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Ancestral Night

(White Space #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,758 ratings  ·  463 reviews

A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera from multi award-winning author Elizabeth Bear.

Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.
She thinks she knows who she is.
She is wrong.

A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of a powerful ancient te

Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published March 7th 2019 by Gollancz (first published March 5th 2019)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An early moment in Elizabeth Bear’s expansive new space opera Ancestral Night has narrator Haimey Dz offer a meta-commentary on the ancient, 19th century novels she reads during the long hours spent drifting through space: “They’re great for space travel because they were designed for people with time on their hands. Middlemarch. Gorgeous, but it just goes on and on.” Ancestral Night is a busy and boisterous novel, complex and beautifully composed, but also has a tendency to labor its points.
Ancestral Night is a story set in the far reaches of outer space in some future time where most civilized entities have been engulfed into a loose organization ( the Federation, anyone), but on the outskirts are space pirates who shun artificial intelligence and group conformity as well as surviving remnants of ancient races barely recognizable as sentient beings. The star of the story along with her pilot and her AI shipmind work off their debts as a salvage crew. There are shades of 2001 Space ...more
I had some really good fun with this book. The transhumanist elements, from all the various augs for the mind, body, and all the relevant lock-ins required to pilot, communicate, or engineer spacecraft is something I always tend to enjoy. It's realistic. After all, our bodies are such weak meat sacks. :)

In this case, our MC is got at from several directions all at once. Memory, behavior modification, social and political nastiness, all the way up to full and voluntary body control for the Space
I’m stopping. I’m sorry. I made it to 70% and I don’t even have the desire to skip to the end and see how it plays out. I’m putting the content warnings up here in case you don’t want to read my spoiler laden review: (view spoiler)

This is not what I expected it to be. I saw space salvage and space pirates and expected a thrilling action filled plot. Maybe a cat and mouse game, mayb
Peter Tillman
Slow start -- in fact, I kept dozing off* -- but she hits her stride around 100 pp. in. A scary sheriff who's a giant mantis! *Deep* space stuff, with the Synarche, Bear's take on IMB's Culture, and pretty well thought-out. Though the exposition took the form of a college bull-session look-alikes, a fine sleep-aid. But now we're up to a Sexy Pirate babe with mystery Superpowers, and Our Heroine is discovering her own Superpowers too**, which she acquired investigating a horrible crime. And her s ...more
Sherwood Smith

Space opera is back, and at least in the hands of some female writers, it is not even remotely retrogressive in the ways that were standard some thirty years ago.

While portions of this book were claustrophobic in ways that usually lose me, Bear kept me reading as the questions opened outward, and I hoped to see more of certain secondary characters (two of them not human).

For me, space opera has to hit at least some of the following elements:

Larger than life characters with interesting exploratio
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Joss Whedon fans
Thank you to NetGalley and Saga Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This book takes off running, offering little explanation and a lot of unfamiliar terms, but I know to expect that from science fiction and I vastly prefer it to pages of tedious infodumping. The world of Ancestral Night was introduced gradually and, for the most part, seamlessly. I often cringe when authors invent their own future slang because so few can pull it off effectively. Elizabeth Bear is
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how many times I came really close to abandoning this book. From the very start, I struggled, and found the text slow and the world puzzling. Then, something happened around the 40% mark, and I started to get a good feel for the book. I still found that the text was slower to get through than I liked, but I persevered, and have to say that I enjoyed this book.

Haimey, Connla and Singer (their sentient spaceship) are salvage operators. They're given a tip about a ship, and once there,
Pengwing Kovalsky
I'm halfway through and still no sign of a plot - just a lot of random encounters. I'm assuming the plot is not forthcoming. Some fun ideas and writing isn't bad, but in general it seems disjointed and pointless. DNF
Brian Clegg
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Only a couple of weeks ago, reviewing a 1960s SF book, I bemoaned the fact that science fiction novels of ideas are less common now. Although it is correctly labelled a space opera, Ancestral Night delivers ideas with aplomb.

Let's deal with the space opera aspect first. Elizabeth Bear provides some excellent adventure scenes in space, and we've the usual mix of huge spaceships and interesting aliens. Main character Haimey Dz is an engineer on a ship that salvages wrecks - but, as we gradually di
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to 7jane by: Goodreads
On the outer limits of the Milky Way, Haimey Dz, space salvager, and her crew, find evidence of a terrible crime and accidentally gain access to an ancient technology - now they are on a run from space pirates interested in this techology; or is it something else they're after?

In a way, the life on the salvage tug reminded me of "A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet" at first, but then things took different turns. There were many surprise scenes and turns that left me astonished in what a visual b
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From my Kirkus column

In many ways this book is an excellent pairing with MCU’s recently released Captain Marvel. No, really, hear me out. Both are stories centring women being told what or not to do, told that their emotions are crap and that they should know better, that their choices of how to deal with their emotions are wrong. It is about empowerment, going against what anybody else thinks and finding your own way by embracing your identity, flaws and all. Also fighting against baddies and f
Nov 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Space salvage tug operator finds alien derelict that leads to intergalactic conspiracy and revelation about personal origin story.

Did-Not-Finish (DNF)

My e-book copy was a hefty 550 pages with a 2019 US copyright.

Elizabeth Bear is an author of American science fiction and fantasy. She has more than thirty (30) published novels in both several series and stand alone. This is the first book in her White Space series.

I got to about page 100 and stopped reading. This isn’t a bad book, if you’re trai
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A far-future post-scarcity space opera that owes a lot to Iain M. Banks (well-acknowledged in text), particularly in looking at the overall structure of society and an individual's place in it.

Haimey Dz and her small crew of space salvage operators stumble across the scene of an atrocity and an abandoned ship. An incident that occurs as part of the investigation of the abandoned ship leaves Haimey in particular the focus of pursuit and acquisition by pirates. All of which is a catalyst for Haime
The Captain
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there me mateys! I have really been enjoying my foray into Elizabeth Bear’s works and this was no exception. This story follows Haimey Dz who is a member of a three person salvage crew. A routine salvage trip turns to disaster when the ship they attempt to retrieve is a crime scene. And Haimey also catches an unknown alien virus. What results is a foray into ancient alien technology, dealing with space pirates, and exploring Haimey’s own past.

While I enjoyed this book, it was a very odd rea
Bonnie McDaniel
This book pretty much hit all my sweet spots.

A memorable voice and a deep dive into the history and character of the protagonist? Check.

A smart-ass AI with tremendous loyalty to his friends? Check.

A far-future world with a multispecies empire of questionable moral authority (to say the least--artificial manipulation of hormones and brain chemicals to fit in is an accepted and even mandated thing)? Check.

A thoughtful exploration of the issues raised by said empire? Check.

Ships as big as plane
Doctor Science
Elizabeth Bear has leveled up. She's working with a LOT of elements here, at the Master level: space travel, political philosophy, AIs, aliens, and the question (which she deals with better than it's EVER been dealt with before): "Where is the line between mental health and mind control?" As someone whose motto is Better Living Through Chemistry, I found this SUPER resonant.

Stylistically, Bear does a LOT of incluing, and it's really fun. Figuring things out from context when you *can't* look thi
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy, 2019
Capsule review (longer to follow when I have time): Bear writes SF like Connie Willis on speed ... This is an extraordinarily chatty novel, with lots of asides, digressions, interludes, speculation, cryptic references, mock commentary, pseudo philosophy, psychology, anecdotes, jokes (many bad), and lots (I mean pages) of cute cat references. Thankfully, no footnotes. The text is jampacked enough as it is. Now you either like this kind of chummy all-on-the-page writing style, or it will bore you ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

Glad that's over! Note to Self: Do not read more in this series. Maybe try Bear's Fantasy vs SF next.

I loved a few of the ideas presented in the book but I never got to a place where I saw the MC as a whole person or cared about what happened to her. The ending was not worth the hours between to get to it.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got this for free in exchange for a review, so thanks to the people at Saga Press.

So this was excellent.

Science fiction has always been, at its heart, about the proverbial Big Questions. Who we are, where we're going, what it means to be human. Ancestral Night is an excellent work in that tradition.

Haimey Dz makes her living salvaging derelict ships along with her partner/copilot, the shipboard AI, and two cats. They're citizens of what is basically the Federation. Part of what makes this super
Ancestral Night is a complex space opera that tackles many current political and philosophical topics of today.

I must admit it starts out slow and took quite a while for my interest in the characters plight to spark to life. Bear’s writing is a very descriptive. The concepts, world building and execution was mind blowing.

This is not a nail biting, non-stop action read but one that takes pondering, concentrations and reflecting on the character choices, circumstances and differences.

Overall, not
Jason Bleckly
Aug 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
On my train commute to work I'm faced with the option of reading or staring out the window. If I chose staring out the window then it's time to give up on the book I'm reading. This is what happened with this book. I persevered for 100 pages. There is some good points about the book. The ships use Alcubierre drives. There's not many books that adopt this recognized theory for crossing interstellar distance. But the explanations of it's function has issues which aren't even internally consistent ...more
Q: "What’s your elevator pitch for Ancestral Night duology?"
A: “Uber, but for ancient alien artifacts caught in the hinges of space!”

Okay, I’m slightly kidding, but what a great question! It’s not exactly accurate to call it a duology, however. It’s two related books, which will have some continuing characters, but each one should stand on its own as an arc and a story. So I’m structuring it more like Cherryh’s or Banks’s space operas, where a number of independent novels take place in the same
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
I loved this so much!! It has basically all I want in a scifi book: cool spaceships, cool concepts, interesting main character, a found family (composed of an AI, the MC, another human, two cats), to repeat myself THERE'S CATS, and lots of things to think about regarding government, transhumanism and freedom.
I though this was a standalone but I'm seeing here the series is called White Space and count me in for book 2 whenever it comes out!
Chad Cressley
The first half the book is a little slow, but the overall plot isn’t bad. The real downside is the pathetic protagonist and unlikable antagonist. The only enjoyable characters are supporting characters, and they aren’t around enough.

It doesn’t help that it’s written in first person.
laurel [suspected bibliophile]
Haimey Dz is the captain of a small salvage tug operation. She thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. But all that changes when she and her crew stumble upon a huge prize and uncover war crimes beyond what they can even imagine—and powers beyond comprehension.

This was an incredibly fascinating story, with an incredibly fascinating world (how many times can I say incredibly in one sentence? Incredibly enough, four).

And like the best science fiction, along with a riveti
Mar 25, 2019 added it
Not too long ago, I was writing about a book co-written by Elizabeth Bear and bemoaning the lack of pirates therein. Now, just two months later, I am writing about her most recent novel, and you know what? It not only has pirates in it, but they’re space pirates! To paraphrase Goethe, some days one feels seriously tempted to believe that there may exist a benevolent God after all.

Ancestral Night is, I think, Elizabeth Bear’s first straightforward Science Fiction novel since her Jacob’s Ladder tr
I talk about this some in this wrap-up:

This was a difficult book for me to get through. I greatly enjoyed the beginning and the building of the characters but around the 120-page mark, I felt it got very uneven. The plot was unfocused and turned randomly at times in new directions. There were a lot of philosophical conversations about identity and how we perceive ourselves. The role of drugs and stimulants played a large role in these questions of identity. I enjoyed
Read for the Space Opera September readathon.

This book counts toward the following challenges:
2A: Read two space operas by women
4: Read a space opera 500 pages or longer

Review to come!
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Space Opera Fans : Feb 2020 READER: Ancestral Night by Bear 17 45 Feb 19, 2020 05:06PM  

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