Much of the science discussed in the book is presented in layman’s terms, and with the exception of the definition of a haplogroup, there was nothing that I didn’t understand the concepts behind nor found that they didn’t make sense. However, I admit that I’m an amateur geneticist and anthropologist at best, so people with more experience in these fields may find the presented scientific arguments somewhat lacking. I really can’t say. But for my part, and for what I suspect will be the vast majority of readers, the concepts are sound and present some interesting speculation about early humanity and diverging evolution. You come away from Yesterday’s Kin feeling a little bit more intelligent.
The twist ending… Actually, let me stop there. The ending has multiple twists; it’s not just one thing that you think will go in a certain way and then ends up surprising you. It’s about 3. Which was impressive on its own, since the whole story was dealing with multiple complicated issues. I’d started to suspect one of the twists about 2/3 of the way through. Another began to dawn on me thanks to a throwaway musing from early on; it took a while for me to see it for what it was, not just a throwaway thought process but an important setup in a tale that wastes no space on the unimportant. If you keep that in mind, one of the twists may not come as much of a surprise, but it is still interesting to see how it all plays out and ties together. I hesitate to give any details, though, because anything specifics would be spoilers and really would spoil some of this well-crafted story.
But if you’re looking for a quick short sci-fi read with a solid grounding in anthropology and biology, then I definitely recommend Yesterday’s Kin. Kress has some talent at cramming a complex issue into a short space, condensing events just enough to be concise while still being clear, and leaving every moment filled with appropriate tension and development. It’s a worthwhile read, and it’s bumped Kress up on the list of authors whose work I need to read more of.
Read the rest of Ria’s review at Bibliotropic.
For more info on Yesterday’s Kin, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty.