Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2013 Evelyn C. Leeper.

"Act One" by Nancy Kress:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/25/2010]

"Act One" by Nancy Kress (Asimov's 3/09) adds to Kress's body of work of medical/biological science fiction. In this instance, it is a story about genetic modification--and not surprisingly, about the Law of Unintended Consequences. As in most such near-future science fiction stories, Kress recognizes that anti-genemod laws passed by individual countries will be basically useless, as people will just "offshore" their procedures. (Indeed, Ireland already discovered a variant of this. It had made abortion illegal, and also tried to legislate against Irish citizens traveling to England for abortions. But it ran afoul of European Union laws which mandate that all citizens have unrestricted travel among the member countries. Ah, you might say, but the United States prohibits travel to Cuba. Well, not really--it prohibits giving or spending any money in Cuba. But even so, when a genemod clinic can be set up on a ship in international waters, what exactly could be legislated here?) I will refrain from revealing the actual genetic modifications, since that is to a great extent the point, but it is at least made plausible. Is this Hugo material, though? I'm not sure.


[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/15/2012]

AFTER THE FALL, BEFORE THE FALL, DURING THE FALL by Nancy Kress (ISBN 978-1-616-96065-0) looked very promising: Kress is an excellent writer and this was a stand-alone novel of under 200 pages--a rare breed these days. Unfortunately, the novel was highly unsatisfactory. SPOILERS There are three threads interwoven, one taking place during 2013, one during 2014, and one during 2035. The characters in the post-apocalyptic 2035 have their own view of what has happened. They are frequently confused by what is going on, so the reader knows to distrust some of what they say or think, but even so the objective facts presented indicate a certain past history. However, as the earlier threads leading up to the apocalypse are revealed, they make pretty much everything the 2035 characters think and say wrong, and even call into question the objective facts, as well as leaving a lot of unresolved questions. For example, are there any Tesslies? If not, what are those things they are seeing, and who built all the technology they are using? And isn't it convenient that the young characters from 2035 were able to collect exactly the items they were going to need later without having any understanding of what those items were when they grabbed them because they had never seen them before (e.g., tents or bags of seeds)? The "intelligent being" that Kress seems to propose might conceivably be able to orchestrate the events of 2013 and 2014, but the technology et al of the 2035 thread has to be considered as beyond the realm of possibility without some additional explanation.

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/28/2013]

"After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall" by Nancy Kress (ISBN 978-1-616-96065-0) I have already reviewed. Maybe I misunderstood what I was reading, but some parts seemed inconsistent with other parts, and other events seemed far too convenient,

To order After the Fall Before the Fall During the Fall from, click here.

"The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/29/2009]

"The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress (ASIMOV'S Oct/Nov 2008): The brief summary of this might be "Dial E for Elderly", since it seems very similar to Sir Arthur C. Clarke's "Dial F for Frankenstein", except that the gestalt mind is formed by the elderly instead of the phone system. Okay, but nothing special. This seems to be part of what might be called "the Old Wave"--the trend towards fiction about the elderly. Could it be because the authors are getting older?

"The Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/11/2008]

While it has a definite science fictional idea, "The Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress (ASIMOV'S Jul) seems more like a story about the Rom (a.k.a."gypsies") and their philosophy and customs, than a science fiction story. The premise (having to do with stopping the ageing process--and more than that would be telling) is an intriguing one, but seems to get pushed into the background for a lot of the story.


[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/07/2010]

STEAL ACROSS THE SKY by Nancy Kress (ISBN-13 978-0-7653-1986-9) suffers from a problem shared by many science fiction (and mystery) novels. It is written around a mystery and the reader may well find that she is more interested in just knowing the solution to the mystery than in reading the novel, getting to know the characters, etc. In STEAL ACROSS THE SKY, the premise is that aliens show up and tell us that they feel really guilty about something they did to the human race ten thousand years ago, and they want some humans from Earth to go to other planets and "witness" until they understand what the aliens had done. Okay, but the problem is that given this, I found myself more interested in the "solution", the "answer", rather than the book in its entirety. There can be "puzzle" books that don't have this problem--Raymond Chandler or Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries, for example, or (to use a book discussed here recently) China MiƩville's THE CITY & THE CITY. In all of these, even when you figure out the puzzle, the book remains interesting, the characters engaging, the language poetic, and so on.)

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