Tor | 2018 (6 March) | 334p | Review copy | Buy the book
If Tomorrow Comes is the middle book of Nancy Kress’s Yesterday’s Kin trilogy which began with Tomorrow’s Kin. This review assumes that you’ve read Tomorrow’s Kin first as I think you’d need to, really, to empathise fully with the situation facing these characters so far away from their home planet Earth.
The starship Friendship left Earth ten years after the alien visitors returned home to the planet Kindred, leaving behind the technology to build the ship. Earth has been heavily changed by the arrival of the spores, foretold by the aliens, that tore through the population spreading disease, harming some populations more than others. And now it is time for human scientists to journey to Kindred to return the favour, to help the inhabitants combat the spores themselves because it is now the turn of the aliens to face this travelling cloud of plague.
But, on arrival, and what a catastrophic arrival it is, so much is different on Kindred from what was expected, not least the punishing timeslip difference of more than ten years. The trip there and back, that should only have taken months, will actually mean that the travellers will be away from Earth for over 25 years. Some of the young soldiers onboard, there to protect the scientists from the unknown, will return home to baby children now older than they are. That’s if they even get home at all because nothing is now certain, and the alien community they find is unlike any they thought they’d find – there is no revolutionary technology, no advanced medicine, and, with the spores just days away, little hope of a future.
I loved Tomorrow’s Kin, such a fascinating depiction of first contact, set on Earth and aboard the alien spaceship. Much of that novel focused on the efforts of the Jenner family through more than one generation, and now we follow Dr Marianne Jenner to Kindred, where she more than anyone links together the human and other populations. It was so good to meet her again but she brings with her other characters who are equally intriguing, with their stories and histories. Not everyone reacts to this new world as well as others. And there is friction between the scientists and the soldiers.
I don’t want to say anything at all about the alien population but I loved the descriptions of the planet Kindred and the really interesting construction of society there. It isn’t a utopia but it does have elements of it.
This is a plot with a countdown – the arrival of the spore plague – and that keeps the pace and the action going as the situation becomes increasingly tense and frightening. There is, though, a little bit of a lag towards the middle. But for me the main appeal of the novel is in its beautiful descriptions of the people, their relationships and their ideas. Nancy Kress writes so elegantly and evokes so well an unusual society, that some people love and others hate.
If Tomorrow Comes is the middle book of a trilogy and it does set up well the final part to come later this year, but it is also a complete novel in its own right. It’s very different from Tomorrow’s Kin that went before and I expect it to be very different from Yesterday’s Kin but the themes and the stories continue and I am full of anticipation for how the final part of the story, of these lives, will play out.