After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A reminder that I go by Goodread’s tooltips for the star ratings. At the time I’m writing this, 3 stars is “liked it”
This is a very compelling short novel (or maybe novellette? or novella?) That jumps back and forth between 3 time periods, although eventually two of them coalesce into one. In the future (2035) humanity is hanging on by a thread after some kind of world-ending disaster has struck. The best parts of the story focus on the interpersonal conflicts in a “society” that cannot afford them. More than at any time in which you’ve ever hear the platitudes, the group really does need to be put above individual needs.
The earliest timeline has some very interesting potential with the main character that isn’t fully realized, in my opinion. Our main character almost seems to exist simply for a penultimate chapter mini-info-dump. Also to provide tension that (view spoiler)[her child will definitely end up being taken. (hide spoiler)]
In order to discuss why this book (which I had a hard time putting down) only early 3 stars, I’m going to get into spoiler territory. On Goodreads it’ll be hidden by the spoiler tag, but I’m pretty sure that when I repost on my blog, it’s going to not be hidden. Last warning……
The most disappointing aspect of this story is (view spoiler)[ what is revealed at the end and what isn’t. The disasters that nearly cause the end of humanity turn out to be Earth wiping us out for its own good? And then the most interesting part to me – the Tesslies – are left COMPLETELY unexplained. Are they aliens? Future tech? Why do they save humanity? Why do they have time-travel tech? Why did they never communicate with the humans? I understand that sometimes it’s better to leave this unexplained because the explanation the author could come up with is less satisfying, but then why explain the Gaia theory. I feel like this author got it exactly backwards – at least for my tastes. (hide spoiler)]
Should you read this story? I think that as it’s happening there is a lot of compelling story, especially in the future sections. I think the present-day is given slight short shrift (perhaps to keep the story from ballooning). I was a little unsatisfied with the part I mentioned above, but I think that how much you can tolerate what I hated is going to depend on where you sit on the story-telling spectrum of journey<->destination and reveal all<->complete mystery. At any rate, it’s a pretty short read – I think most people could probably knock it out somewhere between a lazy afternoon and a lazy day. Summer’s coming and I know some folks love their beach reads. This could easily fall in there.
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