Richly textured ... Bear gives her characters the space to develop on their own terms, never missing a chance to world build in the interim. It’s often by the slimmest of margins that our heroes avoid disaster, and only a thin layer of metal separates the 'slowbrains' (read: things that breath air, according to Singer) from the vastness of space. But the profound connection between man and machine at its heart will keep readers turning the pages.
Bear’s narrative skillfully balances world building, believable characterization, themes of the nature of self-determination and morality, and the wonder of discovery—plus space pirates! Ideal for fans of C.J. Cherryh, Ann Leckie, and Iain M. Banks.
It’s a big book: big objects, big ideas, big conflicts. There’s a distinct pleasure in that bigness, particularly considering Haimey’s meta-level grasp of narrative structure. Her observation that she wants to see herself as the protagonist of the occurrences surrounding her life bears fascinating fruit as the plot progresses ... does have its missteps, however. The main of these is a tendency to founder under repetition of concepts or observations that were crisp on first appearance but become belabored after multiple restatements ... An idea is proposed, so to speak, but not explored. The end result, especially in terms of the scientific-philosophical-political points, was feeling as a reader that the pleasure I took in initially chewing over the concepts had been smothered under the restatement of the idea that first provoked so much interest ... Despite that snag, I found the novel reasonably engaging and well-executed ... For a reader who is daunted by the brick-sized tomes of this sort of science fiction, Ancestral Night offers a potential starting point. It’s got a plot rich in dramatic action plus debates on politics while also encompassing the vast alienation of outer space on an emotional level ... a fair-to-decent novel—occasionally lacking in depth in terms of character and philosophical development but entertaining, set in a world I find intriguing and would appreciate seeing more of (and more done with) in the future.
Anyone who enjoys space opera, exploration of characters, and political speculation will love this outstanding novel, Bear’s welcome return to hard SF after several years of writing well-received steampunk and epic fantasy ... This exciting story set in a richly detailed milieu is successful on many levels, digging into the nature of truth and reality, self-definition vs. predestination, and the calibration of moral compasses. Amid a space opera resurgence, Bear’s novel sets the bar high.
Bear offers plenty of big, bold, fascinating ideas in a narrative that culminates in a double showdown with a dazzling array of said thoughtful beings, but to get us there the plot has to wheel through highly improbable convolutions. The main characters—MacGyver-ish Haimey with her angst-y self-censorship, absurdly dull Connla, a chirpy know-it-all AI that natters on about politics—annoy more often than they appeal. The whole package contrasts somewhat unfavorably with Bear’s fantasy works, where the characters realistically inhabit fanciful landscapes and stories grows organically from their interactions with it and each other ... Impressive at the core. Readers who relished the Jacob’s Ladder trilogy will certainly enjoy this one.