Review: Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

YesterdaysKinPublished by: Tachyon Publications
ISBN: 1616961759
ISBN 13: 9781616961756
Published: September 2014
Pages: 192
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

I’m ashamed to say I’ve had this book to review since August. The 23rd to be precise. There it’s sat, waiting to be read and reviewed, and there it did wait, for I slowly came to realise I’d taken too much on, and though I tried to keep up I just didn’t manage to get to it. Until now, when I have, amusingly enough, even more on, and I’ve run back to it partly out of guilt and partly to procrastinate on other work.

Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down – it was impossible. I’ve read work by Nancy Kress before and loved it – been utterly spellbound and unable to put it down, so hopefully I’ve learnt my lesson. Nancy Kress = books you just can’t put down.

But on to the actual book.

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress introduces us to Dr Marianne Jenner. She’s at an age we don’t see too often in speculative fiction – she’s old enough to have three children of her own, a deceased husband, and as we see throughout the novel, two grandchildren. It’s refreshing to see a mature woman in the lead, strong and resilient, in a tough field for a woman yet never spoken down to or ridiculed for being female.

We see her being congratulated for a paper and suddenly threatening men from the government burst into the room and escort her away – because aliens have landed, and they’ve requested her presence specifically.

Set in New York, we learn that aliens have touched down right in the harbour. They come to tell the humans that a biological disaster is on its way to Earth, and shall hit in 10 months time. The aliens, known as the Deneb have come because the same disaster shall hit their own world in 25 years, and they too need a cure. They provide information and a state of the art lab for the humans to do their research, and Dr Marianne Jenner is one of them.

Throughout the novel we also meet her children – the cold Elizabeth who works for federal border patrol officer, the favourite son Ryan – an environmental biologist, and then the black sheep of the family, Noah, a drug user and all-round a bit hopeless. All are difficult as Marianne has devoted so much of her life to her work, yet at the end of the day they are all family, something the Deneb take very strongly. Throughout the novel we come to see just how strongly these themes run, and how they reflect upon each other.

In addition, this is a bleak novel that shows just how humans take to disasters. Economies rise and fall, mass suicides take place, as well as suicide bombers and those who simply believe it’s all a Government hoax. It doesn’t help that the Deneb aren’t being entirely truthful, and that further family issues spring up just when Marianne needs it the least.

This is a novel that’s hard to put down, as you come to care for the characters involved. We don’t have heroes here that you come to love and hope for – this is a bitterly stark novel of what it could actually be like, and none of the characters are entirely positive or wholesome. I found the social commentary to be fairly accurate, and the characters intriguing. From start to finish this isn’t what you really expect, and the ending is quite a surprise, but it’s also steady and reliable – realistic.

Overall this is an excellent novel and I can’t wait to see what Kress comes out with next. I know at least I won’t wait months to read it next time!

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