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Ancestor by Scott Sigler

“Secret Experiment. Tiny Island. Big Mistake”

At its most basic level, the story in Ancestor by Scott Sigler could be described as a number of chases. Firstly, we have the US government trying to track down renegade bio-engineering company Genada, as they try to operate above the law. Then we have the story of evil predators chasing people around an inhospitable island in the dead of winter. It would be really easy to right off this novel as just that, but I strongly urge you not to. Ancestor is so much more and is worthy of your time.

What the author has done is to take a simple enough premise and add some welcome additional depth. The core of the novel is the topical subject of genetic manipulation. Should humans tinker with nature? Is the quest for profit enough of a reason to fool around with things we don’t fully understand?

On the island of Black Manitou, the characters are split into three groups. Firstly, there is a group of scientists who are attempting to create a creature that can be a used as a universal organ donor. Using genetic engineering they are in a race against time to create a new species that will be the genetic ancestor to all human. For the most part they do so with the best of intentions but as I recall isn’t the road to hell paved with them?

Next there are a team of ex-military minders. They work for the two brothers that own Genada, Dante and Magnus Paglione. Each of the team is well described. We get to find out the reasons why each of them has chosen to be there. The highlight for me was a character called Gunner who was writing a ‘vampire romance’ in his spare time.  Finally, there are a small group of maintenance people who look after the buildings on Black Manitou.

Of all the characters in the novel there were two that really stood out for me. Clayton Detweiler is rude, crude and, when the action starts, dangerous to know. I loved that in his fifty year career as a janitor he had met everyone from Frank Sinatra to Charlton Heston. He swears and farts like a trooper but is solid and dependable as a rock when the time comes. I also liked the character of Magnus Paglione. He comes across as a borderline sociopath, and when he arrives on the island, the tension cranks up a notch. Along with his brother he has fought his way to the top and is prepared to do absolutely anything to stay there.  His interactions with the ancestor creatures are brilliant as we get to see a predator take on predators.

There story has plenty of action going on, and the characters are forced to defend themselves by any means necessary. Not just against the ancestors but also, in some cases, against one another. There is, as I’ve come to expect after reading his earlier work, Sigler’s trademark gruesomeness.  I’m glad to say I was not disappointed.
There was a nice cinematic quality to the story as it powers along at break neck speed. The trailer for the book surfaced on the internet a few months ago and gives a flavour of what to expect. I’ve been a bit negative of book trailers in the past but this one is actually pretty cool.  It gives a good indication of the tone of the novel and serves as a nice visual anchor that helped me get more out of the novel.

One of the great things about reading a Scott Sigler novel is his all encompassing attention to the many forms of new media available. There’s not just the fake Genada website link above and the book trailer, but also the free audio podcasts, plus pages on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Mr Sigler works very hard to connect with his fans and this latest effort is no exception. If we’re really lucky maybe one day we can convince him to come to the UK for a book tour.


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