Ancestral Night

Hardcover, 512 pages

Published March 5, 2019 by Gallery / Saga Press.

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4 stars (2 reviews)

1 edition

Solid space opera

4 stars

It would be unfair to call it derivative but it seems clear the author is an Ian M Banks / Culture novels fan. What makes the book interesting for me is the exploration of the question of "what if effective and precise self-regulation of brain chemistry was possible". This has interesting ripple effects on politics and the definition of personal autonomy.

An enjoyable space opera

4 stars

Ancestral Night is a space opera, of the sort that features a crew of a small starship getting into some adventures in a universe of interesting aliens and colorful characters.

The book is written from the perspective of its protagonist, in a generally lighter tone, which works well for that character. The overall arc of the plot also does not get too dark—Ancestral Night belongs to the subgenre of space opera that features universes which, while perhaps not entirely utopian, are generally not unpleasant places to hypothetically exist in. The plot, nevertheless, involves the old favorites such as ancient mysteries of the universe and space pirates, which Elizabeth Bear utilizes to generally good effect in crafting a space adventure.

The novel is not just pulp, however. An underlying plot concerns the questions of individual autonomy versus collectivism, and the use of transhumanism to better societies as a whole. The …