Ancestral Night - a space opera with ethical awareness
Haimey Dz is a salvage tug operator that gets involved with ancient alien technology, pirates, assorted aliens, and social ethics. She, her shipmate Connla, their AI Singer, and two cats head out to the edge of the Milky Way to check out a potential salvage claim. The first thing they find at the coordinates is a dead Ativahika, a large spacegoing alien species that resembles a seahorse. The Ativahika are presumed to be sentient, although they don't seem to communicate in any obvious way. The ship they are hoping to salvage is of unknown alien manufacture and apparently has artificial gravity, a technology that could make Singer and his small crew a fortune. But the ship also contains a horrible secret that drags Haimey and her friends into a galaxy spanning adventure that will force her to reevaluate everything she thinks she knows about herself.
Ancestral Night is good but not great. The two main characters, Haimey and Singer, could definitely use more depth and Connla could use a stronger story line. The cats are a nice comic relief though. The pirates are basically amoral capitalists that bill themselves as the free people opposed to the Synarch government that believes in adjusting anti-social personalities. The book is asking where the line between personal freedom and the good of society should be drawn and what it means to be ourselves. Is it okay to alter brain chemistry to avoid feeling certain emotions and if we do are we who we were born to be? Its a relevant question and one that effects those with depression and anxiety. The storyline about a galactic mystery that only Haimey can solve is interesting although it could be more exciting.
Ancestral Night is frequently listed as Book 1 of the White Space series although I see nothing regarding further books. If there is a second book it will either make or break a potential series given the many directions Bear could take this story and whether or not it gets below the surface of the characters. The audiobook version is narrated by Nneke Okoye and the reviews on Audible do not complain about the performance which is a good sign.