Review: Tomorrow’s Kin
A while ago, I had a dearth of books sitting on my shelf for which I was foaming at the mouth to read. Several times I walked by the stacks and asked myself which of those various offerings I would dive into next. After several attempts, I just started grabbing books at random, and decided to choose the one that I thought had the best potential based on the first two pages of story. This is usually about all it takes for me to decide whether I’m going to be able to like a book or not. Like there’s a base-minimum amount of goodness that my inner reader is willing to accept, and after about two pages I can just tell. After parsing through a dozen or so of the possibilities, I whittled my choices down to this single book. It was even science fiction, which is always a good thing in my opinion because I feel like I need to read more science fiction. Problem is, I need to read science fiction that’s better than this.
TOMORROW’S KIN is the first in a new trilogy of books from Nancy Kress based on an award winning novella, Yesterday’s Kin, that she wrote several years ago. In fact, as I searched around for a little background on it, I found that the first third of the book is pretty much the whole of the novella it was based on. At least in terms of summary, I can’t help but think that this is the case.
The book has a pretty interesting, if simple, premise. Dr Marianne Jenner is a biologist working at a small college on her own bevy of semi-successful research. She also feels like she’s failing in her attempts to keep her family together. One day, she gets a call from some government types with an invitation to come to New York. Aliens have shown up on Earth, and they’ve invited her to come to their embassy and be a part of their research efforts to cure a disease that will soon come to the earth via a spore cloud traveling through space. The aliens are adamant that this space disease will wipe essentially everyone out on Earth, as they have previously interacted with it, and they just happen to share ancestral DNA with humanity.
They have ten months to succeed.
Ain’t nothing like a countdown timer to get the old heart pumping, eh?
So, there are a lot of ways that I could tackle the issue of speaking about this novel. About the characters, the plot, the pacing. Those elements of the book that I normally try to address in a review that relay its goodness into my soul. The fact of the matter though is that each of these aspects of the story failed to impress for a single reason: they all rely on promises that aren’t kept. Broken families that aren’t fixed. They’re forgotten. Major plot lines that aren’t followed. They’re dropped, and then the timeline gets fast-forwarded to a point where another, almost unrelated plot line, can be picked up.
In some respects, it’s difficult to make such a statement about a book that is supposed to be the first in a trilogy. “The author has two more books to make good on their promises”, some might say. And to some, that might be valid reasoning.
But not for me.
Because you see, in order for a book to tell a satisfying story, it has to make good on at least SOME of the promises that it makes to its readers. If not, then it’s not a full story. It’s missing something; in this case, most notably, an ending that I cared about in the slightest. If all promises are delayed until book three of the trilogy, then the author hasn’t written three books. They’ve written a single book that has been split up and sold as three. I think I made the same comment about ANNIHILATION, which I also recently reviewed.
The issue of only being “part of an actual book” means (if we use some minor extrapolation skills) that this 350-page book would translate into a full story, assumedly-fulfilled promises and all, at somewhere in the realm of 1000 pages. And for a book with a plot that it as incredibly simple and thin as this one, I’m just not willing to give into the idea that such a book might be one that I would enjoy. Especially if the pacing is as slow as this one was. And the characters as minimally realized as this one was.
I just got finished watching the season three opener of Code Block, and if any of you have watched that TV show (if you haven’t, and you’re a fan of us, you’d be a fan of it–trust me) then you know how ridiculously crazy busy things are in it and how awesome the characterization is. So, I’m sitting here, trying to justify giving a better rating to this book, given said awesomeness of the TV show I just watched, and I can’t even begin to do it. There’s just too much great stuff out there, to rank this one anywhere near something that I enjoyed reading.
The short and straight of it: a slow, unengaging, and fully dissatisfying story that I wouldn’t suggest to just about anyone.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: Infrequently strong
- Violence: Relatively little
- Sex: Frank discussion, alien relations