Nerdist was started by Chris Hardwick and has grown to be a many headed beast.

Book Review! Ancestor by Scott Sigler

by on June 25, 2010

Did you know that Ancestor, by Scott Sigler, was actually released as a podcast? Free and full of awesomeness? AND! It was originally printed in 2007 but was updated to include more technologically relevant 2010 references for this printing? Actually, some of you wonderful nerdlings did know! And while I did not, I’m glad you turned me onto this read so that I could, lovingly, review it for you this week.

Scott Sigler is one of those authors that I can’t believe I’ve missed out on for all of these years. Where have I been? What have I been reading?! It doesn’t seem right! It doesn’t seem fair! But here I am, on board with the Future Dark Overlord now, all previous indiscretions forgotten.

Mr. Sigler has gone against the “OMG DON’T SHARE YOUR WORK FOR FREE ON THE INTERWEBZ” grain and offered up his books for nothin’, to much success. I don’t know the exact numbers but I’ve heard that Ancestor has had well over half a million downloads and let’s face it: that’s a lot of freakin’ clicks. Even though allowing the free download of your book probably doesn’t compute with corporate bookselling, I think it’s a fabulous idea — and not just because I like free stuff. Building a fanbase is half the battle when it comes to books (and uh, basically everything else) so why not hook readers with a some shiny freebies first?

And hook he does! I picked up Ancestor on Tuesday, fully expecting to read it this week/weekend and review it NEXT Friday because, as irritating as it is, I do have a life outside of book nerdism. You know what? Didn’t happen that way!

I couldn’t put this book down.

Ancestor is gory, it’s gruesome, it’s interesting, it’s a fantastic mash-up of science and horror. The world of xenotransplantation comes to life — that’s taking animal parts and making human organs, in extremely simple terms — with a cast of characters who are so distinctly and almost painfully human that you find yourself loving to hate and hating to love some of them. The characters vary between crass and hilarious to greedy and disgusting in a fabulous blend of humanity and horror.

The premise seems deceptively simple: what if a company figured out a way to produce transplant organs for people who need them, basing it on animal parts? What a noble cause, so altruistic! A really attractive humanitarian story by all means. All it’s going to take is a little DNA engineering to create a common ancestor, the incubator for these organs. Great!

So what’s the problem? How could it POSSIBLY go wrong? That’s a given: it’s because we’re people. Greed, hubris, stupidity, GREED — it’s too easy for someone to start taking shortcuts and leave altruistic ambitions by the wayside for the sake of a quick buck.

This whole story reads fantastically. The writing makes the plot work but at times it feels a little bit like you’re sitting through a really odd science class. It’s just a necessary part of reading the book, I’m afraid, it would be difficult to understand otherwise. You’ll come away from this story with the hope that the people responsible for screwing with DNA are doing it, uh, responsibly. Also, I guaranfuckingtee you’ll never look at cows the same way again.

My only warning is this: don’t pick Ancestor up if you have things to do. If you have to fetch your kids from soccer practice or take the dog to the vet or meet your friend for lunch? BAD IDEA!  Put it down! You WILL be late! You might want to wait half an hour after eating before picking it up too, it definitely has a gore factor and it’s a great one if you enjoy that sort of thing.

So whether you go for the audiobook (which I hear is great but haven’t literally heard) or hardcover edition, you won’t be disappointed. It’s like Michael Crichton and Stephen King had a fabulous, bouncing baby and it’s name is Ancestor.

As always, feel free to leave me your questions, comments or words of wisdom here or on Twitter, book nerdlings. Happy reading!