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Friday 3 October 2014

Yesterday's Kin, Nancy Kress

Yesterday's Kin


Reviewed by Richard Saar

I must admit I've never read any of Nancy Kress’ previous works, despite her being the recipient of a number of both Hugo and Nebula awards, some of the highest honours a science-fiction writer can have. I guess we just don’t see all of the books published at the local book store nowadays, don’t get me started on the comparative size, and the depressing shrinkage, of the Sci-fi and Fantasy sections in most of them…  So a when I came across Yesterday’s Kin, I snapped up the chance to read it.

Yesterday’s Kin is set in near contemporary New York, in fact you get the feeling it could be happening today, which is a refreshing change from some of the far flung, super futuristic worlds I usually read about. At once it’s instantly relatable, in that I don’t need to learn all about a new world, and it also grounds the science in a heavy dose of reality.

We centre on a family caught up in humanities first contact with Aliens, the “Denebs” who have deposited themselves in New York, in fact literally floating above the harbour in what has come to be known as the Embassy. Not that they’re doing much, or even showing themselves, all communication only through clearly mechanical voice channels so far.

Dr Marianne Jenner, a genetic scientist who’s just completed her crowning piece of research into a new mitochondrial DNA strand is whisked out of her celebratory drinks at the university on the express request of the Deneb ambassador. She finds herself accompanying the Secretary of the United Nations no less, on a secret mission to go inside the Embassy for the first time to meet face-to-face with the Aliens.

Meanwhile her son Noah, addicted to a drug called sugarcane, which doesn’t get you high, but instead allows you inhabit a different personality each time you take a hit, is out of money, luck and even a place to live. He’s forced reluctantly to call on his sister Elizabeth, who works for the Border Patrol around the Embassy and is anything but happy with the Aliens presence.

When they discover their mother is now holed up inside the Embassy, just why she is there and what the Aliens have to say changes the course of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Yesterday’s Kin is a surprisingly quick read; I think it took only a handful of hours to get through this book. Whilst that means it does set a cracking pace and is genuinely a page turner, it’s also what ultimately disappointed me about the book.

The story takes place over about 9 months and has a good number of key characters, but runs less than 200 pages, so there’s not a lot of time to develop and explore the story. I would have preferred something at least twice the length, as I really did like the setting; the book presents a new and interesting take on humanities first encounter with Aliens and quite frankly I wanted more!

That’s the rub really, I liked the book a lot, it’s fresh and interesting and poses some big questions, but there just wasn’t enough of it, I hope we get a sequel… and that one is twice as long.

Source: Supplied in e-book format via Netgalley

IBR Rating: 

Recommendation: well worth the read, it’s a quick one with a new take on first encounter with a few twists, definitely for sci-fi fans.

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Item Reviewed: Yesterday's Kin, Nancy Kress Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Saar
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