Nan's Reviews > Steal Across the Sky

Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress
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it was ok

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 years ago. Okay, I'm in. The Earthlings are to space travel as Witnesses, witness some terrible thing the Atoners did that they're sorry about now, then return to Earth and tell everyone. They go. SPOILER ALERT: the terrible thing turns out to be the Atoners removed our human gene that lets us communicate with the recently dead. The Witnesses see humans on other planets demonstrate this trait, so they know it's real--and that we can't do it.

Back on Earth, they report this and chaos breaks out--in some quarters. (Lots of people don't care). Here's where the book falls apart for me. The author doesn't answer the So What? question. I couldn't get worked up one way or the other--about the Witnesses (their personal lives fall apart), about the rest of Earth (society hasn't gotten any smarter, alas), or about WHY IT MATTERS. Clearly, an afterlife or lack thereof is a Big Deal--but there isn't any exploration of WHY in this book. Nor do I feel much identification with the characters, perhaps because Kress uses a ton of viewpoints (more than she needs, which she'd be the first to tell you is a no-no), or perhaps because none of the characters is all that likeable.

So I'm bummed. I can, however, highly recommend her "Beginnings, Middles, Ends" and her "Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint" books for fiction writers. Excellent. And if you wonder how someone's coaching can be better than their actual performance, remember Caruso's voice teacher couldn't sing a note. Or so I read.
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_dropaheart This is a good review! I wasn't sure if I wanted to waste my time finishing this book because its so wishy washy but you pretty much cleared it :)

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