Saturday, January 11, 2020

Sea Change by Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress is a master of short form storytelling. 

I first (re)discovered Nancy Kress a few years ago when I was in an reading dry spell. I was listlessly perusing the library shelves feeling like I had nothing to read when I came across a copy of her then-just published novella After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall. I recognized her name from having read Beggars in Spain years before so I picked it up. 

It blew me away. The book was a masterpiece. The author created a fully realized world, She didn’t need a thousand pages to do it. Up until that point I had been disdainful of shorter works; Nancy Kress made me realize just how much hard work and talent was needed to excecise economy when world building. 

Nancy Kress writes hard sf. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just because the hard science she’s basing her work on is usually biology instead of physics doesn’t make it any less hard. 

I quickly sought out every volume of Ms. Kress’s short fiction I could find on my library’s shelves. Which brings me to today. 

I was lucky enough to be granted an eARC of Sea Change (thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications). It was, in a word, fantastic. Ms. Kress has crafted a brilliant and frighteningly realistic near future world where genetically modified foods are a crime and anyone trying to use science feed the hungry is hunted down by the government. It is a taut thriller that never slows down and leaves you wanting more. 

The protagonist Renata is a beautifully drawn character, realistically flawed and hauntingly familiar. I don’t want to spoil any of her arc but I will say that the final revelation of how she is betrayed was both surprising and did not feel like a cheat. 

Very minor spoiler: I wish the book had come with trigger warnings for death of a child/parental bereavement. 

That being said I wholeheartedly recommend this. Buy it when it comes out in April. I bet it’ll be on your 2021 Hugo ballot! It’ll be on mine!

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