Monday, May 10, 2010

another 'genetic-manipulation-gone-bad' novel; ancestor by scott sigler

The last Scott Sigler book I read was the arresting Infected, where a mysterious alien spore started infecting people, making them lose control of their thoughts and behaviour, and leading to a rather gross conclusion. While it was not an entirely original concept – Invasion of the Body Snatchers anyone? – Sigler managed to tell a gripping tale by focusing on one individual and the emotions he goes through as he realises that something is taking over his mind.
In his new book Ancestor, Sigler has again taken up another common theme in science-fiction. This time it's the evil that occurs when people get involved in genetic manipulation.
Once again, a conglomerate is out to play god and create some sort of creature that will – supposedly – solve a terrible human condition; oh, and make lots of money in doing so. Dr Claus Rhumkorrf is trying to create the perfect organ donor and win the Noble Prize... and success must occur at all costs.
Naturally enough, science goes too far and an abomination is created, something that not only doesn't appear to have solved the human organ supply problem, it's also got very sharp teeth, near human intelligence and an amazing ability to develop overnight.
Tied into this story is a clearly insane Chinese geneticist, Jian, who's nightmares may have something to do with the monsters; PJ Colding, a mercenary for hire with a heart; his love interest, sassy pilot Sara; assorted baddies in the guise of more mercenaries and a nutter of a businessman.
Plonk them all on an isolated island in the American Great Lakes, add a nasty snowstorm, a few crafty locals and lots of cows; unleash the monsters and you've got yourself a gore-fest in Ancestor.
Sigler can write; his main characters are good, if a little clich├ęd – the mad scientist, the crass bully, the baddie with a heart of gold – his dialogue likewise, but his plotting is obvious and the early part of the book a little slow.
In many ways Ancestor does not stack up against other books in this genre. White Devils by Paul McAuley, for example, remains one of the better genetic-manipulation-gone-wrong books published recently. Still, Ancestor is not bad; there are some great action scenes and the conundrum of Jian's nightmares leads to a great twist towards the conclusion.
If you enjoy science-fiction with at least one foot in reality, as these types of books usually have, then Ancestor will fit the criteria.
Although there's a bit of scientific language at the start of the novel – which may be why it's a bit slow – the action from about a third of the way through makes up for it and Sigler sets up the final scene with an eye towards a sequel.

Ancestor by Scott Sigler is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available from good book stores and online.


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