by Nancy Kress
Published: September 2014
Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and eBooks
Aliens have landed in New York.
A deadly cloud of spores has already infected and killed the inhabitants of two worlds. Now that plague is heading for Earth, and threatens humans and aliens alike. Can either species be trusted to find the cure?
Geneticist Marianne Jenner is immersed in the desperate race to save humanity, yet her family is tearing itself apart. Siblings Elizabeth and Ryan are strident isolationists who agree only that an alien conspiracy is in play. Marianne’s youngest, Noah, is a loner addicted to a drug that constantly changes his identity. But between the four Jenners, the course of human history will be forever altered.
Earth’s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent human extinction—and not everyone is willing to wait.
Nancy Kress is the best-selling author of twenty science-fiction and fantasy novels, including Beggars in Spain, Probability Space, and Steal Across the Sky. She has also published four short-story collection and three books on the fundamentals of writing. Kress frequently explores biology and genetic engineering in her fiction, as in her acclaimed Beggars series and her bio-thriller, Dogs. She is a four-time Nebula Award winner and the recipient of two Hugos, the Sturgeon, and Campbell awards. Her fiction has been translated into nearly two dozen languages, including Klingon. She teaches at venues including the Clarion Writers’ Program and as a guest professor at the University of Leipzig in Germany.
Praise for Nancy Kress
“Kress, a witty and engaging writer, creates chilling suspense as twisty as a DNA double helix.”
“Her style is devilishly inventive….”
“It’s hard to imagine a better writer of science fiction in America today than Nancy Kress—to call Kress a science-fiction writer seems too limiting. She’s one of our best writers.”
—Salt Lake Tribune
Praise for After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
“Nebula- and Hugo-winner Kress mixes time travel, global catastrophe, and mysterious aliens in this strong post-apocalyptic tale…. Kress handles the crisscrossing timelines with cool elegance.”
“This isn’t the usual post-environmental apocalypse/alien invasion survival book…. Readers of science fiction and those interested in environmental issues will question the current wisdom about our environment and climate science, as well as how much effect humans may—or may not—have on the future.”
—School Library Journal
“After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall is a highly intelligent, sublimely understated glimpse into humankind’s future—it’s comparable in thematic impact to Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, and that is saying something. Simultaneously disheartening and inspiring, this novel’s ultimate power is very much like the mega-tsunami referenced within its pages—you won’t see it coming, but when it hits you, you will be swept away.”
—Paul Goat Allen, Barnes & Noble.com
“Nancy Kress is one of the best science-fiction writers working today. Her use of science is tricky and thought-provoking, her command of fiction sharp and full of feeling.”
—Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the Mars Trilogy and The Years of Rice and Salt
“An ecological apocalypse so real that it’s like a three-dimensional object that can be viewed from all sides.”
—Ted Kosmatka, author of The Games and The Ascendant
“…haunting, memorable, and a perfect example of how to write a future post-apocalyptic dystopia that is both effectively bleak, but with the all-important factor of human tenacity. Absolutely recommended.”
—The Book Smugglers
“Superstar SF and fantasy author Nancy Kress returns with After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, an elegant novella that combines several wildly different science fiction ideas into a tight package. There’s a little bit of everything here: time travel, hard science, environmental collapse, aliens, post-apocalyptic dystopia. It may sound hard to combine all of these in such a short format, but Nancy Kress makes it work.”
“…three narrative lines eventually converge and complement each other, and Kress handles this with her usual superior craftsmanship.”
“Nancy Kress displays all her usual strengths in After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall: strong plotting, fast-paced action, complex and interesting characters, thought-provoking speculation. But there’s something more here: a beautiful meditation on the fate of the earth, an elegy, a warning—and a glimpse of hope.”
—Lisa Goldstein, author of The Red Magician and The Uncertain Places
“This is Nancy Kress in top form, but more importantly, this is SF done right. Here are big ideas about the environment and the future of humanity, married to an intimate story of family, community, and motherhood. With aliens and time travel to boot! I don’t know of another writer who balances the global and the personal with such skill. I inhaled this story, and was sorry for it to end.”
—Daryl Gregory, author of Unpossible and The Devil’s Alphabet
“This story, of the terrible choices people must make in the face of ecological catastrophe, asks wrenching questions—‘What does it take to remain human? What is survival worth?’—and answers with the authority that Kress always brings to bear on both science and humanity.”
—Nicola Griffith, author of Slow River and Always
“The book is typical Kress, which means impossible to put down. A gripping tale of human survival.”
—Jack McDevitt, author of Infinity Beach and Echo
“After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall is the coming-of-age story for the human race. Nancy Kress has written a chillingly plausible tale of the end of the world.”
—Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Shades of Milk and Honey
“A disturbing, lively piece of fiction.”
—Seattle Post Intelligencer
“I highly recommend this book.”
—Nerds in Babeland
Praise for Dogs
“Full of suspense and creepy details…delivers on the potential of its gripping premise.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“…an appealing mix of horror, thriller, allegory, and satire…biting satire.”
“…a page turner…unusual and refreshing. Highly recommended.”
“…a near-future techno-thriller, with a touch of Stephen King. Fine work.”
—Asimov’s Science Fiction
“Dogs is the kind of thriller that continually makes you want to turn the pages faster than you can read them.”
“In my opinion, Nancy Kress is one of the best science-fiction authors of today…. Kress has the magical ability of weaving amazing plot, believable science, and intriguing characters into a coherent whole.”
Praise for Dancing on Air
“Like Walter Miller’s ‘The Darfsteller,’ [Dancing on Air] follows the future of an art form through ethical quagmires.”
—Asimov’s Science Fiction
“Every so often there comes a story which works the old magic that first drew me to the genre as a reader. Dancing on Air is one of those stories.”
—James Patrick Kelly
“From her novel An Alien Light to this novella, Dancing on Air, Nancy Kress has again and again made bizarre viewpoints utterly compelling. No matter how peculiar the future is that Kress imagines, her characters face it with human and humane feeling. She is a writer’s writer.”
—Tony Daniel, author of Guardian of Night
Visit the Nancy Kress website.
I: S minus 10.5 months
The publication party was held in the dean’s office, which was supposed to be an honor. Oak-paneled room, sherry in little glasses, small-paned windows facing the quad—the room was trying hard to be a Commons someplace like Oxford or Cambridge, a task for which it was several centuries too late. The party was trying hard to look festive. Marianne’s colleagues, except for Evan and the dean, were trying hard not to look too envious, or at their watches.
“Stop it,” Evan said at her from behind the cover of his raised glass.
“Pretending you hate this.”
“I hate this,” Marianne said.
He was half right. She didn’t like parties but she was proud of her paper, which had been achieved despite two years of gene sequencers that kept breaking down, inept graduate students who contaminated samples with their own DNA, murmurs of “Lucky find” from Baskell, with whom she’d never gotten along. Baskell, an old-guard physicist, saw her as a bitch who refused to defer to rank or back down gracefully in an argument. Many people, Marianne knew, saw her as some variant of this. The list included two of her three grown children.
Outside the open casements, students lounged on the grass in the mellow October sunshine. Three girls in cut-off jeans played Frisbee, leaping at the blue flying saucer and checking to see if the boys sitting on the stone wall were watching. Feinberg and Davidson, from Physics, walked by, arguing amiably. Marianne wished she were with them instead of at her own party.
“Oh God,” she said to Evan, “Curtis just walked in.”
The president of the university made his ponderous way across the room. Once he had been a historian, which might be why he reminded Marianne of Henry VIII. Now he was a campus politician, as power-mad as Henry but stuck at a second-rate university where there wasn’t much power to be had. Marianne held against him not his personality but his mind; unlike Henry, he was not all that bright. And he spoke in clichés.
“Dr. Jenner,” he said, “congratulations. A feather in your cap, and a credit to us all.”
“Thank you, Dr. Curtis,” Marianne said.
“Oh, ‘Ed,’ please.”
“Ed.” She didn’t offer her own first name, curious to see if he remembered it. He didn’t. Marianne sipped her sherry.
Evan jumped into the awkward silence. “I’m Dr. Blanford, visiting post-doc,” he said in his plumy British accent. “We’re all so proud of Marianne’s work.”
“Yes! And I’d love for you to explain to me your innovative process, ah, Marianne.”
He didn’t have a clue. His secretary had probably reminded him that he had to put in an appearance at the party: Dean of Science’s office, 4:30 Friday, in honor of that publication by Dr. Jenner in—quick look at e-mail—in Nature, very prestigious, none of our scientists has published there before. . . .
“Oh,” Marianne said as Evan poked her discreetly in the side: Play nice! “it wasn’t so much an innovation in process as unexpected results from known procedures. My assistants and I discovered a new haplogroup of mitochondrial DNA. Previously it was thought that Homo sapiens consisted of thirty haplogroups, and we found a thirty-first.”
“By sequencing a sample of contemporary genes, you know,” Evan said helpfully. “Sequencing and verifying.”
Anything said in upper-crust British automatically sounded intelligent, and Dr. Curtis looked suitably impressed. “Of course, of course. Splendid results. A star in your crown.”
“It’s yet another haplogroup descended,” Evan said with malicious helpfulness, “from humanity’s common female ancestor 150,000 years ago.
Dr. Curtis brightened. There had been a TV program about Mitochondrial Eve, Marianne remembered, featuring a buxom actress in a leopard-skin sarong.
“Oh, yes! Wasn’t that—”
“I’m sorry, you can’t go in there!” someone shrilled in the corridor outside the room. All conversation ceased. Heads swiveled toward three men in dark suits pushing their way past the knot of graduate students by the door. The three men wore guns.
Another school shooting, Marianne thought, where can I—
“Dr. Marianne Jenner?” the tallest of the three men said, flashing a badge. “I’m Special Agent Douglas Katz of the FBI. We’d like you to come with us.”
Marianne said, “Am I under arrest?”
“No, no, nothing like that. We are acting under direct order of the president of the United States.
We’re here to escort you to New York.”
Evan had taken Marianne’s hand—she wasn’t sure just when. There was nothing romantic in the handclasp, nor anything sexual. Evan, twenty-five years her junior and discreetly gay, was a friend, an ally, the only other evolutionary biologist in the department and the only one who shared Marianne’s cynical sense of humor. “Or so we thought,” they said to each other whenever any hypothesis proved wrong. Or so we thought. . . . His fingers felt warm and reassuring around her suddenly icy ones.
“Why am I going to New York?”
“I’m afraid we can’t tell you that. But it is a matter of national security.”
“Me? What possible reason—?”
Special Agent Katz almost, but not quite, hid his impatience at her questions. “I wouldn’t know, ma’am. My orders are to escort you to UN Special Mission Headquarters in Manhattan.”
Marianne looked at her gaping colleagues, at the wide-eyed grad students, at Dr. Curtis, who was already figuring how this could be turned to the advantage of the university. She freed her hand from Evan’s, and managed to keep her voice steady.
“Please excuse me, Dr. Curtis, Dean. It seems I’m needed for something connected with . . . with the aliens.”
“Aliens arrive and set up a research station in New York, offering their friendship and aid. There’s a cloud of spores heading for Earth, and the aliens (dubbed Denebs despite coming from another star entirely) have firsthand experience dealing with it. In exchange for the technology that made their interstellar travel possible, the aliens want human help in curing the plague caused by the spores that have already destroyed two of their own colony worlds. Geneticist Marianne Jenner is one of the scientists who have been asked aboard the alien station, but even among her own family there is a difference of opinion about whether these extraterrestrials can be trusted. Verdict: Kress has proven that she can pack a huge amount of story into a small container (as with 2013’s title After the Fall Before the Fall, During the Fall), and here the author expertly explores one family’s experience of alien visitation.”
“In the middle of receiving accolades for her work discovering that all humans are descended from a common female ancestor, Marianne is yanked away by the government. She’s one of a handful of scientists who have been issued a special invitation to venture inside the alien spaceship. While turmoil rages around the globe about how to deal with the aliens, inside the spaceship, the visitors bring news of a far greater threat to human existence. Their intentions are unclear, but one thing is certain: They have a disturbing interest in Marianne’s work. Kress (After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, 2012, etc.) spins an eminently readable tale revolving around Marianne and her children: Elizabeth, the suspicious border patrol agent; Ryan, the charming botanist who studies invasive species; and Noah, the lovable drug addict who can’t figure out who he is. Each of them has a very different idea about what it will take to save humanity, but while the family and the rest of the world are embroiled in arguments, the clock keeps ticking. Kress keeps her science understandable and her plot complex, rounding everything out with a healthy dose of practical philosophy delivered in clear, precise language. While the story zooms along at breakneck speed, Kress skimps on character development and buildup. As a result, events seem to explode out of nowhere rather than unfolding organically, and eventually they stop packing an emotional punch. Even though the book would benefit from another hundred pages, more is at stake than an entertaining read. The political turmoil created by Kress’ aliens is a warning for the reader to pay more attention to how modern-day conflicts are handled.
“Science-fiction fans will luxuriate in the dystopian madness, while even nonfans will find an artful critique of humanity’s ability to cooperate in the face of a greater threat.”
“Nancy Kress has always written stories as accessible to the novice as to the seasoned fan, and “Yesterday’s Kin” gets my vote as this summer’s most inviting introduction to science fiction for new readers.”
—Gary K. Wolfe, Chicago Tribune
“Nancy Kress delivers one of the strongest stories of the year to date…. As with all of Kress’s work, this is very nicely crafted, with well-paced prose that carries you through the story, complex human characters, a compelling and conflict-driven human story, a clever twist partway through, and an even cleverer twist at the end.”
—Gardner Dozois, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction series
“Yesterday’s Kin is a fabulous look at first contact through the eyes of a family. Like all of Nancy’s work, the characterization and the science is impeccable, and the story so well done that I was sad when it was over. Nancy delivers a complete package, and shows her chops as one of our best modern science fiction writers.”
—Brenda Cooper, award-winning author of the Ruby’s Song series
“Sparely constructed and cleverly resolved, “Yesterday’s Kin” provides everything readers need for an immersive plunge into a frightening, fascinating and inescapable predicament.”
“ clear prose and deft strokes of character”
“In short, Yesterday’s Kin was a joy to read. Not only was the prose easily digested, but the scientific speculation and facts behind the story really helped in raising enjoyment. A thoroughly recommended novel.”
“Yesterday’s Kin is a beautiful blend of science and drama.”
“. . . fascinating, intelligent and intuitive. . . . Yesterday’s Kin is highly recommended.
—Nerds in Babeland
“…well worth the read…”
—Internet Book Review