the Little Red Reviewer

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress

Posted on: April 5, 2012

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress

Published in March 2012

Where I got it: received review copy from Tachyon Publications









This is my first Nancy Kress, and I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect title of hers to start with.  The title is a mouthful, and the story packs quite a punch. Complete with a doubled edged twist, Kress’s After The Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall is sure to make more than a few best of the year lists in nine or ten months.

For the most part, the story follows two story lines; one in 2013, and the other in 2035.

In 2013, Julie Kahn, mathematician, professor, and sometimes consultant, has been tasked with crunching the plot points and algorithms for a rash of child kidnappings and strange burglaries on the East Coast.  Her math predicts where the next kidnapping is most likely to occur, but should she include the Wal-Mart burglaries in her math? Seriously, what kind of thief steals shopping carts and blankets, but leaves the diamond rings untouched? And the crying mothers of the missing children couldn’t possibly have seen what they claim: a physically deformed teenager grab their children and then disappear in a flash of light.

In 2035, the remnants of humanity live inside the Shell. A few survivors of the original disaster, their physically mutated children, and a growing quantity of infants and toddlers, grabbed from earlier times.  As the original survivors slowly die from mysterious diseases, they pass on as much knowledge of the Earth of their youth as they can remember. It’s believed that the Shell and the Grabbing Machine were created by the alien Tesslies.  Fifteen year old Pete is one of six children born in The Shell. Pete’s entire life has been living and learning inside the Shell, one tiny porthole through which he can see a devastated Earth, a burning hatred for the Tesslies, and ten minutes in the grab machine every few days.

In 2013, Julie learns she’s pregnant by a married man she’s had an affair with. Determined to keep the child and use sabbatical time to raise the baby girl, Julie takes on consulting work with a biologist who is researching parasitical bacteria that seems to kill any plant life it comes across.

In 2035, Pete is so deeply in love with the 20-something McAllister that he can barely stand it. Within this tiny colony of humans, procreation and keeping the race alive is of the utmost importance. Anyone who is fertile is encouraged to get pregnant, or impregnate another, and it will be years before the stolen children are old enough for that. Pete’s sort-of assigned mate, Caity, does nothing for him, and McAllister is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. When Pete sees McAllister with someone else, he gets  jealous as only a completely normal fifteen year old boy can.  On his next grab, he’ll bring back something so amazing, so needed by the colony, that McAllister will have to love him.

There is yet a third timeline story, but I am purposely leaving that unspoken for now.  It’s far better if you allow that portion to sneak up on you from behind anyway.

What kind of world will Julie’s unborn daughter grow up in?  Will Pete and McAllister and all the other survivors ever be able to leave the Shell, or will they spend the rest of their shortened lives watching for the glow of the grab machine?

At just shy of 200 pages, you can read this book in a day.  Reading it in one gulp wasn’t exactly my plan, but the timing worked out and besides, I couldn’t put the damn thing down. Kress’s writing isn’t just good, it’s smooth and polished and damn near perfect. The short chapters are effectively suspenseful; the realistic characters demand sympathy from the reader, and the twist at the end both was and wasn’t what I was expecting, and even a few days after finishing the book, I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Not a spoiler, but look very close the cover art.  No, closer.  do you see it?  Now go find a copy of this book and inhale it. The reading might be quick, but I guarantee  you’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

8 Responses to "After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress"

Sounds very much like you had the same reaction to it that I did. I devoured it quickly when my review copy arrived and my wife promptly read it and enjoyed it as well. This is my first longer-length story by Kress and it was as good if not better than the short stories of hers that I have enjoyed. Like you I would highly recommend this one to anyone looking for a good read. For its tiny size it packs quite the wallop.


Sounds really good, I’ll have to mark this one!


Reblogged this on Pwyller's Non-Sports Trading Card Blogobonanza and commented:
I’ll be reading this one!


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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