Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Nancy Kress, Nothing Human

by Jerry Wright

Nothing Human
Author: Nancy Kress
Publisher: Golden Gryphon
Hardcover: 300 pages
ISBN: 1-930846-18-5
Price: $26.95

On my recent visit with Steven Francis Murphy, I was gifted with a copy of a Nancy Kress novel I hadn't read. Steve had been planning to write a review akin to the very fine review he wrote for Strange Horizons but he couldn't say what he wanted to say without giving away important plot points, and perhaps, the story. And so he passed the book and his extensive notes on to me. And so I read Nothing Human on the plane back from Kansas City.

Nothing Human is a strange and marvelous and painful story of a post-human future. But not the post-humanity of Vernor Vinge and Damian Broderick. This is a biological post-humanity, designed and cultured by an alien race called "the pribir".

The story starts in 1999 with the birth of a number of children, adopted out to various families, who turn out to have been engineered by the pribir. As they reach puberty, the children become comatose, while their minds alter. When they awake, they all have the same message: "The pribir are coming."

One of the modified children is Lillie Anderson, and in many ways her viewpoint serves as a nexus for the five inter-related stories that make up Nothing Human. The main thrust of the pribir mentality, almost religious in its fervor is "biology good, technology bad!" Although as time wends its way forward, the massive damage we see done to the earth by warring countries is primarily biologic in origin, causing the pribir great anguish when they see the perversion of their holiest of holy works.

In lesser hands, Nothing Human would have become a trilogy, or at least a duology, and at times the pace does seem forced. Still with the skilled mind of Nancy Kress forging forward, we get to see, and understand Lillie, her friends, the humano-alienoid Pam and Pete, and the children of Lillie and her fellow survivors as they struggle through their post-Apocalypic world.

There are resonant echoes with some of SF's classic works here: Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos, Clarke's Childhood's End, and many invasion-from-space novels. But Kress has her own voice and ultimately, future works of biological catastrophe perhaps will use Nothing Human as a launching pad for philosophy and speculation.

I have to agree with Murphy. Nancy Kress is a terrific author, and if you haven't read this (or any other Kress book) you are in for a treat.

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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