A few days ago, I started writing about my impressions of Scott Sigler’s Ancestor as I read through the book. Last time, I covered “Book One” and “Book Two,” in which corporate scientists tried to create a genetically engineered creature whose organs could be used for human transplants. Here, in my next installment, I discuss “Book Three,” which takes us to the halfway point in the novel.
In this section, the scientists’ evil corporate masters whisk them away to a remote island in Lake Superior to continue their clandestine genetic research. They have implanted their “ancestors” in a herd of cows and are awaiting the first live birth even as evil corporate and government types conspire to exploit and/or destroy their work.
At this point, I’d like to take small issue with the name “ancestor.” The book implies that the scientists are re-creating an early mammalian ancestor, but in reality they are mixing and matching pieces of mammal genomes and sprinkling in a set of desired traits, so it is closer to the truth to say they are building an “average” mammal than a true ancestor. But this is neither here nor there.
A suicidal Chinese scientist has changed the code for the “ancestor,” turning it into a super-charged predator, because she had no access to sharp objects and thought a killer monster would be the best way to off herself. Now the monster is growing inside the cows. These creatures are so violent, that they are eating each other inside the womb and slicing and dicing their way out.
Though this description makes it sound silly, this part of the book really works. The monsters are frightening, and their actions are the stuff of Hollywood nightmares. It makes me wish the monsters had shown up a hundred pages earlier and eaten the rest of the book because the clichéd corporate-government machinations that surround the monster sections are much less interesting than the creature, and I am sincerely hoping the balance of the book is pure creature horror.
The book jacket claims that Stigler is a “worthy successor” to Michael Crichton, and I must admit that reading Ancestor, I could not shake the memories of two of Crichton’s own books on the subject, Jurassic Park and Next. So far, Ancestor reads a lot like Jurassic Park (remote island, corporate hubris, violent predators, crazy scientists) minus the awe and wonder, but with 20% more science facts and 100% more digs at the poor writing in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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