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Steal Across the Sky

3.43  ·  Rating Details  ·  995 Ratings  ·  191 Reviews
The aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the internet:

"We are an alien race you may call the Atoners. Ten thousand years ago we wronged humanity profoundly. We cannot undo what has been done, but we wish humanity to understand it. Therefore we request twenty-one volunteers to visit seven planets to Witness for us. We will convey each voluntee
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 17th 2009 by Tor Books
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(showing 1-30 of 2,105)
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Jul 15, 2011 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Apr 23, 2015 Jokoloyo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jokoloyo by: Oni
After I received book recommendation, I checked the GR information and I confused. The rating of this book is pretty low, around 3.4. After I read it, I understand why. The idea of this book is fresh, and it is the main strength of the book. The problem is at the execution.

The beginning is pretty interesting, and the story builds the stake up and up, then WHAM! Major revelation with Great Climax at 40% of the book. Until this point, this novel is perfect 4 or 5 star.

Then the later part is pale
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
Oct 01, 2012 Nan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
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
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
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
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
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
Nov 27, 2014 Gendou rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is not science fiction. This is a fantasy book where the afterlife is real. At the dawn of homo sapiens, aliens visited Earth and removed the gene that allowed humans to see dead people, like in The 6th Sense. No, really. It's a total joke. I normally like Kress. But you can and should skip this one.
Nancy Kress sets up a fascinating premise in this novel. Aliens, who refer to themselves as Atoners, set up a website and email address for humans to apply to become "Witnesses" to a mysterious crime the Aliens committed against humanity 10,000 years ago. Millions apply, but only 21 are selected, 15 coming from the United States. This seems to be a theme in Nancy Kress's books, briefly mentioning other areas of the world (a greater acknowledgement than some other US writers) but ultimately focus ...more
Mar 31, 2015 Tomislav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
In 2020 an alien base appears on the moon, and the alien "Atoners" confess to having committed some crime against humanity in the past. They solicit a small number of human observers and send them to sets of planets where descendants of humans kidnapped from Earth 10 thousand years ago now live. The story moves within a few pages to the landing of two observers on two worlds, with the backstory told retrospectively. I was hooked immediately by the triple mystery 1) What is going on on Kular-A? 2 ...more
May 15, 2012 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Aug 27, 2012 Mjhancock rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
...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 ...more
The ideas here are novel and the characters well-drawn (especially Cam, who seemed to have the most detailed interior life), but the pacing is very odd. It's more a collection of interlinked novellas that a coherent novel, and the final section doesn't even stand up as a novella; it's too rushed, too scatter-shot in its focus. Worth reading for the beginning, though.
Jan 28, 2014 Thoraiya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 :)
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
May 31, 2013 An Odd1 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dani Kollin
Sep 08, 2010 Dani Kollin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Jun 04, 2013 Oni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This is the best sci-fi that I have read for this year, so far. It's at the pinnacle of the sci-fi world in asking the "what-if" question.

I am not going to give in any detail on the story, it will be a major spoiler. DO NOT READ any review with spoiler in it, because it will destroy the pleasure of reading and finding out.

In first few pages, it does not look like any different compared to common sci-fi. Several human astronaut, selected by ET that just visited the Earth, on mission to "witness"
Mar 03, 2010 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 27, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jane (yesmissjane)
The aliens (finally) arrive on Earth... and announce that thousands of years ago they interfered in human history, and now they are sorry about it.

This book is one of the most original SF stories I have read in ages. I honestly had no idea where it was going most of the time. The burden of the second half seems to be teasing out ideas in epistemology, class in the modern world, and how knowing 'the meaning of life' or some equivalentish thing actually makes a difference (or doesn't) to living a
Jan 14, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
An interestingly different setup with aliens. Aliens appear and want human to witness their unnamed crimes. But the pov characters were annoying. And the plot got way too complicated and went completely off the rails. Talk to the dead or telepathy. Whatever. Bits were good and it was readable most of the way through. But in the end too confused to recommend.
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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 Clario ...more
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