This week I am continuing to post my reactions as I read through Scott Sigler’s novel, Ancestor. So far, I’ve covered Books 1-3, in which an evil corporation and its scientists have created an artificial monster and implanted its embryos into a herd of cows on a remote island in Lake Superior. Now, in Books 4 and 5, the creatures are ready to be born.
Now that I have passed the halfway point in the novel, I will try not to spoil the reading experience by giving away too much of the plot. There are explosions and monsters and lots of running and screaming. That said, I continue to be torn between wanting to like the taut little horror story about the evil monsters attacking people in a remote location and wanting to skip over the long, dull, clichéd sections about the scientists with tangled relationships and the evil corporation whose enforcer is trying to kill off all the company’s liabilities, i.e. everyone else.
In this section of the book, the monsters (which I still refuse to call “ancestors” because they are no such thing) finally emerge from their surrogate mothers and go on a killing spree. This is very good, though the description of their appearance, the details of which I will leave the reader to discover, made me laugh a little rather than feel terror.
But I just can’t get into the other three-quarters of the book. Ultimately, I think the trouble is that the characters are rather flat and one-dimensional, which, of course, is standard for a thriller; but these characters never really command my sympathy, or even my interest, because for the most part they lack personality traits. So far, the only two who really stood out were the submissive Asian scientist, simply because she was an Asian stereotype, and the psychotic Italian-American (but of course) thug killer, whose thugishness contrasts with the milquetoasts who run around talking about wanting to “hit that vaj [vagina]” and other choice sexist and homophobic comments. For all Michael Crichton’s cardboard characters, he always included a few sympathetic ones, usually children or talking animals (twice, I believe), that encouraged the reader to care whether they would survive. Do I care about Ancestor’s horny scientist #1 or hubristic scientist #2? Not really.
I guess my biggest disappointment is that the book jacket promised a unique thriller about hungry monsters on a rampage but the book mostly delivered a series of stock interpersonal and bureaucratic conflicts that, minus the cameos from the creatures, could have come from any number of other books. I still have some sixty pages left to go, and time is running out for the monsters to actually do something.
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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