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.
In the middle of receiving accolades for her work discovering that all humans are descended from a common female ancestor, Marianne is yanked away by the government. She's one of a handful of scientists who have been issued a special invitation to venture inside the alien spaceship. While turmoil rages around the globe about how to deal with the aliens, inside the spaceship, the visitors bring news of a far greater threat to human existence. Their intentions are unclear, but one thing is certain: They have a disturbing interest in Marianne’s work. Kress (After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, 2012, etc.) spins an eminently readable tale revolving around Marianne and her children: Elizabeth, the suspicious border patrol agent; Ryan, the charming botanist who studies invasive species; and Noah, the lovable drug addict who can’t figure out who he is. Each of them has a very different idea about what it will take to save humanity, but while the family and the rest of the world are embroiled in arguments, the clock keeps ticking. Kress keeps her science understandable and her plot complex, rounding everything out with a healthy dose of practical philosophy delivered in clear, precise language. While the story zooms along at breakneck speed, Kress skimps on character development and buildup. As a result, events seem to explode out of nowhere rather than unfolding organically, and eventually they stop packing an emotional punch. Even though the book would benefit from another hundred pages, more is at stake than an entertaining read. The political turmoil created by Kress’ aliens is a warning for the reader to pay more attention to how modern-day conflicts are handled.
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.