Saturday, January 4, 2014

January is Scott Sigler Month! Book Review 1- Ancestor

Happy 2014, everyone! I want to apologize again for my absence toward the end of 2013. I got whammed with what the doctor termed "a hellacious cold" that was bordering on bronchitis the week before Christmas, and it whupped my butt through the end of the year. I'm still not 100% recovered, but I'm getting close.

Some great things are planned for 2014, and I'm starting with something a little out of the ordinary. You actually won't be getting a writing article post from me this month. Instead, you're getting a plethora of book reviews in honor of one particular author. Mid-2013, I discovered the works of one Scott Sigler, NY Times Bestselling author of some seriously kickass stories. I was lucky enough to come along after he'd already built a nice backlist of works, a backlist that I am steadily working through. I won't lie; I've gotten addicted to Sigler's works. Well, a trilogy of his has the final book (Pandemic) releasing on January 21, so I've decided to honor Sigler's badassery by dedicating January to him. I've got a few reviews of his stuff, and they're all going to be up on the blog this month so I can try and convert some of you to reading or listening to his stuff. Today, you get the first of these reviews. I give you the review for Ancestor by Scott Sigler.


  Ancestor by Scott Sigler


The donor list for organ transplants cannot meet the demand for organs. Scientists are trying to find ways to grow and harvest organs by growing them in herd animals. But when they manage to create a pre-human herd animal that can safely provide the organs, an “ancestor”, it’s about as far from being a herd animal as you can get.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a compatible heart, a liver, a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life-saving transplant organs for a nominal fee … and imagine what a company would do to monopolize that technology.
On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse-engineering thousands of animal genomes, Colding’s team has dialed back the evolutionary clock and re-created the progenitor of all mammals. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, with no chance of transplant rejection.
There’s just one problem: these ancestors are not the docile herd animals that Colding’s team envisioned. Instead, the work has given birth to something big, something evil … something very, very hungry.
As creators become prey in an ultimate battle for survival, Colding and the woman he loves must fight to survive — even as government agents close in to shut the project down, and the deep-pocketed company backing this research reveals its own cold-blooded agenda.


The number of available organs to those who need them is extremely unbalanced. This is a real problem today, and Sigler has made an exciting thriller out of one possible solution. He displays complete truth in the passion of those behind such a project, going to any length to keep the experiments alive, making it happen at all odds and worse, at any cost. Tons of research had to have gone into this novel, and it’s easy to believe it could happen or is happening even this moment.


This book is extremely realistic and is told in a way that makes it completely believable. The characters are real, with their strengths and their faults, the same as any person. You see their hobbies, their chemistry with other characters (or lack thereof), and their emotions. Sigler’s characters aren’t afraid to hide their dislike or even hatred for their peers, coworkers, or forced companions. Those that trust one another do so implicitly, because it was deserved, and you can tell exactly how that trust was earned. 

I listened to Ancestor through, and it was read by the author himself. He did a fantastic job. Being the author does, of course, give him a deeper understanding of the characters, and he didn’t do a completely straight read. His Chinese scientist character not only had a female voice, but an accent to go along with it. His German accent was so-so but didn’t detract from the performance. It was still easy enough to tell which character was speaking. His Upper Peninsula characters were fabulous! In all, he did about six or seven accents and even more different voices. I’m not talking like Hank Azaria on The Simpsons doing a dozen or more voices in an episode and being unable to tell that they’re all him. It was possible to tell that each of the voices was actually Sigler. But here’s the thing: I didn’t care. It made no difference. Andy was Andy, Magnus and Paul were different, and so on. To a certain extent, he wouldn’t have even needed dialog tags.

A word of caution: since this book is written so realistically, and since there is real terror, real passion, and a gamut of other real strong emotions involved, this book is not intended for the sensitive or the young. There is strong language (tons of it), adult situations (nothing too graphic, but its there) and a full crapload of violence. I’m talking blood, murder, torture, and then more blood. Thanks to the situations Sigler put his characters in, who can really blame them for dropping a few F-bombs?

My Thoughts

What a ride! It’s been a while since I’ve come across a book that had me hating a character as much as I hated one of the characters in this book. Yet that hatred was balanced by how much I loved some of the other characters. Just the population of this novel roused emotional response, and that’s saying nothing of the plot. Genetics is one of the few branches of science that intrigues me, and this plot tickled that interest with a feather the size of a sedan. Problems were set up that I couldn’t wait to see the solutions to, the experiments intriguing, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The length of the recording as a whole was perfect, and each individual episode was the right length for my work commute or lunch break. (Except that I actually listen to it while working and my break times are silence-filled.)

Would I Recommend This Book?

If you don’t mind the mature rating, I would strongly suggest reading or listening to Ancestor. There was so much great stuff going on here, from personal dilemmas to interpersonal conflict, family disagreements, love confusion, and cows with adorable names. I couldn’t believe how happy I was that he named the cows! I would have been happy just reading a medical journal about the project itself, never mind the characters and plot. It was that interesting. This is an amazing work from a spectacular wordsmith. I give it a solid, mooing 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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