Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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 planets, with one ship parked for thirty thousand years just inside the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy? Check.
A sapient, deep-space-dwelling species that seems to be a combination of space whale/seahorse with an Ancient Elder damn near as big as the aforementioned black hole Prize? Check.
And a main character who goes on quite the tumultuous personal journey, discovering things about herself kept hidden for twenty years, who at the end makes a firm decision to break free of her previous fears and limitations, and be the person she decides she is going to be, not the person various factions have tried to force her to be throughout her life? Check.
That's this book. It is not a quick read, despite being, in many ways, a classic space opera. It is deliberate, thoughtful and chewy, and deserves to be read slowly and savored. I think it would reward multiple reads.
I loved it.
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