By Nancy Kress
Hardcover, 349 pages
Thank you to Tor for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
Aliens have landed in New York and will speak only with the UN. The world doesn’t know what they look like, or why they’ve arrived – though the aliens say it is a peaceful mission. Dr. Marianne Jenner finds herself hauled out of a party by the FBI and brought to the Embassy, the strange, glowing ship that floats on the water in the New York Harbor. She finds out the truth behind the alien mission and the impact will ripple father than anyone could have predicted.
I figured I would enjoy this book (otherwise, what’s the point of requesting it?) but I didn’t think I’d be as absorbed as I was!
Environmental and medical based sci-fi is a subgenre that I’m still exploring (see: Mira Grant) and one that I’m really coming to love. This is a story about peaceful alien contact, yet it’s also about political and social divides, ecology, evolution and family drama.
This is a hard book to describe (am I lame for saying this, like, all the time?!) because the true impact of the alien visit is revealed in layers throughout the entire book. The initial visit from the aliens naturally causes alarm, despite the fact that the majority of the world never gets so much as a glance at them, and the aliens don’t outwardly harm any of Earth’s citizens. But alien hate groups arise almost immediately.
As the story progresses, there are environmental, social and even evolutionary impacts that result from the alien visits and what happens after. I don’t want to give too much away. But as each new development unfolded, my interest grew. The story is kind of a slow burn – in the sense that there’s not a lot of action and most of the development happens through character conversations and smaller scenes. I ate it up.
Dr. Jenner is called on to work with the aliens. Her research lies with the human genome and the aliens have a special project for her team. She has three grown children, Ryan, Elizabeth and Noah, and a strained relationship with each. For a time Noah gets a POV, as does one of Marianne’s grandchildren, Colin. The POV switches are smooth and added depth to the story as well as Marianne’s family dynamic. Again, a lot is revealed about her family throughout the story, so I feel like I can’t say much.
If you think you’ll like speculative sci-fi about the ecological, evolutionary and social impacts of a peaceful visit from an alien race, then I think you should check out this book. The characters are well-developed and you can tell Kress really thought about all the little details of the scenario she cooked up. She also hit on some very relevant social topics, which made it easier to connect with her story. I’m very excited to see where the series goes and will be starting the next book right away!