Chill by Elizabeth Bear science fiction audiobook reviewsChill by Elizabeth Bear science fiction audiobook reviewsChill by Elizabeth Bear

Chill (2010) is the second installment in Elizabeth Bear’s JACOB’S LADDER trilogy. It begins immediately after the events of the first book, Dust, which you’ll want to read first.

The story takes place on a dilapidated generation ship called Jacob’s Ladder which has been drifting through space, basically becalmed, for hundreds of years. During that time, due to the effects of nanotechnology, the ship’s denizens have evolved into inharmonious groups of post-human species and society has regressed to a type of feudalism with the Conn family as lords. The ship’s AI appears to have fractured into multiple supernatural beings, giving the JACOB’S LADDER trilogy an appealing mix of science fiction and fantasy elements.

At the end of Dust, a dramatic event occurred which got Jacob’s Ladder back on track, moving in the right direction, but also upended the ship’s societal order.

Now our protagonists, Rien and Perceval Conn, are in charge. They must navigate their own complex dysfunctional familial relationships while taking on leadership roles they’re not prepared for. They must continue to repair Jacob’s Ladder while attempting to discover information about the ship’s purpose and destination. This will require dealing with a group of humans who want to go back to Earth as well as harnessing the knowledge and power of the ship’s AI.Jacob's Ladder (3 book series) by Elizabeth Bear (Author)

Bear’s descriptions of Jacob’s Ladder are better in Chill than Dust and it was fun to explore more of the huge decrepit ship, including its constantly evolving flora and fauna. In fact, I found this exploration to be much more interesting than the actual plot of the story, much of which focused on the Conn family drama and individual family members’ searches for respect, revenge, redemption, or whatever. Characterization, which was lacking in Dust, especially for secondary characters, continues to suffer compared to Bear’s intricate world-building. Some of the Conn family members seem interchangeable.

By the end of Chill, we have just begun to (partially) understand the origin and mission of Jacob’s Ladder. At this point, I don’t really care what happens to the Conn family, but I am interested enough in the project of Jacob’s Ladder that I’ve decided to read the final book, Grail. I’m listening to the audiobooks which are produced by Recorded Books and nicely narrated by Alma Cuervo.

Published in 2010. Sometimes the greatest sin is survival. The generation ship Jacob’s Ladder has barely survived cataclysms from without and within. Now, riding the shock wave of a nova blast toward an uncertain destiny, the damaged ship—the only world its inhabitants have ever known—remains a war zone. Even as Perceval, the new captain, struggles to come to terms with the traumas of her recent past, the remnants of rebellion aboard the ship still threaten the crew’s survival. Yet as Perceval’s relatives Tristen and Benedick play a deadly game of cat and mouse in pursuit of a traitor through a vast ship that is renewing itself in strange and dangerous ways, an even more insidious threat is building in a place no one ever thought to look. And this implacable enemy could change the face of the ship forever if a ragtag band of heroes cannot stop it.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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