“Outstanding…Amid a space opera resurgence, Bear’s novel sets the bar high.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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 Hugo 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 space opera, sure to delight fans of Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, and Peter F. Hamilton—“Bear's ability to create breathtaking variations on ancient themes and make them new and brilliant is, perhaps, unparalleled in the genre” (Library Journal, starred review).
Anyone who enjoys space opera, exploration of characters, and political speculation will love this outstanding novel, Bear's welcome return to hard SF after several years of writing well-received steampunk (Karen Memory) and epic fantasy (the Eternal Sky trilogy). As an engineer on a scrappy space salvage tug, narrator Haimey Dz has a comfortable, relatively low-stress existence, chumming with pilot Connla Kuruscz and AI shipmind Singer. Then, while aboard a booby-trapped derelict ship, she is infected with a not-quite-parasitic alien device that gives her insights into the universe's structure. This makes her valuable not only to the apparently benevolent interstellar government, the Synarche, but also to the vicious association of space pirates, represented by charismatic and utterly untrustworthy Zanya Farweather. While fleeing Zanya, Haimey and her crew discover a gigantic, ancient alien space ship hidden at the bottom of a black hole at the center of the galaxy, and at that point, things start getting complicated. This exciting story set in a richly detailed milieu is successful on many levels, digging into the nature of truth and reality, self-definition vs. predestination, and the calibration of moral compasses. Amid a space opera resurgence, Bear's novel sets the bar high.
An Inner Gaze in Outer Space
Elizabeth Bear is a wonderful writer. She creates fully fleshed-out characters with active, fully rendered inner lives, neuroses and all. The nature of the Synarche, the galactic society humans are a part of, that includes a dazzling array of alien life forms, has given us the ability to control our brain chemistry at will (among other wonders … right from the get-go, the Synarche shares a lot of features with Iain Banks’ Culture, from ship-board AI’s to fun ship names like the “I’ll Explain It To You Slowly”) Far from turning us into unfeeling automata, this ability has forced us to truly understand our subconscious inner workings. As a result, there is a lot of focus in the novel on the psychological aspect. We are privy to the innermost thoughts of the protagonist narrator, and the battle of wits that occurs between her and the story’s lead antagonist is all the more intensely fought because we can see and understand the stakes and the damage that psychological trauma can inflict. All of this doesn’t detract (or distract) from the science and action in the least. The novel is well balanced between action and introspection, and is chock full of dazzling ideas that make Bear’s future a wonder to behold, full of mystery, adventure … and psychology.
Fun read, imaginative fast pace plot, plus two adorable cats floating around in zero gravity
Imaginative, but so obsessed with personal pronouns that it just gets on your nerves.