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Book Review! Ancestor by Scott Sigler

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!

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12 comments

  • This book is great as are all the other books of his I’ve read/listened to (Earthcore, The Rookie, etc.) All outstanding and among some of my favorite in science fiction. The audio versions of his works are not to be missed. The books are author read, and if you are not familiar with Sigler’s personality, you get a good healthy dose of it in the narration. This is a good thing. The characters become even more defined by his reading and it’s a lot more like a radio play than a vanilla recording. The FDO wants you!

  • This is the flagship book in an armada of books from Scott Sigler, the future dark overlord. With an expanding fleet like this, Sigler will take over the publishing world with ease.

  • @Stephen Merriman: All right, I think I have to listen to the audios now! Anything author read is generally so much more… pleasant? That’s not the word I want but you know what I mean!

    @Scott Sigler: I’m thrilled that you’re thrilled! I truly enjoy your style and am looking forward to many more excellent reads. Hooray!

    @John C. Jones: I concur!

  • @Jessica Barton: I think it’s the fact that you can here the characters as the author intends them. A reader always paints with there own brush, at that is great, but getting the “directors cut” so to speak, can also be great.

  • Not one of Sigler’s best, but still a fun read. Check out infected or Nocturnal, the characters are great in every book, but in the latter two especially. Stick to the print versions in my opinion, as the audiobooks suffer due to the author’s ridiculous ego, and hideous attempts at reading the female dialouge. All in all, a lot of fun for sci fi nerds, and the science is thoroughly researched. Give it a go!

  • I just started reading this 2 days ago and I’m half way through. It really is a book that’s hard to put down. FDO never fails to impress. I’d HUGELY recommend everyone read Infected & Contagious, as it’s some of the best fiction I’ve read in a long, long time. The characters and story will stick in your brain for ages.

  • I would also like to add that there are a few free prequel chapters not included in the book tacked onto the beginning of the podcast! So there are some extra advantages there. I haven’t picked up my hardcover copy yet, but I will be doing so at some point. I’ll be listening through the whole way, though. The climax and ending to Contagious freakin’ rocked!

  • I am now a fan thanks to the podcast. I was looking for something new to get into and man his books are really good. I love the science and the horror which I can’t get enough of.