Nancy Kress: “Tomorrow’s Kin” (c) 2017.
“Tomorrow’s Kin” by master storyteller Nancy Kress is a fascinating and suspense-filled first-contact sci fi story in which evolutionary biology plays the key role.
There are 30 lines of human mitochondrial DNA known to have evolved from an ancient original DNA. Dr. Marianne Jenner, an evolutionary biologist, identifies another line, L7 in a group of people. In a startling discovery, the Denebs are aliens whose mitochondrial DNA also belongs to the L7 group, implying their ancestors were originally from Earth.
The novella “Yesterday’s Kin” (2014) is the basis of the trilogy and won the Nebula Award for Best Novella. The novella is the opening section of the novel “Tomorrow’s Kin”.
“Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy”:
“Tomorrow’s Kin” (2017)
“If Tomorrow Comes” (2018)
“Terran Tomorrow” (2018)
“Tomorrow’s Kin” is set on Earth at various locations. The story begins with the arrival of the aliens on Earth. They are referred to as the Denebs because of the direction of their trajectory from space. They make immediate voice contact, speak in English, and will only talk to the UN. Their spaceship, referred to as the Embassy, floats on a pavilion in New York’s harbor. Dr. Marianne Jenner and a select group of people are invited to meet with the Denebs aboard the Embassy.
The Denebs explain they have come to alert the Terrans about a catastrophic spore cloud that is on a trajectory heading towards Earth and will arrive within months. The spore cloud has already killed Deneb colonies. The Denebs ask for help to identify the micro-organism and to develop vaccines for the Terrans and the Denebs.
Marianne Jenner and other world-renowned scientists jump at the opportunity to learn more about an alien people, also of human origin. However, the Denebs also cause fear, panic and angry violent protests. Several groups spring up, some with the express intent of killing the aliens and anyone who works with them.
Marianne is a widow with three grown children. Throughout the story, Marianne and her children are key characters. The youngest son Noah is adopted and to the shock of Marianne, Noah has the L7 mitochondrial DNA. Noah makes a life-changing decision to join the Denebs.
The suspense in the story grows as the scientists find perplexing and frustrating anomalies in their research on the deadly virus. The Denebs leave before the spore cloud reaches Earth. After the lethal cloud passes over Earth, some people are unaffected, many die. Among animals, some species die off, others survive. Countries see their economies ruined when ecosystems and food chains are devastated.
The Denebs have left blueprints of their star drive and spaceship with the Terrans before they return to their own world. Successful entrepreneurs take up the challenges of building spaceships.
The virus also causes genetic changes. Some children are born deaf while others have super-sharp hearing — they can hear sounds both above and below the normal frequencies audible to humans. Marianne’s grandson, six-year old Colin has super-sharp hearing, and he plays a very significant role in the rest of the story, as Marianne struggles to keep alive her dream of one day going to the Denebs’ world.