and in a "precarious" position) by the end. Way to remove _any_ tension. Oh, wait. Spoiler - she's not. At the end of the book, she's safely at the governing station of her civilization.

Well, now we get into the story of a salvage crew following up on a tip of a ship stuck in whitespace, and they are there to retrieve it in order to relieve some of their societal obligation. Not for money. There is no money. You get everything you need, you just need to recompense society for it. Except, as is shown later, you do need money in the form of trade items (in this case information) in order to get fuel and supplies. And not everybody has to. You can stay home and do nothing if you want. You still get everything you need to survive with no obligation to recompense society. Whatever.

They find a dead living spaceship that in the area of the ship. Weird. They go inside and find an unknown and enormous ship that they have to do a highly risky but totally safe whitespace walk to get to because it's too big to grapple for even though all they need to do is have a sigle hard point connection to bring it back, which they accomplish by welding a bar between them. Even though they have literal grapples made for clamping on to ships. The protagonist finds the ship has artificial gravity. Holy crap! this is amazing! And brand new, even to this unknown species, as the ship has obviously been retrofitted. She finds out the ship was harvesting the living ship for a drug (that she used to be addicted to,(because secret past), and leaves hurriedly. But slowly enough to find a mysterious toggle switch with English markings that she intentionally flips to see what happens. It shuts off the gravity and opens every door in the ship, which is how everyone on board was killed. Oh, and it injected her with an alien symbiote.

Pirates show up. But they were there before, then left cause they were waiting for her to show up cause she has something they need. But they still fire at them. No, sorry, at the weld point between them and the ship, but holes their ship too. So they run away blindly.When they come back into real space, they don't have fuel enough to get back with everyone still alive. Oh, wait, the alien symbiote gives the protagonist the ability to sense gravity gradients, so they can surf them and conserve fuel just enough to make it to a remote official outpost.

When they get there, the pirates are there first. And the administrator is corrupt. And the local sheriff is between a wall and a hard place and might have to bring her in even though he doesn't want to for (reasons). Oh, and he tells her the unknown aliens are known, and have been known for millennia. Back before the current style of government (oh god, more will of the governed stuff. I have been glossing over the interminable, worthless diatribes of this that the author includes in this manifesto). These old aliens had space travel when they were found but got it by harvesting the living spaceships, allowing them to use the alien symbiote to navigate. The early form of our government didn't like this, said stop, then committed genocide. Oops, out bad. We made a mistake and now want to forget about it. Pirate lady from the salvage ship shows up with the same symbiote (that protagonist now knows comes from a dead sentient) and protagonist deduces this woman also killed an entire spaceship of sentients to get their cargo of drugs. Disgusting. But she's hot. Protagonist likes bad girls, but decides to leave anyway. Oh no! She can't move! Localized gravity! {Wait, what? the space station has artificial gravity? Why are they spinning it then?] Sheriff intervenes and protagonist escapes.

Sexy pirate follows. Without a ship. Because she can manipulate gravity. It wasn't the station, it was a super power imbued by the symbiote. Pirate lady is now flying behind them surfing localized gravity. Wow, protagonist immediately learns how to do the same for her ship. Then periodically forgets and remembers for no reason throughout the book. They escape. She learns she can sense every ship in the galaxy thanks to symbiote. Then this is never used again. This is a HUGE hole. The ancient aliens had the symbiote thousands of years ago but only just now figured out how to make artificial gravity? Bull. The living ships later show up in force to make the ancient aliens pay for thousands of years of murder and explain the delay as it takes time to know what was happening and to gather as they tend to be solitary. But a human that has only had the symbiote for a short time can sense all of the living ships throughout the galaxy, yet living ships with thousands of years experience can't, and didn't notice them being killed and react RIGHT AWAY?

So many more problems that I'm not even gonna go over. One I had to rewind several times as a WTF moment when a chapter near the end opens with the protagonist, her friends (back from the dead), the sheriff (following her for some reason) all on a precurser ship, pirates, ancient aliens, a precurser library AI residing in a Dyson Swarm are all in a race, "with the prize a frozen comment with a technological heart heading for the red dwarf." WHAT??!! There was no mention of this before, nor no mention of this again. This is a leftover of some previous edit, much as the intrigue plot set up when her AI friend came back to life the second a friendly ship shows up and sexy pirate points out how suspicious that is. What's the point of hanging a hat on something in a book? You aren't constrained by media. He could've come back at any time.

So stupid.

Don't waste your time.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful