Yesterday's Kin

I've been a fan of Nancy Kress ever since I first read Beggar's In Spain a couple years ago.  Since then, I've slowly worked my way through much of her back catalog, which can be a bit of a pain, since much of what she's done is either A) short stories or B) not available on my Nook.

That being said, I've read a fair amount of her output, and I can honestly say that I'm quite the fan.  For those curious about where she falls on the Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi hardness, I would place her right around the 4.5 level ("One Big Fib"), but she seems to meander between 4 and 5, which is pretty crunchy, to be perfectly honest, and about as "hard" as I think I could handle for casual reading.  For instance, Crossfire and Crucible have near-C travel, but the time dilation effects are actually major plot points, so while she's using high speed travel between stars, she's taking the science into account.  She also (generally) places her stories on Earth in the nearish future; there's no blasters, but plenty of genetic engineering, oftentimes at the hands of Highly Advanced Aliens.

So, for once, I've read a current novel.  Yesterday's Kin was published by Tachyon Publications, which, until today, I'd never even heard of.  But who cares about the publisher?  Let's talk about the book!

Yesterday's Kin tells the tale of aliens landing on Earth and making contact, trying to get the Earthlings help to great a resistance to a deadly disease contained in a spore cloud out in space.  It turns out that the aliens are actually humans that were taken from Earth some time in the distant past, thus leaving them very, very similar to humans, but for about 10,000 years of evolution.  The story focuses on one particular biologist and her family members as they deal with the aliens, this new information, and all the fallout connected with aliens being on Earth and a death-cloud being six months away.

Sadly, the idea far out-steps the execution.  It's certainly an interesting story, and one that isn't easy to put down, but it's almost painfully short.  It's really more of a novella than a novel, despite its description and price.

It also feels more like a fleshed out outline than a complete work.  I'm a big fan of Nancy Kress's work, but this doesn't feel complete.  I think it may be that she's one of those writers who works better in the short story arena, and when she tries to stretch things out to novel-length, it doesn't quite work right for whatever reason.

Still, that being said, it's a compelling story that raises several interesting sociological questions, in addition to the fascinating biology.  I think it's well worth reading, just... not at full price.

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