Books by Nancy Kress

YESTERDAY'S KIN by Nancy Kress
Released: Sept. 9, 2014

"Science-fiction fans will luxuriate in the dystopian madness, while even nonfans will find an artful critique of humanity's ability to cooperate in the face of a greater threat."
In a dystopian future, aliens have parked their spaceship in New York Harbor, America is rabidly isolationist, and geneticist Marianne Jenner's three adult children can't stop squabbling. Read full book review >
FLASH POINT by Nancy Kress
Released: Nov. 8, 2012

"While the adrenaline rush will draw readers in, it's the unsettling question posed by the program title that will linger. (Science fiction. 14 & up)"
In an idea-packed near-future thriller, reality TV pits teens against increasingly deadly virtual traps. Read full book review >
FOUNTAIN OF AGE by Nancy Kress
Released: April 24, 2012

"A master class in the art of short-story writing."
Nine substantial stories, 2007-2009, from Kress (Crucible, 2004, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2009

"Arrestingly ambiguous and persuasively set forth—in the best science-fiction tradition, guaranteed provocative no matter what your personal opinions."
Kress (Dogs, 2008, etc.) returns to science fiction with this yarn about alien contact, genetic engineering and life after death. Read full book review >
CROSSFIRE by Nancy Kress
Released: Feb. 1, 2003

"Life-sized characters with personal and cosmic preoccupations, tense and knotty if sometimes uneven plotting, and Kress's usual abundance of ideas: gripping, challenging work, a reassuring return to top form."
Alien-contact yarn from the author of, most recently, the Probability Trilogy (Probability Space, p. 1000, etc.). With the Earth in dire straits, billionaire Jake Holman and his manager, Gail Cutler, built a starship and, taking along various groups who could afford to pay—Arab royalty, wannabe Cheyenne, New Quakers, Chinese, the Cutler clan—flew to planet Greentrees, where they established Mira City. Then the colonists discover the Furs, apparently intelligent but puzzlingly passive and incurious; stranger still, the Furs aren't native to Greentrees! Another Fur group seems to be permanently intoxicated; yet another clashes violently with the Cheyenne. An alien ship approaches, decelerating at a staggering 100 gravities. The colonists' supposed protector, Captain Scherer, attempts to destroy the alien ship; one of Scherer's men shoots two aliens as they emerge from their shuttlecraft. Despite all this, the weird, plant-like, peaceful Vines are willing to talk. The Vines are fighting with the xenophobic Furs, using captured Fur ships though eschewing the Fur weapons. The Greentrees Furs are Vine experiments in breeding nonviolent Furs. But then a Fur ship arrives, blasting the Vine ship and the humans' shuttlecraft. Jake, Gail, and others are herded aboard the Fur ship and taken to another planet, where the Furs maroon them: they must befriend more Vines and somehow destroy the force field that protects the Vines' homeworld. If Jake refuses to cooperate, the Furs will annihilate Mira City—and then seek out and blast the Earth. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

"Shapeless, with a somewhat interesting young protagonist, while only minimally renewing our acquaintance with the until-now fascinating Worlders and Fallers: a bitterly disappointing conclusion."
Final installment of Kress's hitherto scintillating trilogy (Probability Sun, 2001, etc.), although by itself this one's barely intelligible. Humanity, exploring through a series of space tunnels, came into contact with the xenophobic Fallers, who thereupon attacked without warning. On planet World, home to furry aliens, xenologists discovered an artifact that, so physicist Tom Capelo found, altered probability; not only that, it could destroy entire solar systems at the press of a button—or protect them. Now, on Earth, Tom's daughter Amanda witnesses the abduction of her father. Why? By whom? She flees to Luna, hoping her friend Marbet Grant might help. Marbet, extraordinarily sensitive to body language, learned how to communicate with the only Faller ever captured. Retired Colonel Lyle Kaufman, a skilled negotiator and now Marbet's partner, wants to go back to World, where his removal of the artifact caused the Worlders' "shared reality" to collapse. The Fallers too have their own artifact. But are they intent on defense or destruction? If both humans and Fallers activate their artifacts on setting Prime 13, spacetime itself may be annihilated. Thus far, the human posture has been defensive. But political upheaval on Earth sweeps the unstable Admiral Pierce into power—and he's anxious to blow the Fallers to dust. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2001

"Kress's always-excellent characters wrestle with a splendid array of puzzles and problems, human, alien, and scientific: another resounding success for this talented, sure-footed writer."
Sequel, as predicted, to Kress's wonderful alien-contact yarn Probability Moon (2000). Humanity is at war with the ruthless, xenophobic, uncommunicative alien Fallers. Planet World's furry, intelligent humanoids somehow "share reality": they think and react alike, or suffer the consequence of blinding head pain. Also on World reposes an ancient artifact, a relic of some vanished race, that can generate a shield impenetrable to directed-energy weapons. On another setting, the artifact causes heavy radioactive elements to explode. And, by manipulating probability, the artifact gives rise to the Worlders' shared reality. A second expedition to World, led by the masterfully diplomatic Colonel Lyle Kaufman, includes genius physicist Thomas Capelo—he'll study the artifact—and gene-modified Marbet Grant, supernaturally capable of interpreting body language and involuntary cues, to interrogate a captured Faller. Though the Fallers already possess the shield against energy beams, Capelo makes no progress toward understanding the physics behind the device. Marbet makes little headway in communicating with her captive. The artifact, Capelo learns, might protect the Solar System against Faller attack—but if they remove the artifact from World, the inhabitants' shared reality will collapse, along with their civilization. Then Marbet shows her Faller a model of the artifact, for which treasonous act she's arrested and thrown into the brig—leaving all Lyle's plans in ruins. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2000

"Twisty and compelling, brimful of ideas, with Kress's usual life-sized characters: top-notch work from a major talent—and we haven't heard the last of the Fallers."
A far-future alien-contact yarn from the versatile author of Stinger (1998), etc. When humans expanded into space, they found a network of stargates left by vanished aliens—and also ran into the Fallers, xenophobic aliens who immediately declared war and continue to resist all attempts at communication. Starship Zeus deposits an alien-contact team on planet World, whose human-alien inhabitants have a "shared reality" (if you're out of synch, you get violent headaches). All this is cover for Zeus's real mission: to investigate the weapons possibilities of the huge alien artifact orbiting the planet (Worlders think it's a moon). Military physicist Syree Johnson finds that the artifact projects a field that causes heavy elements to become temporarily radioactive. Then, when the Fallers show up, Johnson decides to attempt to tow the artifact back through the stargate—but it's almost certainly too big. Down on the planet, the investigators—geologist Dieter Gruber, xenobiologist Ann Sikorski, fanatic anthropologist David Campbell Allen, and their leader Ahmed Bazargan—strive to understand the Worlders' "shared reality": if the Worlders decide they're unreal, they'll be utterly ignored. Worlder criminals, they learn, become "unreal" until their debt is paid; indeed, the criminal Enli has been set to spy on them. But what's the source of the reality/unreality phenomenon? Is there a link with an artifact they've detected buried on the planet, or with the thing in orbit, which seems to generate probability waves?Read full book review >
STINGER by Nancy Kress
Released: Oct. 30, 1998

Another biotech thriller featuring the long-suffering, messed-up FBI agent Robert Cavanaugh (Oaths and Miracles, 1996). Consigned to a backwater office in southern Maryland, his relationship with science writer Judy Kozinski already coming unraveled, Cavanaugh notices a sudden upsurge in the incidence of fatal strokes reported by local hospitals. Inexplicably, almost all the victims are black. Meanwhile, at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, militant black doctor Melanie Anderson examines blood samples from black Senator Malcolm Reading, dead of a thrombosis induced by malaria. But Reading carried the sickle-cell trait, which should have made him resistant to malaria. More alarming still, this "malaria reading" attacks only those with sickle-cell. Cavanaugh's thrombosis epidemic results from an outbreak of—malaria reading. To Melanie, the evidence adds up to attempted genocide, a theory her superiors reject. She seethes as the CDC and the Army cooperate to stamp out the epidemic. Cavanaugh, meanwhile, has been seduced by his ex-wife Marcy, but only so she can ditch the family dog. Still, Cavanaugh and Melanie ascertain that someone deliberately bred malaria reading as a biological warfare agent—they suspect the secret CIA lab at Fort Detrick, not the too-obvious suspect the FBI publicly arrest—and that their bosses are cynically covering up the whole affair. They're right about the conspiracy, as it turns out, but wrong about its source. Agreeably understated, impeccably crafted, engagingly peopled, and, this time, the offstage villains are perfectly suited to the swirling, murky atmosphere of paranoia. Read full book review >
BEAKER'S DOZEN by Nancy Kress
Released: Aug. 31, 1998

Kress's first story collection since The Aliens of Earth (1993) comprises 13 tales, 1991—97, and includes the original novella-length version of her splendid Beggars in Spain. Kress shows her talents to best effect when combining several situations and ideas: an alien detective story, in which the murderer does the investigating, that probes the nature of consensual reality; designer drugs, mysterious deaths, and the piercing emotions aroused when love ends abruptly; a fine Sleeping Beauty variant; Adam and Eve—the feminist version; and an odd, provocative, insidious yarn that, in one of several possible interpretations, promises that on Judgement Day it will be God, not humanity, who—ll be judged. Also on the agenda: ideal beings and chaos theory; genetic engineering and vengeance; cloning; drug-resistant bacteria on the rampage; plus implants, ballet, and mothers. Finally, in a lighter vein: thanks to his interfering old schoolteacher, Walt Disney turns his back on cartoons and instead becomes a third-rate painter; and emotions are acquired, displayed, and discarded like designer fashions. With her focus always on people rather than on gadgets or even ideas, Kress at her best is as incisive and subtle as any. And if you don't like the stories, you can always ponder the collection's baffling title. Read full book review >
MAXIMUM LIGHT by Nancy Kress
Released: Jan. 1, 1998

More near/medium-future biological manipulations from the author of Beggars Ride (1996), etc. By 2034, endocrine-disrupting chemical pollutants have caused a collapse in world fertility. Human cloning—crucially but quite unbelievably—doesn't work, and many women will do anything to acquire a child, or even a surrogate. Kress provides three first-person narrators. Shana Walders, 19, a wannabe soldier, exploits her physical attributes to get what she wants. While doing her year's compulsory National Service, she glimpses three monkeys with human hands and faces. But when she reports this to a powerful government committee, only dying doctor Nick Clementi believes her. Later, furious at her rejection by the army, Shana learns whose face the monkeys wore: that of Cameron Atuli, a dancer whose memories have been tampered with. Shana contacts Nick and demands action. Nick's government source, curiously, draws a blank. Shana, meanwhile, confronts Cameron, who finds he can no longer dance and wants to know what happened to him. Cameron, it emerges, was abducted by a secret organization that's producing illegal human-animal hybrids to satisfy the demand for child-substitutes; the government knows but chooses to ignore it, hoping that the illegal labs will also solve the fertility problem. Dubious characters, plotting that relies on coincidence, and a threadbare backdrop: disappointing work from this talented yet erratic writer. Read full book review >
BEGGARS RIDE by Nancy Kress
Released: Nov. 1, 1996

In the splendid Beggars in Spain (1993), Kress invented a breed of humans who no longer needed to sleep—a compelling idea that the disappointing Beggars and Choosers (1994) dissipated in ho-hum nanotechnology and political manipulation. Here, clearly bored with the whole notion of sleeplessness, Kress meditates gloomily on the horrid but obvious consequences of genetic engineering driven by malevolence. While gene-modified ``donkeys'' cluster in their sanitized enclaves, the supply of health-giving Change syringes gives out, so the ``Liver'' masses can't keep their children healthy and decline into squalor. Caught up in the struggle between the two groups, donkey doctor Jackson Aranow also becomes aware of the bitter rivalry between the Sleepless and the bioengineered descendants, the SuperSleepless. Paranoid, immortal Jennifer Sharifi and her fellow-Sleepless, determined to make themselves utterly secure, commission a donkey genetics whiz to create a virus that will render Livers and donkeys alike fearful of confronting anything new. Meanwhile, Jennifer's daughter, Miranda, and her SuperSleepless, paralyzed by indecision, are no longer producing Change syringes and, stupidly, disregard the threat posed by mad Jennifer. So Jennifer blasts Miranda with a nuclear missile, only to get blasted in turn by vengeful donkeys. Dreary and annoyingly, sophomorically didactic, though fans of the previous two volumes will probably want to investigate. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1996

A widely admired science-fiction writer returns to a favorite theme—biotechnology run amok—but this time entering the mainstream to offer up a thriller. FBI investigator Robert Cavanaugh is thrust into a murder case that keeps widening into new killings and that points simultaneously to the Cosa Nostra and the most advanced research in gene therapy. But Cavanaugh, as his superiors know, is hardly adequate to the task. An incurable romantic, he keeps embarrassing his ex-wife at work by sending her witty but odd faxes—until she puts a restraining order on him. No less well portrayed is Cavanaugh's informant, Judy Kozinski, a plump, unpretty woman married to an egotistical, unquestionably brilliant biologist who's murdered after a job interview with a mysterious biotechnical firm by the name of Verico. Then there's out-of-luck Wendell Botts, who, like Cavanaugh, is hopelessly in love with a woman who no longer loves him and who's gone over to a cult called the Soldiers of the Divine Covenant, taking their two children with her. A decent but tortured man, Botts is at last driven to violence when he can find no one to take his claim seriously that ritual human sacrifices are going on beyond the cult's barbed wire. It turns out that the murdered biologist was near a breakthrough in gene therapy that Verico, in league with the Cosa Nostra, planned to make use of for purposes that could have been enormous, altering the entire world's political landscape. Kress's first thriller passes muster, though her mafioso types are always offstage and far too efficiently evil to be believed. The author's real strengths lie in her ability to create characters who have recognizable frailties and sorrows, and pages that are simply brimming over with ideas. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

In the splendid Beggars in Spain (1993) Kress wondered what might happen if some people no longer needed to sleep. This sequel, with a depressing, written-to-order weariness, clambers aboard SF's current bandwagon, nanotechnology. In return for votes, gene- modified donkey politicians provide the unemployed masses of Livers with all the necessities. Meanwhile, the handful of SuperSleepless have retired behind impenetrable barriers on an artificial island in order to extend their already unimaginably advanced researches. As illegal and highly dangerous gene-modification labs spring up like weeds, a power struggle slowly develops among the government's ruthless Genetic Standards Enforcement Agency, the SuperSleepless (whose goals remain unknown), and fanatic fundamentalist revolutionaries, whose method is to capture illegal labs and use their often horrifying products against their opponents. So, as artificial viruses and nanomachines destroy the food, transport, and communication networks, and as lethal new diseases appear, the desperate Livers look for help to the godlike SuperSleepless, whose solution is to transform the entire human race. With plenty of new ideas but a plot deficiency, Kress's narrative dodges all the really tough questions to take refuge in windy patriotism. Measured by the author's own lofty standards, a grave disappointment. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 22, 1993

Eighteen tales, 1986-93, drawn from various magazines and original anthologies, by the author of the outstanding novels Brain Rose (1989) and Beggars in Spain (p. 190). Kress brings to her stories the same qualities that imbue her novels: a probing intelligence; compassion lit by insights; an agreeably complex approach; an assured, polished style. Thus her short, imaginative pieces both intrigue and satisfy while defying easy characterization: Soldiers from a Revolutionary War that occurred in another reality (``The Battle of Long Island'') appear in our own time, and are observed by an Army nurse who may or may not be a victim of child abuse; an elderly man steps through the back of his closet into 1937, changing history for the better—but not in the way he intended; an alien-contact yarn develops into an illustration of the gulfs between individual humans no less than their alien counterparts. Also on the agenda: clairvoyant powers, genetic engineering, journeys to nowhere, miniaturization, games above an ecologically devastated Earth, and others ranging from outright horror to straight-up ``inner space'' science fiction. Simultaneously disquieting and memorable: stories of great scope, depth, and unobtrusive charm. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1993

From the author of the splendid Brain Rose (1989), another telling near/medium-future sociological probe. This time: What if people no longer needed to sleep? Leisha Camden belongs to a new generation of genetically enhanced children: she's tall, slim, intelligent, beautiful—and she doesn't sleep. So, growing up, Leisha and her fellow-Sleepless rapidly outshine their Sleeper contemporaries. But later, after global economic changes, most Americans subsist mindlessly on the public dole while resenting the success of the Sleepless— especially when it emerges that the Sleepless are also immortal. So the Sleepless, led by the paranoid elitist Jennifer Sharifi, establish Sanctuary, a secure enclave where their genetic research can continue unobserved. Lawyer Leisha, who holds to sharing-caring values within a pluralistic society, rejects Sanctuary, preferring to offer practical advancement to ambitious Sleepers and Sleepless alike. Eventually, the Sleepless move Sanctuary into an orbiting habitat, where, having bred a third generation of Sleepless with even more astonishing abilities, Sharifi orders the preparation of biological weapons for a showdown with Sleeper Earth. But those freakish new children, their talents amplified by the lucid dreams developed by one of Leisha's Sleepers, overthrow Sharifi and jubilantly reaffirm Leisha's egalitarian principles. Though didactic (without being preachy) and uneven in places: thrilling drama, compelling dialectic. Read full book review >