I'm going to try an experiment. I received an advance copy of Scott Sigler's "hard science horror novel" Ancestor (Crown) to review, and I thought it might be interesting to blog my impressions as I read through the book rather than wait until the end. A more formal review will run at a later date, in a forum to be determined.
Ancestor began life as a podcast on Sigler's website and iTunes, and it was later published by Dragon Moon Press (2007) on the strength of the podcast's downloads. Now Crown is re-releasing Ancestor in conjunction with the paperback release of Sigler's previous novel, Contagious. I have not read any of Sigler's work prior to this, nor have I listened to the podcast.
So far, I have read through the first hundred or so pages of Ancestor, covering all of "Book One" and "Book Two." For the first fifty pages, I was somewhat confused. A large cast of characters seemed to be conducting research into genetically engineering a creature whose organs could be used in human transplants without fear of rejection. I had a hard time differentiating the characters at first, and only at the end of Book Two did their motivations start to make sense. The whole of the first hundred pages was also hampered by the interpolation of large sections of explanation--all that "hard science"--going through the steps of genetic engineering and defining all the Greek-derived and Latinate language used, which sat in odd and sometimes inelegant juxtaposition with the otherwise colloquial (read: lots of swear words) language of the action sections.
Also, the jacket copy and the press release said that the book was about a human ancestor being recreated and on the rampage. So far, no ancestor, and no rampage. But, I was treated to the thrill of corporate intrigue and dark hints that the U.S. government (and Red China too!) is behind some nefarious doings. In terms of plot, some genetics labs got shut down or destroyed (the evil government again!) when a cross-species hybrid caused a viral outbreak. One team survives (of course) and is being moved to a secure location (evil corporation again!) on a lovingly described giant airplane to continue their secret (and evil!) genetic research.
My favorite part? All the scientists are so burdened with the weight of the theoretical lives their implantable organs might save that they are going mad or vomiting with anxiety when their experiments don't go right. They have lives to save, dammit! And only cows implanted with killer organ-growing creatures can do it! If they don't save all these people (who would die anyway since the theoretical organs wouldn't otherwise exist) it's like they're killing them...because the scientists are so noble! One might wish the US healthcare system operated that way...
Of course it isn't fair to judge a book by the first few chapters. But that's what makes this experiment fun. As I read along and the plot develops, I fully look forward to seeing my initial impressions change. I'll let you know when the killer mouse-like thingy shows up.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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