Review: Ancestral Night

Ancestral-Night-678x1024Title: Ancestral Night (March 5, 2019)
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Pages: 512
Series: 
White Space #1 (Series Tracker)


My first foray into Elizabeth Bear’s work was her excellent 2017 fantasy novel The Stone in the Skull, which I enjoyed immensely. I knew that Bear is known for writing in a multitude of genres, but I wasn’t prepared for the genre whiplash I experienced when I picked up the space opera Ancestral Night. The book follows Haimey Dz, a space salvager who uncovers a piece of ancient alien technology that, in the wrong hands, could be catastrophic for the galaxy at large. …lo and behold, space pirates are hot on Haimey’s trail.

This is really sharp, smart science fiction that goes deep on the details and philosophy of its world and Haimey herself. Bear’s vision for the future of space is so intricate and sophisticated that a lot of it flew way over my head. Tonally, it’s quite cold and calculated, which made it difficult for me to form lasting emotional connections to the characters. I enjoyed learning about Haimey’s backstory and witnessing her connection to her shipmates, but those moments of humanity seemed fleeting. I think the plot description makes this sound like an exciting space adventure, but I found it to be quite slow, contemplative, and unevenly-paced overall.  The prose is dense and difficult to penetrate at times, with many of the scientific elements pushing well beyond my realm of understanding.

I could certainly see this winning some awards because it really feels like next-level science fiction and more advanced than most of what I’ve read in the genre. Personally, I wasn’t able to connect with the story, but I come away from the reading experience even more impressed with Bear’s skill as a writer and would not be surprised if others enjoyed this more than I did.

★★★ out of 5

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Falling Free

Falling-Free-coverTitle: Falling Free (1987)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Pages: 320
Series: Vorkosigan Saga #1 Chronological; #4 Publication (Series Tracker)

After starting Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series, I’m now dipping my toe into her Vorkosigan Saga. Falling Free is the first book in the series when reading in internal-chronological order.

Even though it was written thirty years ago, it still holds up and doesn’t show its age. I was never hooked by the story, but it moves quickly enough and I was consistently amused by the idea of genetically engineered humans with four arms floating around a space station. This is one of the lower rated entries of the series, and the next book is fairly short, so I think I will see how I like that one before making a decision about whether to commit to the rest of the series.

★★½ out of 5

Review: Iron Gold

Iron Gold.jpgTitle: Iron Gold (2018)
Author: Pierce Brown
Pages: 624
Series: Red Rising #4 (Series Tracker)

I have fond memories of the first Red Rising novel, but was less enamored with the subsequent two volumes. Because of this, I was hesitant to embrace Iron Gold, the first book in a new, tacked-on trilogy. Once I began, however, I found this to be a wholly worthwhile addition to Darrow’s story that breathes fresh life into the overall saga. This is popcorn sci-fi of the highest order.

Now utilizing multiple POVs to expand the scope of the story, author Pierce Brown tells four unique narratives, each engrossing in their own way. Brown does a good job balancing the POVs, but sometimes the story feels too expansive, with more characters and backstories than I could keep straight, even with a handy, inset character list. There’s certainly a heavier focus on house politics and family dynamics than I remember in previous Red Rising novels and I enjoyed that more than the bombastic, interplanetary space battles that featured so heavily in the previous two books.

Overall, Iron Gold is sprawling, electrifying, bloody, and represents a welcome return to form for the series. There is plenty of set-up for future novels, while featuring enough satisfying closure to contained storylines to be effective. I’m excited for what comes next!

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: Children of Time

chaykovski.jpgTitle: Children of Time (2015)
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pages: 600

More often than not, I’m left feeling that a book with a cool/intriguing concept fails to properly deliver on said concept. Children of Time is an exception to this trend. I was blown away by how masterfully Tchaikovsky executes this evolutionary tale.

I was immediately hooked on the story, which builds and builds as a spider species on an alien planet evolves across millennia, while the last remnants of the human race exist in a sort of suspended stagnation just trying to survive in deep space. The narrative is told in a very straightforward way, with propulsive pacing and a tremendous amount of momentum. It’s engrossing from start to finish with few lulls along the way. It easily joins the ranks of my favorite science fiction novels. Read this!

★★★★¾  out of 5

“Why should we be made thus, to improve and improve, unless it is to aspire?”