Review: Yesterday’s Kin

Yesterday's KinYesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Foremost, this sci-fi novella is about how individuals and cultures define family and feel kinship, examining genetic family versus chosen family. Individuals can adopt a culture nearly as easily as a family can adopt an individual. The magnifying glass peers at what draws people together and what pulls them apart, with friends or even causes at times supplanting family.

Aliens have landed on Earth creating the Embassy just offshore of NYC, but remaining isolationist for months. Finally, the off-world Worlders request geneticist Marianne Jenner and UN politicians for first contact. Worlders come in peace and with bad news: Earth is facing apocalypse by cosmic pathogenic nebula. The countdown begins with 10 months.

Marianne is successful in work but dysfunctional in family. Happily widowed from her alcoholic spouse, she regrets thin relationships with her 3 adult children who in turn have tense ties to each other. Elizabeth is isolationist-conservative in her views against non-Americans and non-Earthlings. Ryan is a liberal activist against invasive species, including the Worlders. Noah is a lost soul with a drug habit that overhauls his sense of self and belonging.

As news of the coming apocalypse spreads, fear and hatred are unleashed upon the Worlders who just want a cure for both Earth and their planet which is due to be hit 25 years later. The tale parallels contemporary xenophobia in times of terror and economic collapse.

Much of the science revolves around mitochondrial DNA and the desperate search for a vaccine with too little time for proper trials. The story is not about the science, but the good science is appreciated regardless. The alien technology remain merely that–alien.

Yesterday’s Kin appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared independently, published by Tachyon Publications.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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