Book Review: Nothing Human, a Fascinating Read

As I wrap up this week, which has been full of:

  • volunteer hours at my kids’ schools,
  • preparations for Easter and Spring Break,
  • writers’ club meetings,
  • church meetings,
  • family get-togethers, interspersed with
  • gaming (I’m loving Horizon Zero Dawn, by the way),
  • geocaching, and
  • reading, of course…

I can’t help but be thankful for a good life. Some things feel scary, and I have thoughts that I’d really like to get into a blog post to see if I can get some real, constructive conversations going about issues that concern all of us. In the meantime, though, I’ve got a review of Nothing Human by Nancy Kress. Nancy is an American female science fiction writer, which is partially why I bought and read this book, but I was also intrigued by the premise of Nothing Human, which is:

What Nothing Human Is About

…that, in a setting where Earth has been ravaged by global warming, aliens contact and genetically modify a group of 14-year-old kids, inviting them to visit their spacecraft. After several months of living among the aliens and studying genetics, the students discover that the aliens have been manipulating them and rebel. Upon their return to Earth, the girls in the group discover that they are pregnant and can only wonder what form their unborn children will take. Generations later, the offspring of these children seek to use their alien knowledge to change their genetic code, to allow them to live and prosper in an environment that is quickly becoming uninhabitable from the dual scourges of global warming and biowarfare. But after all the generations of change, will the genetically-modified creatures resemble their ancestors, or will nothing human remain?

It’s a fascinating apocalyptic premise borne out by an interesting storytelling structure. It’s very intriguing to consider how we as a species could evolve to survive a slow apocalypse, especially if “guided” by an alien “human” species. It was a very thought-provoking read.

But…

I wouldn’t give Nothing Human a full 10 stars for a few reasons:

  • It didn’t play out as tautly as After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, a book also by Nancy with a similar premise. That book is more YA and more intense.
  • Nothing Human is told in three parts and from various perspectives. I think the story would’ve been told better just from Lillie’s perspective, as she was the one character that all the parts and perspectives had in common.
  • The ebook copy that I got from Amazon was, for some reason, not a finished copy. There were a lot of typos, to the point that it was detracting.

I’d still give it at least 8 out of 10 stars, though. Sometimes, I like books that really make me think, but that also have interesting and relatable characters in thoroughly unrelatable circumstances.

 

Partial nutrition facts label:

Swear words: 55

 

What are you reading this week?

 

 

Book Review: Steal Across the Sky, A Philosophical Read

Nancy Kress is really good at writing hard-core science fiction, and for that alone I applaud her. To do that in such a male-dominated field is brilliant; to do it repeatedly is amazing. I thought her book  After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall  was brilliant. Steal Across the Sky, also by her, was less than she’s capable of, though. Where this book excels in world-building and uniqueness, it falls short in the area of characters with whom one can really relate and who have deep emotional progression.

What Steal Across the Sky is About

The book is about two people who volunteer visit seven planets and “witness” for a mysterious group of aliens that all-of-a-sudden arrived, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the internet. These aliens claimed to have wronged humanity ten thousand years before, and need some volunteers to visit a bunch of planets seeded with human stock. Italian-English grad student Lucca and waitress Cam are among the twenty-one volunteers chosen, and they visit two planets. Cam encounters a monolithic, brutal and appallingly bloodthirsty culture where a game determines everybody’s destiny. On Lucca’s planet, evidence mounts that the people can perceive and converse with the recently dead, something Lucca rejects. Once all the witnesses return to Earth, a compelling picture emerges: on half of the planets visited, the inhabitants can indeed see and chat with the recently dead. The Atoners explain that those inhabitants carry a gene that allows them to do so. On the other planets, and Earth, the Atoners deleted the gene. (They don’t explain why.) On gene-less Earth, chaos ensues as Kress explores the consequences of that premise.

And, as you might imagine from that description, what ensues–actually what happens throughout almost all of the book–is essentially a philosophical discussion about what that means for humanity.

Why I Didn’t Connect With the Book

While the premise is fascinating (as I tend to find with many science fiction books), and the execution of that premise in line with the expectations of its genre, the emotional quotient is just not there. It would have been neat, I think, to see that chaos play out and then resolve in Lucca’s and Cam’s relationship, for instance. I think that would’ve made for a more intense, relatable book.

Also, because it’s adult sci-fi, the pacing was slower than that of YA. I can’t dock it for that because that wasn’t a fault of the book per se, just a matter of my taste.

Who Will Like Steal Across the Sky

If you’re a serious fan of science fiction, I would dare say that this book should be on your required reading list. If you liked books like A Case of Conscience, which explores the nexxus of science and religion from an other-worldly angle as well, you’ll like Steal Across the Sky. I, for one, am going to continue pursuing my goal of reading all of her books, even though this one wasn’t my favorite.