Sunday, September 7, 2014

Yesterday's Kin

Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress
Tachyon: 9/9/2014
eBook, 192 pages

ISBN-13: 9781616961756

Aliens have landed in New York. After several months of no explanations, they finally reveal the reason for their arrival.
The news is not good.
Geneticist Marianne Jenner is having a career breakthrough, yet her family is tearing itself apart. Her children Elizabeth and Ryan constantly bicker, agreeing only that an alien conspiracy is in play. Her youngest, Noah, is addicted to a drug that keeps temporarily changing his identity. The Jenner family could not be further apart. But between the four of them, the course of human history will be forever altered.
Earth’s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster—and not everyone is willing to wait.
My Thoughts:

Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress is a highly recommended short novel that succinctly captures a first contact story from the viewpoint of one family - with a twist.

They said they were here making contact for a peace mission. At first the aliens, nicknamed Denebs, were staying in orbit off the earth, but then they asked permission of the UN to set up an embassy off shore from NYC. Then they requested specific visitors to their embassy and they revealed their true reason for making contact. The aliens claim there is a deadly interstellar spore cloud headed for earth and they want to warn earth scientists about it so they can find a cure/vaccination before it arrives in 10 months.

The Denebs are also interested in the genetics research of Marianne Jenner. She recently published a paper on mitochondrial Eve and a new branch of her descendants. The aliens are interested in this research. Jenner is one of the scientists the aliens ask to the embassy. Yesterday's Kin focuses on the contact with the aliens but it also explores Jenner's family and their interactions during this time.

There are pros and cons to Kress' story. This is a good hard science fiction read since Kress does use up-to-date scientific research in her story. She packs a whole lot into 192 pages, which is good for a simple fast read but bad for any sort of extensive character or plot development. Kress does manage to do an excellent job of telling the story and developing her characters in the limited number of pages, but I think it may have been better if there was a bit more development of the narrative. Even while I enjoyed the story a lot, I was left with a few questions. For me at least, the twist at the end was guessed well before anything was revealed.

(I also wondered about the quote "My, people come and go so quickly here," being attributed to Alice in Wonderland, when most people will recognize it from the movie The Wizard of Oz. I'm not sure if it is in both works or not, but perhaps someone knows.)

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Tachyon via Netgalley for review purposes.

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