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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > STEAL ACROSS THE SKY: Finished -- BEWARE!! SPOILERS LIKELY!!

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message 1: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 966 comments Please tell us your impressions of Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress.

BEWARE!! SPOILERS LIKELY!!


message 2: by Random (last edited Jun 09, 2013 06:41PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments So, I just finished and I have one unanswered question. what was James doing with Soledad? what did he want with her?

I'm mobile at the moment so I need to be brief, but I'll be posting more later.


message 3: by Jim (last edited Jun 02, 2013 10:19PM) (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments Can't answer your question because I no longer have the book in my possession and some of the characters are a little fuzzy in my mind a year later.

But I have a question of my own for those who have gotten through the book: Is not telling us that we can communicate with our newly dead enough of a sin to warrant the convoluted steps promulgated by the aliens? Not sure if this is important for the discussion, but it seems pretty basic to the fabric of the tale.


message 4: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments I never got the impression that seeing/talking to the dead was considered a sin or should be considered a sin. The closest would be that one group who thought there was only one Atoner and that he was the antichrist.


message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments No. No. I meant that the Atoners considered themselves guilty of the sin of keeping it from us humans.


message 6: by Kammera (last edited Jun 05, 2013 04:33PM) (new)

Kammera | 25 comments It was just Ok. I was excited to read about life,etc on another planet and then it came right back to Earth with a weird love connection. I don't know-maybe if the book had been a little longer(2 or three book series) and events and descriptions fleshed out more, then I would have enjoyed it more. Too many unanswered questions for me. I felt like I was learning about events as an outside observer instead of being inside the story. A little choppy with characters- not sure I really got to know anyone and didn't even really truly LOVE any character. Sure would have been nice to develop things with the Atoners,etc


message 7: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments Jim, ah, I misunderstood you. The Atoners certainly feel guilt over the situation.

Kammera, what unanswered questions did you have? Other than James' goal with Soledad, I don't really have any unanswered questions.

While not directly related, I kept thinking of Childhood's End, especially with the second half of the book. Its made me want to reread that book. Last time I read it was over 20 years ago.


message 8: by Kammera (last edited Jun 06, 2013 04:07PM) (new)

Kammera | 25 comments Random wrote: "Jim, ah, I misunderstood you. The Atoners certainly feel guilt over the situation.

Kammera, what unanswered questions did you have? Other than James' goal with Soledad, I don't really have any u..."

Well I guess the author didn't really address the BIG "Why" of the whole book. Why should it matter? I mean I felt like ok, shrug, now we are off on the reactions of the people of Earth and I feel like there is a whole redirection rather than making me care. WHy did the atoners take the genes out to begin with? WHy did they pick who they did(witnesses) Why include all the lists of witnessess and never discuss any if them? I felt like there was this problem to solve but then it never gets solved. I can of course speculate, but I was just hoping for more.


message 9: by Random (last edited Jun 09, 2013 06:59PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments Why do scientists tinker with lab mice? We know they do it to experiment and learn. For the mice, its likely not very clear.

As for why is it important to people whether or not we can see and communicate with the recent dead? Well according to the book, for many people it is not. They keep living their lives as they did before. But for others, I can see how it might be important. Some people spend significant portions of their lives searching for deeper meaning. I can easily see how this would affect them, or others similar to them.

I can also see how it would strongly affect people where the revelation contradicts something they dearly believe. We see that with both the religious as well as the scientists.

I suspect we are not supposed to completely understand the motives and methods of the Atoners and I'm ok with that. The story isn't about the Atoners, but about how they affect us.

I guess I had the benefit that I didn't expect this to be a book about alien races or cultures, so the turn in the second part didn't throw me. I didn't expect that we'd find out what the Atoners had done so soon, but I wasn't surprised to see the focus turn back to Earth after the revelation.


message 10: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 966 comments Kammera wrote: "Well I guess the author didn't really address the BIG "Why" of the whole book. Why should it matter? I mean I felt like ok, shrug, now we are off on the reactions of the people of Earth and I feel like there is a whole redirection rather than making me care. WHy did the atoners take the genes out to begin with? WHy did they pick who they did(witnesses) Why include all the lists of witnessess and never discuss any if them? I felt like there was this problem to solve but then it never gets solved. I can of course speculate, but I was just hoping for more.

This was one of the big problems of the book. And your comments speak to the other. For me, at least, I was unsure of what the story was about for the first seventy pages, or I would've been if I hadn't read the blurb inside the bookjacket. Sometimes a mystification is a good thing, a puzzle to be figured out as the reader progresses. I never got that with this one, just a jumble of different POV's that weren't really connecting to find a whole.


message 11: by Jim (last edited Jun 11, 2013 10:05PM) (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments Random, I think you've done an excellent job of distilling the essence of the story into a short review. As I mentioned elsewhere, this is not a typical Kress story. A lot of questions left dangling. But that may have been the intent.

I can't help wondering if part of the motivation for the story unfolding as it does may come from the untimely death of Charles Sheffield, her second husband in 2002.


message 12: by Candiss (new)

Candiss (tantara) | 1207 comments Jim wrote: "I can't help wondering if part of the motivation for the story unfolding as it does may come from the untimely death of Charles Sheffield, her second husband in 2002. ..."

Interesting observation, Jim. I didn't know about that, but now I wonder, too.

Well, I finished this. I'm afraid I didn't like it much at all. I didn't care about most of the characters, and some I actively disliked. The premise was interesting, but I don't feel like it was played out very well. Overall, the story seemed disjointed and, well, not very professional for a writer of Kress's caliber. (Gah...I feel snobby and presumptuous for saying this, but it's my honest feeling.)

I had to push myself to finish, and I was very unsatisfied at the end. I'll try something else by Kress to see if I can find something of hers that jives better with me.


message 13: by Jim (last edited Jun 12, 2013 07:33AM) (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments Candiss, I know what you mean. I was alternately attracted and put off by this story. I liked it, but sometimes couldn't make much sense out of whatever direction it was taking.

Prior to this one, I had read both Crossfire and Crucible which I liked a great deal and the trio of Probability Moon, Probability Sun and Probability Space, which I also thought was very good . All of these featured excellent character development and a coherent, if sometimes mysterious "alien" element. So this one threw me a little.


message 14: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K | 298 comments I agree with most of what's being said here. I couldn't understand what James was up to, and questioned why both this experiment in the first place, and the later guilt/need for atonement. It seemed it was just a further experiment!


message 15: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (dward526) I am stuck between 3 and 4 stars on this one. The story was very interesting to me. I found the characters felt real, and responded in ways that would fit this context. Settled on 3 stars in the end.


message 16: by Marty (new)

Marty (martyjm) | 310 comments Just finished. I too would like to know more about the atoners, and James. I found it interesting to read but think it more stops than ends.


message 17: by Random (last edited Jun 20, 2013 02:36PM) (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments James is the only loose end for me. His motivations just don't make sense.

The woman (possibly his wife, they're referred to as brides at one point) is obviously pregnant, so at least 3 or 4 months have gone by since the baby was conceived. Less time than that has gone by from the point he and Soledad met the night of the attack.

The apartment he takes her to has the false un-lived in look (he's not living there but with his "wife"). He's involved with the Atoners already. It sounds to me that his task from the Atoners is pretty clear, to help father children who will have the gene that will allow people to see the dead. If the gene is dominant (and I'm guessing the Atoner's have assured this), that gene will slowly spread into Earth's population.

Where I'm stuck is what does any of this have to do with Soledad?

Was James really willing to leave with her (and abandon his pregnant wife)?

When he left the hotel while Soledad was gone, was he leaving for good or just taking the opportunity to check on her when no one would know?

I would assume the Atoners would choose mates for these women who would be willing to help them fit into this new society and protect them while they have children.

There is nothing in the book that supports the idea that James actually loved Soledad except for what he wanted her to think.

This one point might drive me nuts. :)

BTW - Nothing Human shares a lot of the same ideas and concepts as this book, but handled in a different way.

One thing to keep in mind about the Atoners. They do not consider us equals. It is not our decision on what happens next. Our wants/needs/desires have no affect on the matter. We are not people to them any more than the average person considers a hamster a person. They may now feel guilty for what they did, but many of us might feel guilty if we did something nasty to lab mice.


message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments Random wrote: "BTW - Nothing Human shares a lot of the same ideas and concepts as this book, but handled in a different way."

Agreed. Again, an alien intelligence that doesn't seem to be able to get things right when they choose to meddle with human genetics. But the flow of the story made a lot more sense to me.


message 19: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments Jim wrote: "Agreed. Again, an alien intelligence that doesn't seem to be able to get things right when they choose to meddle with human genetics."

Not just that. (Nothing Human spoiler here.) (view spoiler)


message 20: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Marcolongo | 1 comments I enjoyed the book. I think it spoke to the complexity of humanity. I certainly could see, in reality, how different people would react to the atoners. My question is, would you travel with the atoners to witness what this great crime was? As a skeptic, I would need much more scientific evidence before I would trust the atoners and their mission.


message 21: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 807 comments Ellen wrote: "My question is, would you travel with the atoners to witness what this great crime was? As a skeptic, I would need much more scientific evidence before I would trust the atoners and their mission. "

I would. Mostly for the opportunity of the experience itself. I can't imagine turning down the opportunity to see worlds other than Earth. :)

Scientific proof is difficult in this case. It requires observation and repeatability. The problem is that without the ability to see it yourself, you can only go from the say so and observations of those who can. Or from their reactions.

Lucca gives it a good start, though he does let his own opinion color his tests and interpretations of the results. He was also limited by the fact that he had to hide that he was not a native of that world.

The Atoners pulled the plug as soon as it was realized what was going on, which promptly cut short any additional experiments that might have been done.

From the end of the book, we (as readers) know it to be true, but as an inhabitant of this fictional world, I too would want more proof that the phenomenon is what it is interpreted to be.


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