Ancestor

Created by: Matt Sheean

ISBN: 1632159236 (Amazon)

Pages: 120

Ancestor

Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

A long time ago, probably in my twenties, I was happily parroting the fiction that the Best Sci-Fi told us about ourselves—that it used the speculation of possible futures to comment on the social ills of today. And while certainly science fiction has plenty of examples of that sort of thing going on in it, it’s needlessly and wastefully prescriptionist to become a sci-fi fundamentalist in that way. Good sci-fi is going to be good sci-fi for any number of reasons. Maybe it will push you to question your gross attachment to eugenics (you beast) or maybe it will deliver you a fantastic love story that just happens to occur on the rings of Saturn or maybe it will have you chirping inane things like “Aziz, light!” anytime you walk into a darkened room or maybe you’ll be heartbroken and wave a little wave at the screen and whisper “You’re gonna carry that weight” or maybe you’ll watch a great sci-fi and feel like you finally understand the Sixties because what the heck that was far out man!

Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

There’s not one kind of sci-fi and there’s not one kind of sci-fi that’s good. There’s a whole world out there and it’s ever expanding, breaking new ground, and some of that ground is weird as hell.


Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s Ancestor is, roughly (and maybe even particularly), a book about transhumanism. About evolving past ourselves within ourselves, not waiting for the glacial speed of natural processes but becoming ourselves the natural process by which we grow, learn, expand.

Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

It’s a wild fantasy of a book, catering to those who enjoyed the spaced-out moments in the final chapters of Brandon graham’s Prophet. It starts out sturdy enough, with a humanity plugged in to the worldwide network. As in MT Anderson’s Feed (and likely a hundred other stories) notifications and data pop-ups fill the corners of everyone’s vision, keeping them connected, keeping them alert to the world behind the world they walk in. But (!) I’ve never seen the idea quite so wonderfully tackled in a visual medium. In Ancestor, Sheean and Ward draw these little yellow bubbles floating ever before people’s fields of vision. It’s a nightmare but simultaneously, that bit of me that loves my phone’s ability to look up histories and etymologies and how-to videos anywhere at any time would give it a shot in a heartbeat. I may be the enemy of the Wendell Berries of the world.

Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

You think that’s going to be the story but it isn’t. In fact, there may not really be much story at all. Structurally almost exactly like Vonnegut’s Galapagos (another work concerned with the transformation of the human history), Ancestor is all prologue and epilogue. All before and after. In the before, there’s plenty of action and tension and build-up. Then the Thing Happens. And then there’s after. None of the concerns of the before remain, because why would they? Everything is changed. It’s like how for those who go away to college, suddenly the dynamics and politics and routines of the final year of high school all melt away into meaninglessness because that tiny playpen and its tiny rules mean nothing out here in the Real World.

Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

Ancestor is light on those common cues we associate with narrative. It’s there for sure, and there is a trajectory—but whether it will satisfy the average reader who wants something more staid or grounded, who can say? This will, however, definitely appeal to those who want a more spacey kind of sci-fi. One that’s less either shiny veneer for another kind of story or less cautionary moral tale using the springboard of speculation. This is just a great big What If. And for some of you, for some of us, that will be just the ticket.

Ancestor by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward

 

Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

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