Tomorrow’s Kin, by Nancy Kress

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

I am really torn about my review of this book, because there are a lot of things that I found grating and clunky in it. There are copy editing errors that make sense into nonsense, there are sentences that grate on the ear, there are near-future references that are actually already near-past references, there are places where a character introduces a piece of gratuitous racism and the protagonist gratuitously excuses him for it only to find that it has no bearing whatsoever on the larger plot. The gay character is basically labeled THE GAY in sparkly foot-high letters with no other character traits. The sections from the points of view of the Black lady assistant and the kids read as pretty patronizing to me.

And yet. And yet it is a near-future science fiction novel substantially from the POV of an older lady, and how many of those do we have right now? Not too bloody many. And she is an older lady who is a mom who is realistically concerned about her kids and eventually grandkids–she is explicitly not enmeshed in a network of friends, but she at least has some family, some life outside a career. She gets to have a love life. And her family disagrees thoroughly, completely, on politics, the economy, and the ecology. As families really, truly do.

And there is an ecology. There is a character who is obsessed with purple loosestrife. Sometimes this is a metaphor for alien or displaced ecological disruption in the main plot of the book, because there are aliens of size and conversational ability, and also there are space spores. But sometimes? Sometimes it’s not a metaphor. Sometimes it’s just purple loosestrife. Those are my favorite times of all.

So I am torn. The structure of this book is weird–its focus shifts around–and there are so many nits to pick. And yet there are also a lot of things it’s doing that are not as widely available as I would really want. Mixed bag, is I guess where I come down in the end. Not my favorite Nancy Kress, but not without its points.

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