Friday 30 January 2015

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress / review by Stephen Theaker

Dr Marianne Jenner has discovered the thirty-first group of humans sharing a haplogroup of mitochondrial DNA, and though she’s very pleased to have done so it’s hardly the sort of thing that would explain her invitation to the Embassy, the mysterious home to the unseen aliens recently arrived on Earth. She’ll find out that the people of both planets share a common enemy, and potentially a common doom, and have much more in common besides. A major theme of Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon Publications, pb, 192pp) is family, and Jenner has plenty of trouble with hers. Her husband died fifteen years ago, her three children are at loggerheads with each other and her. The youngest, Noah, habitual user of mind-swapping drug sugarcane, will also end up on the Embassy, though that’ll do little to bring mother and child any closer together. This is the kind of novel I thought they didn’t make any more. Short, but complete in itself, giving clever scientists an intractable problem and an impossible deadline. A fascinating alien culture, psychological insight into our own. And what seems like (to this non-scientist, at least) real science. It’s not a horror story, or a western, or a war story dressed in space clothes, but proper full-blooded science fiction, and I loved it. I get the feeling that I will be reading many more books by Nancy Kress.  ****

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