After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
by Nancy Kress
Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and eBooks
In the year 2035, all that is left of humanity lives in the Shell. No one knows why the Tesslies attacked in 2014, devastated the environment, and nearly destroyed humanity. Or why the aliens imprisoned twenty-six survivors in a sterile enclosure built on the barren remains of the Earth.
Fifteen-year-old Pete, one of only six children born in the Shell, is determined to lead humanity to a new beginning. But Pete struggles to control his anger as, one by one, the survivors sicken and die. Although the Earth appears to be slowly healing, the Shell’s inhabitants may not live long enough to see it. The only chance for humanity lies within brief time portals. Peter and the survivors hatch a desperate plan: to increase their numbers by abducting children from the past.
In the year 2013, a brilliant CIA consultant sees a pattern in seemingly unrelated kidnappings. As Julie Kahn’s predictive algorithms reveal that the world is in imminent danger, she discovers that she may also play a role in its possible rebirth.
Julie and Pete are rapidly converging in time—a chance encounter between them may be the Earth’s only hope.
“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
“Trust Nancy Kress to write a hard science fiction novella that is so clear, so precise and so well-written that the reader is never left behind…. Kress’s skill shows in the intricacy of the plotting, the scientific knowledge, and the strong characterization.”
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 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.
It wasn’t dark, and it wasn’t light. It wasn’t anything except cold. I’m dead, Pete thought, but of course he wasn’t. Every time he thought that, all the way back to his first time when McAllister had warned him: “The transition may seem to last forever.”
Forever was twenty seconds on Pete’s wrister.
Light returned, light the rosy pink of baby toes, and then Pete stood in a misty dawn. And gasped.
It was so beautiful. A calm ocean, smooth and shiny as the floor of the Shell. A beach of white sand, rising in dunes dotted with clumps of grasses. Birds wheeled overhead. Their sharp, indignant cries grew louder as one of them dove into the waves and came up with a fish. Just like that. A fresh breeze tingled Pete’s nose with salt.
This. All this. He hadn’t landed near the ocean before, although he’d seen pictures of it in one of Caity’s books. This—all destroyed by the Tesslies, gone forever.
No time for hatred, not even old hatred grown fat and ripe as soy plants on the farm. McAllister’s instructions, repeated endlessly to all of them, echoed in Pete’s mind: “You have only ten minutes. Don’t linger anywhere.”
The sand slipped under his shoes and got into the holes. He had to leave them, even though shoes were so hard to come by. Cursing, he ran clumsy and barefoot along the shoreline, his weak knee already aching and head bobbing on his spindly neck, toward the lone house emerging from the mist. The cold air seeped into his lungs and hurt them. He could see his breath.
Seven minutes remained on his wrister.
The house stood on a little rocky ridge rising from the dunes and jutting into the water. No lights in the windows. The back door was locked but McAllister had put their precious laser saw onto the wrister. (“If you lose it, I will kill you.”) Pete cut a neat, silent hole, reached in, and released the deadbolt.
Dark stairs. A night light in the hallway. A bedroom with two sleeping forms, his arm thrown over her body, the window open to the sweet night air. Another bedroom with a single bed, the blanketed figure too long, shadowy clothes all over the floor. And at the end of the hallway, a bonanza.
Two of them.
The baby lay on its back, eyes closed in its bald head, little pink mouth sucking away on dreams. It had thrown off its blanket to expose a band of impossibly smooth skin between the plastic diaper and tiny shirt. Pete took precious seconds to unfasten a corner of the diaper, but he was already in love with the little hairless creature and would have been devastated if it were male. It was a girl. Carefully he hoisted her out of the crib and onto his shoulder, painfully holding her with one crooked arm. She didn’t wake.
No doubt that the toddler was a girl. Glossy brown ringlets, pink pajamas printed with bunnies, a doll clutched in one chubby fist. When Pete reached for her, she woke, blinked, and shrieked.
“No! Mommy! Dada! Cooommme! No!”
Pete grabbed her by the hand and dragged her off the low bed. That wrenched his misshapen shoulder and he nearly screamed. The child resisted, wailing like a typhoon. The baby woke and also screamed. Footsteps pounded down the hall.
“McAllister!” Pete cried, although of course that did no good. McAllister couldn’t hear him. And ten minutes was fixed by the Tesslie machinery: no more, no less. McAllister couldn’t hurry the Grab.
The parents pounded into the room. Pete couldn’t let go of either child. Pete shrieked louder than both of them—his only real strength was in his voice, did they but know it—the words Darlene had taught him: “Stop! I have a bomb!”
They halted just inside the bedroom door, crashing into each other. She gasped: perhaps at the situation, perhaps at Pete. He knew what he must look like to them, a deformed fifteen-year-old with bobbly head.
“Moommmeeeee!” the toddler wailed.
“Bomb! Bomb!” Pete cried.
The father was a hero. He leaped forward. Pete staggered sideways with his burden of damp baby, but he didn’t let go of the toddler’s hand. Her father grabbed at her torso and Pete’s wrister shot a laser beam at him. The man was moving; the beam caught the side of his arm. The air sizzled with burning flesh and the father let go of his child.
But for only a few precious seconds.
Now the mother rushed forward. Pete dodged behind the low bed, nearly slipping on a pillow that had fallen to the floor. Both of them sprang again, the man’s face contorted with pain, and clutched at their children. Pete fired the laser but his hold on the child had knocked the wrister slightly sideways and he missed. Frantically he began firing, the beams hitting the wall and then Pete’s own foot. The pain was astonishing. He screamed; the children screamed; the mother screamed and lunged.
The father tore the little girl from Pete. Pete jerked out his bad arm, now in as much pain as his foot, as much pain as the man’s must be, and twined his fingers in the child’s hair. The mother slipped on a throw rug patterned with princesses and went down. But the father held on to the toddler and so did Pete, and—
All four of them went through in a blaze of noise,
of light, of stinking diapers and roasted flesh, of shoulder pain so intense that Pete had to struggle to stay conscious. He did, but not for long. Once under the Shell, he collapsed to the metal floor. The father, of course, was dead. The last thing Pete heard was both children, still wailing as if their world had ended.
It had. From now on, they were with him and McAllister and the others. From now on, poor little devastated parentless mir