Steal Across the Sky
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Steal Across the Sky

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3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  767 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the internet. The Atoners claim to have wronged humanity ten thousand years before, and request 21 volunteers to visit seven planets and Witness for us. At first, everyone thought it was a joke. Three of those volunteers tell what they found on Kular A and Kular B.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 17th 2009 by Tor
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Ron
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nikki
I didn't really intend to read Steal Across the Sky all in one evening, it just sort of happened. It's the first of my books for a challenge which I might or might not fully participate in, the Worlds Without End female writers challenge for 2013. I've meant to read Nancy Kress for ages, and I actually have Beggars in Spain somewhere to read, but on impulse I chose this one.

It's an interesting concept, or bundle of concepts: people are chosen to bear witness to the results of a crime committed b...more
Nan
I wanted to love this book, because I highly value Nancy Kress' books on writing--I use them a lot. But based on this novel only (it's the only one of hers I've read) she's showing the "John Gardner" syndrome--when a writer's books about how to create good fiction are, in fact, superior to her fiction.

Here's what dismayed me: in this story set in the nearish future, an alien race of "Atoners" recruits Earthlings to visit various planets on which they, the Atoners, stranded human beings 10,000 y...more
aPriL purrs 'n hisses
This is ....... Cute. Hopefully, that doesn't mean you thrust this aside as not important or interesting enough. But it is very cutely humorous, in the manner of a mild movie romance satire starring Hugh Grant. It is similar to a farcical romance with a cute meeting, confusion, dislike, chase scenes and accidental follow-up meetings, attractions, misunderstandings, satirized cultural commentary on family, in-laws, women and men, plus wedding stresses, but I must stress now this is not a movie lo...more
Liviu
Mysterious aliens come, set up base on Moon, put a Web ad: "need 21 humans to send as Witnesses/Observers in groups of 3, 1 on each of a twin planet, 1 to coordinate from orbit; we kidnapped humans 10k years ago and set up colonies on those worlds but also we committed a grievous wrong against humanity; safety and return passage guaranteed; they will know what is to Observe when they see it"

Millions apply and they select 21 young people but otherwise on a random - at least to us - basis regardin...more
Maggie K
OK-the one sentence version of this book is that some aliens thousands of years ago altered our genes and kidnapped some humans and repopulated a few other planets with them in sort of a 'double-blind' study where some were left with the gene that allowed us to communicate with the recently deceased. Modern humans are sent there to 'witness' this firsthand, and the resulting news creates a lot of chaos.

Although I like the premise and the writing, I didnt connect to any of the characters, and cou...more
Nick
Kress's new novel will be a Nebula nominee in 2009. The best SF takes a fundamental human basis of viewing reality, challenges it with an alternative premise, and uses this premise to explore human behavior. Like Beggars in Spain, Kress is quite successful with a 'previously unused' concept for SF. Don't buy the idea that SF constantly recycles ideas that were first used decades ago. There are plenty of un-used ideas that keep the genre fresh.

It's very difficult to write more about the novel wit...more
Wealhtheow
In the not-very-distant future, aliens calling themselves The Atoners contact humanity. Millenia ago, they wronged humanity--and now they want humanity to know about it. They choose a few dozen people to travel to colonies of humans the Atoners established around the universe, and "Witness." What the "Witnesses" are supposed to see or do is left up to them--they are told that they'll know it when they see it.
By the end of the first third, both the reader and the characters have discovered what...more
Cathy
The premise was fascinating and drew me in at the beginning, but somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way through I just gave up and started skimming to see how it turned out. There just wasn't enough drama or suspense. The plot didn't go deep enough, despite being centered around one of the most central and controversial questions of the human experience and the mystery of the aliens and their motivations. I read the end, and still didn't feel much about the book or any of the characters, excep...more
David
I'm giving the book a low rating based on personal preferences and scientific / consistency issues. This is not a critique of its literary attributes.

I voted for this to be BOTM, but would not have if I had been aware of the underlying premise - which seems contrary to hard SF sensibilities. I was not only disturbed by the premise, but also the implausible attempts at scientific justifications. It's one thing to have implausible tech in SF, it's another to keep beating the reader over the head w...more
Mjhancock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacey
When an alien base appears on the Moon, the aliens, who call themselves the Atoners, approach mankind via the power of the internet with a confession that they have done the human race great wrong and now wish to atone for it. Twenty one young applicants are selected as witnesses and sent off to twin planets on which kidnapped humans have developed societies. They are told that they'll know what they are looking for when they find it. Cam, Soledad and Lucca are the team that is sent to witness o...more
Michelle
Hmm, what to say about Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress. It was, at best, ok. It felt like watching the movie Children of Men, where everyone has dissimilar, yet oddly overlapping, motivations and throughout the entire book you really can’t trust any character you come across that is not the current narrator.

While the existential questions of the book had the potential to be interesting, Kress just did not take the time to develop them to the place where they could be genuinely thought-provo...more
Rob
...In some ways Kress presents the bare bones of a novel here. John Clute calls it sober in his entry for Nancy Kress in the SF encyclopedia. That is a fitting description. In some respects it is a very well written piece. The style reminded me a bit of The Secret City by Carol Emshwiller I recently read. It is effective in the way it works what the reader needs to know to understand what is going on in the story. Many readers will prefer a novel with a little more meat on its bones though. I e...more
Alexandra
There are interesting parallels between this and Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow. Both deal with humanity's contact with aliens, and with the repercussions for humanity especially in the realm of religion. There are vast differences, of course - how contact is achieved, the type of people involved, and so on. I think Russell's is better, overall; I appreciated the characters more, and I think it's overall a more sober look at the repercussions for humanity. But I also think the two books are tr...more
An Odd1
Maybe better as a short story? Deep edits needed to cut boring excess, ads, presidential conversation transcripts, to make more sense, believable connections, and refocus from Cam. The worse-than-impulsive dimwit panics and kills many, then has obsessive nightmares about the elder who tried to help her.

"Atoners", apparently regretful aliens, land on the moon, advertise on the internet for "witnesses to find their crime against humanity thousands of years before", and fly 21 (more blah-blah) 20s...more
Sarah
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dani Kollin
Sep 08, 2010 Dani Kollin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of word craft and SF
Recommended to Dani by: Analog SF
I’d been meaning to read Nancy Kress’s, Steal Across the Sky for some time now. Mainly—and to be perfectly honest—because her book was used by a reviewer at Analogsf.com to beat my brother and I about the head. To wit: “Another technique is to introduce a naive observer, such as a traveler from another place or time. As the observer learns, so does the reader. Nancy Kress deftly uses this technique to great effect in Steal Across the Sky, as her Witnesses learn about the worlds upon which they’v...more
Sara
A while back I read an article which mentioned a science fiction novel where aliens contacted humans via a message posted on the Internet. The origins of this article now escape me, but I finally got around to picking up the book, “Steal Across the Sky.” And while it does include the aforementioned plot, it also addresses a number of different issues, including those of culture, ethics, and sociology.

One of the things that I found fascinating about this book was that it presented two alternate v...more
Mike
Full review at my blog.

A true “what-if” tale Steal Across the Sky introduces a mysterious alien race that commited a great crime against humanity somewhere in the distant past. Now the alien Atoners have set up shop on the moon and are calling for human “witnesses” to travel to distant planets. The exact nature of what they’re supposed to see is unknown only that it will supposedly reveal the exact nature of the crimes the Atoners commited.

The witnesses are divided into groups of three to two pl...more
Michael
In the near future, a group of aliens arrive and establish a colony on the moon. The aliens, who call themselves the Atoners, tell the world that they've interfered in human development and call for several teams of three to be sent to other worlds to observe and figure out exactly what was done.

"Steal Across the Sky" follows one such team to two different worlds and shows the team figuring out exactly what happened. This story takes the first half of the novel, with the second half devoted to t...more
Thoraiya
Character variety makes this quick, entertaining read much more than simply a fascinating thought experiment.

I especially enjoyed the chapters which were little snippets from studies or media reports which fleshed out the world, and the idea of life-strategy mimicking game-strategy and vice versa. I didn't think any novel inspired by chess could be as fun as Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," but this one proved me wrong :)
Deborah Ideiosepius
This is a good modern sci-fi story. Like all the best sci-fi it has a strong element of social commentary and exploration of humanity.The plot is tight and interesting with some pretty good twists, strongly consistent and believable (if not always likeable) main characters and an elegant ending which satisfies.

The first part of the book was great and the last part was also, it drifted a bit toward the middle and my attention did likewise. However it never drifted enough that I was ever tempted t...more
Jenny
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julian
From another author I might give this 4 or even 5 stars, but seriously, Nancy Kress can do so much better. As usual for her, this was a fascinating premise, with a wide range of characters and viewpoints, but as another review said, this may have been better as a short story or novella. OR, it could have been 200 pages longer and really delved into these issues and characters in the in-depth and compelling way that Kress is so obviously capable of, given her other very meaty scifi books.
Matthew Gatheringwater
I stuck with this book to the end because I was curious to know the rational explanation for its premise--only to discover the author doesn't provide one. Silly, 2-dimensional characterizations of atheists didn't charm me, either. My impression was this is a science fiction book written with the values you might expect in a fantasy novel.
Kfinney
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eric
As good as this novel might be, part of me wonders if it might have been even better as a short story or a Star Trek teleplay.
Kiri
This book has an intriguing premise (which isn't revealed until 1/3 of the way through the book, so I won't spoil it); in rough terms, aliens arrive to announce that long ago they committed a wrong against humanity and have come to "atone" for it. To do this, they select several human Witnesses and send them to other planets to observe what may be seen. One wonders along with the human characters what the wrong was, and why it was done, and whether it can truly be corrected. The first part of th...more
Nancy
The Atoners--an alien race--has set up a base on Earth's moon and asked for volunteers to "witness" human populations on distant planets. They admit to having committed a wrong against the human race 10,000 years earlier. Having these Earthlings visit settlements is their first step in making atonement. The story is full of mysteries surrounding what the Atoner's crime against humanity actually was, why they've chosen these people and what they are suppose to witness.

The novel opens with three...more
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Beyond Reality: STEAL ACROSS THE SKY: Roll Call and Initial Impressions 13 28 Jun 13, 2013 08:00AM  
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Nancy Kress is an American science fiction writer. She began writing in 1976 but has achieved her greatest notice since the publication of her Hugo and Nebula-winning 1991 novella Beggars in Spain which was later expanded into a novel with the same title. In addition to her novels, Kress has written numerous short stories and is a regular columnist for Writer's Digest. She is a regular at Clarion...more
More about Nancy Kress...
Beggars in Spain (Sleepless, #1) Beggars and Choosers (Sleepless, #2) Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing) Beggars Ride (Sleepless, #3) Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints

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